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Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres by Henry Adams

Part 8 out of 8

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signore, for messor brother sun, in especial, who is your symbol;
and for sister moon and the stars; and for brother wind and air and
sky; and for sister water; and for brother fire; and for mother
earth! We are all yours, mi signore! We are your children; your
household; your feudal family! but we never heard of a Church. We
are all varying forms of the same ultimate energy; shifting symbols
of the same absolute unity; but our only unity, beneath you, is
nature, not law! We thank you for no human institutions, even for
those established in your name; but, with all our hearts we thank
you for sister our mother Earth and its fruits and coloured

Francis loved them all--the brothers and sisters--as intensely as a
child loves the taste and smell of a peach, and as simply; but
behind them remained one sister whom no one loved, and for whom, in
his first verses, Francis had rendered no thanks. Only on his death-
bed he added the lines of gratitude for "our sister death," the
long-sought, never-found sister of the schoolmen, who solved all
philosophy and merged multiplicity in unity. The solution was at
least simple; one must decide for one's self, according to one's
personal standards, whether or not it is more sympathetic than that
with which we have got lastly to grapple in the works of Saint
Thomas Aquinas.



Long before Saint Francis's death, in 1226, the French mystics had
exhausted their energies and the siecle had taken new heart. Society
could not remain forever balancing between thought and act. A few
gifted natures could absorb themselves in the absolute, but the rest
lived for the day, and needed shelter and safety. So the Church bent
again to its task, and bade the Spaniard Dominic arm new levies with
the best weapons of science, and flaunt the name of Aristotle on the
Church banners along with that of Saint Augustine. The year 1215,
which happened to be the date of Magna Charta and other easily fixed
events, like the birth of Saint Louis, may serve to mark the triumph
of the schools. The pointed arch revelled at Rheims and the Gothic
architects reached perfection at Amiens just as Francis died at
Assisi and Thomas was born at Aquino. The Franciscan Order itself
was swept with the stream that Francis tried to dam, and the great
Franciscan schoolman, Alexander Hales, in 1222, four years before
the death of Francis, joined the order and began lecturing as though
Francis himself had lived only to teach scholastic philosophy.

The rival Dominican champion, Albertus Magnus, began his career a
little later, in 1228. Born of the noble Swabian family of
Bollstadt, in 1193, he drifted, like other schoolmen, to Paris, and
the Rue Maitre Albert, opposite Notre Dame, still records his fame
as a teacher there. Thence he passed to a school established by the
order at Cologne, where he was lecturing with great authority in
1243 when the general superior of the order brought up from Italy a
young man of the highest promise to be trained as his assistant.

Thomas, the new pupil, was born under the shadow of Monte Cassino in
1226 or 1227. His father, the Count of Aquino, claimed descent from
the imperial line of Swabia; his mother, from the Norman princes of
Sicily; so that in him the two most energetic strains in Europe met.
His social rank was royal, and the order set the highest value on
it. He took the vows in 1243, and went north at once to help
Albertus at Cologne. In 1245, the order sent Albertus back to Paris,
and Thomas with him. There he remained till 1248 when he was ordered
to Cologne as assistant lecturer, and only four years afterwards, at
twenty-five years old, he was made full professor at Paris. His
industry and activity never rested till his death in 1274, not yet
fifty years old, when he bequeathed to the Church a mass of
manuscript that tourists will never know enough to estimate except
by weight. His complete works, repeatedly printed, fill between
twenty and thirty quarto volumes. For so famous a doctor, this is
almost meagre. Unfortunately his greatest work, the "Summa
Theologiae," is unfinished--like Beauvais Cathedral.

Perhaps Thomas's success was partly due to his memory which is said
to have been phenomenal; for, in an age when cyclopaedias were
unknown, a cyclopaedic memory must have counted for half the battle
in these scholastic disputes where authority could be met only by
authority; but in this case, memory was supported by mind. Outwardly
Thomas was heavy and slow in manner, if it is true that his
companions called him "the big dumb ox of Sicily"; and in
fashionable or court circles he did not enjoy reputation for acute
sense of humour. Saint Louis's household offers a picture not wholly
clerical, least of all among the King's brothers and sons; and
perhaps the dinner-table was not much more used then than now to
abrupt interjections of theology into the talk about hunting and
hounds; but however it happened, Thomas one day surprised the
company by solemnly announcing--"I have a decisive argument against
the Manicheans!" No wit or humour could be more to the point--
between two saints that were to be--than a decisive argument against
enemies of Christ, and one greatly regrets that the rest of the
conversation was not reported, unless, indeed, it is somewhere in
the twenty-eight quarto volumes; but it probably lacked humour for

The twenty-eight quarto volumes must be closed books for us. None
but Dominicans have a right to interpret them. No Franciscan--or
even Jesuit--understands Saint Thomas exactly or explains him with
authority. For summer tourists to handle these intricate problems in
a theological spirit would be altogether absurd; but, for us, these
great theologians were also architects who undertook to build a
Church Intellectual, corresponding bit by bit to the Church
Administrative, both expressing--and expressed by--the Church
Architectural. Alexander Hales, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas,
Duns Scotus, and the rest, were artists; and if Saint Thomas happens
to stand at their head as type, it is not because we choose him or
understand him better than his rivals, but because his order chose
him rather than his master Albert, to impose as authority on the
Church; and because Pope John XXII canonized him on the ground that
his decisions were miracles; and because the Council of Trent placed
his "Summa" among the sacred books on their table; and because
Innocent VI said that his doctrine alone was sure; and finally,
because Leo XIII very lately made a point of declaring that, on the
wings of Saint Thomas's genius, human reason has reached the most
sublime height it can probably ever attain.

Although the Franciscans, and, later, the Jesuits, have not always
shown as much admiration as the Dominicans for the genius of Saint
Thomas, and the mystics have never shown any admiration whatever for
the philosophy of the schools, the authority of Leo XIII is final,
at least on one point and the only one that concerns us. Saint
Thomas is still alive and overshadows as many schools as he ever
did; at all events, as many as the Church maintains. He has outlived
Descartes and Leibnitz and a dozen other schools of philosophy more
or less serious in their day. He has mostly outlived Hume, Voltaire,
and the militant sceptics. His method is typical and classic; his
sentences, when interpreted by the Church, seem, even to an
untrained mind, intelligible and consistent; his Church Intellectual
remains practically unchanged, and, like the Cathedral of Beauvais,
erect, although the storms of six or seven centuries have
prostrated, over and over again, every other social or political or
juristic shelter. Compared with it, all modern systems are complex
and chaotic, crowded with self-contradictions, anomalies,
impracticable functions and outworn inheritances; but beyond all
their practical shortcomings is their fragmentary character. An
economic civilization troubles itself about the universe much as a
hive of honey-bees troubles about the ocean, only as a region to be
avoided. The hive of Saint Thomas sheltered God and man, mind and
matter, the universe and the atom, the one and the multiple, within
the walls of an harmonious home.

Theologians, like architects, were supposed to receive their Church
complete in all its lines; they were modern judges who interpreted
the laws but never invented it. Saint Thomas merely selected between
disputed opinions, but he allowed himself to wander very far afield,
indeed, in search of opinions to dispute. The field embraced all
that existed, or might have existed, or could never exist. The
immense structure rested on Aristotle and Saint Augustine at the
last, but as a work of art it stood alone, like Rheims or Amiens
Cathedral, as though it had no antecedents. Then, although, like
Rheims, its style was never meant to suit modern housekeeping and is
ill-seen by the Ecole des Beaux Arts, it reveals itself in its great
mass and intelligence as a work of extraordinary genius; a system as
admirably proportioned as any cathedral and as complete; a success
not universal either in art or science.

Saint Thomas's architecture, like any other work of art, is best
studied by itself as though he created it outright; otherwise a
tourist would never get beyond its threshold. Beginning with the
foundation which is God and God's active presence in His Church,
Thomas next built God into the walls and towers of His Church, in
the Trinity and its creation of mind and matter in time and space;
then finally he filled the Church by uniting mind and matter in man,
or man's soul, giving to humanity a free will that rose, like the
fleche, to heaven. The foundation--the structure--the congregation--
are enough for students of art; his ideas of law, ethics, and
politics; his vocabulary, his syllogisms, his arrangement are, like
the drawings of Villard de Honnecourt's sketch-book, curious but not
vital. After the eleventh-century Romanesque Church of Saint Michael
came the twelfth-century Transition Church of the Virgin, and all
merged and ended at last in the thirteenth-century Gothic Cathedral
of the Trinity. One wants to see the end.

The foundation of the Christian Church should be--as the simple
deist might suppose--always the same, but Saint Thomas knew better.
His foundation was Norman, not French; it spoke the practical
architect who knew the mathematics of his art, and who saw that the
foundation laid by Saint Bernard, Saint Victor, Saint Francis, the
whole mystical, semi-mystical, Cartesian, Spinozan foundation, past
or future, could not bear the weight of the structure to be put on
it. Thomas began by sweeping the ground clear of them. God must be a
concrete thing, not a human thought. God must be proved by the
senses like any other concrete thing; "nihil est in intellectu quin
prius fuerit in sensu"; even if Aristotle had not affirmed the law,
Thomas would have discovered it. He admitted at once that God could
not be taken for granted.

The admission, as every boy-student of the Latin Quarter knew, was
exceedingly bold and dangerous. The greatest logicians commonly
shrank from proving unity by multiplicity. Thomas was one of the
greatest logicians that ever lived; the question had always been at
the bottom of theology; he deliberately challenged what every one
knew to be an extreme peril. If his foundation failed, his Church
fell. Many critics have thought that he saw dangers four hundred
years ahead. The time came, about 1650-1700, when Descartes,
deserting Saint Thomas, started afresh with the idea of God as a
concept, and at once found himself charged with a deity that
contained the universe; nor did the Cartesians--until Spinoza made
it clear--seem able or willing to see that the Church could not
accept this deity because the Church required a God who caused the
universe. The two deities destroyed each other. One was passive; the
other active. Thomas warned Descartes of a logical quicksand which
must necessarily swallow up any Church, and which Spinoza explored
to the bottom. Thomas said truly that every true cause must be
proved as a cause, not merely as a sequence; otherwise they must end
in a universal energy or substance without causality--a source.

Whatever God might be to others, to His Church he could not be a
sequence or a source. That point had been admitted by William of
Champeaux, and made the division between Christians and infidels. On
the other hand, if God must be proved as a true cause in order to
warrant the Church or the State in requiring men to worship Him as
Creator, the student became the more curious--if a churchman, the
more anxious--to be assured that Thomas succeeded in his proof,
especially since he did not satisfy Descartes and still less Pascal.
That the mystics should be dissatisfied was natural enough, since
they were committed to the contrary view, but that Descartes should
desert was a serious blow which threw the French Church into
consternation from which it never quite recovered.

"I see motion," said Thomas: "I infer a motor!" This reasoning,
which may be fifty thousand years old, is as strong as ever it was;
stronger than some more modern inferences of science; but the
average mechanic stated it differently. "I see motion," he admitted:
"I infer energy. I see motion everywhere; I infer energy
everywhere." Saint Thomas barred this door to materialism by adding:
"I see motion; I cannot infer an infinite series of motors: I can
only infer, somewhere at the end of the series, an intelligent,
fixed motor." The average modern mechanic might not dissent but
would certainly hesitate. "No doubt!" he might say; "we can conduct
our works as well on that as on any other theory, or as we could on
no theory at all; but, if you offer it as proof, we can only say
that we have not yet reduced all motion to one source or all
energies to one law, much less to one act of creation, although we
have tried our best." The result of some centuries of experiment
tended to raise rather than silence doubt, although, even in his own
day, Thomas would have been scandalized beyond the resources of his
Latin had Saint Bonaventure met him at Saint Louis's dinner-table
and complimented him, in the King's hearing, on having proved,
beyond all Franciscan cavils, that the Church Intellectual had
necessarily but one first cause and creator--himself.

The Church Intellectual, like the Church Architectural, implied not
one architect, but myriads, and not one fixed, intelligent architect
at the end of the series, but a vanishing vista without a beginning
at any definite moment; and if Thomas pressed his argument, the
twentieth-century mechanic who should attend his conferences at the
Sorbonne would be apt to say so. "What is the use of trying to argue
me into it? Your inference may be sound logic, but is not proof.
Actually we know less about it than you did. All we know is the
thing we handle, and we cannot handle your fixed, intelligent prime
motor. To your old ideas of form we have added what we call force,
and we are rather further than ever from reducing the complex to
unity. In fact, if you are aiming to convince me, I will tell you
flatly that I know only the multiple, and have no use for unity at

In the thirteenth century men did not depend so much as now on
actual experiment, but the nominalist said in effect the same thing.
Unity to him was a pure concept, and any one who thought it real
would believe that a triangle was alive and could walk on its legs.
Without proving unity, philosophers saw no way to prove God. They
could only fall back on an attempt to prove that the concept of
unity proved itself, and this phantasm drove the Cartesians to drop
Thomas's argument and assert that "the mere fact of having within us
the idea of a thing more perfect than ourselves, proves the real
existence of that thing." Four hundred years earlier Saint Thomas
had replied in advance that Descartes wanted to prove altogether too
much, and Spinoza showed mathematically that Saint Thomas had been
in the right. The finest religious mind of the time--Pascal--
admitted it and gave up the struggle, like the mystics of Saint-

Thus some of the greatest priests and professors of the Church,
including Duns Scotus himself, seemed not wholly satisfied that
Thomas's proof was complete, but most of them admitted that it was
the safest among possible foundations, and that it showed, as
architecture, the Norman temper of courage and caution. The Norman
was ready to run great risks, but he would rather grasp too little
than too much; he narrowed the spacing of his piers rather than
spread them too wide for safe vaulting. Between Norman blood and
Breton blood was a singular gap, as Renan and every other Breton has
delighted to point out. Both Abelard and Descartes were Breton. The
Breton seized more than he could hold; the Norman took less than he
would have liked.

God, then, is proved. What the schools called form, what science
calls energy, and what the intermediate period called the evidence
of design, made the foundation of Saint Thomas's cathedral. God is
an intelligent, fixed prime motor--not a concept, or proved by
concepts;--a concrete fact, proved by the senses of sight and touch.
On that foundation Thomas built. The walls and vaults of his Church
were more complex than the foundation; especially the towers were
troublesome. Dogma, the vital purpose of the Church, required
support. The most weighty dogma, the central tower of the Norman
cathedral, was the Trinity, and between the Breton solution which
was too heavy, and the French solution which was too light, the
Norman Thomas found a way. Remembering how vehemently the French
Church, under Saint Bernard, had protected the Trinity from all
interference whatever, one turns anxiously to see what Thomas said
about it; and unless one misunderstands him,--as is very likely,
indeed, to be the case, since no one may even profess to understand
the Trinity,--Thomas treated it as simply as he could. "God, being
conscious of Himself, thinks Himself; his thought is Himself, his
own reflection in the Verb--the so-called Son." "Est in Deo
intelligente seipsum Verbum Dei quasi Deus intellectus." The idea
was not new, and as ideas went it was hardly a mystery; but the next
step was naif:--God, as a double consciousness, loves Himself, and
realizes Himself in the Holy Ghost. The third side of the triangle
is love or grace.

Many theologians have found fault with this treatment of the
subject, which seemed open to every objection that had been made to
Abelard, Gilbert de la Poree, or a thousand other logicians. They
commonly asked why Thomas stopped the Deity's self-realizations at
love, or inside the triangle, since these realizations were real,
not symbolic, and the square was at least as real as any other
combination of line. Thomas replied that knowledge and will--the
Verb and the Holy Ghost--were alone essential. The reply did not
suit every one, even among doctors, but since Saint Thomas rested on
this simple assertion, it is no concern of ours to argue the
theology. Only as art, one can afford to say that the form is more
architectural than religious; it would surely have been suspicious
to Saint Bernard. Mystery there was none, and logic little. The
concept of the Holy Ghost was childlike; for a pupil of Aristotle it
was inadmissible, since it led to nothing and helped no step toward
the universe.

Admitting, if necessary, the criticism, Thomas need not admit the
blame, if blame there were. Every theologian was obliged to stop the
pursuit of logic by force, before it dragged him into paganism and
pantheism. Theology begins with the universal,--God,--who must be a
reality, not a symbol; but it is forced to limit the process of
God's realizations somewhere, or the priest soon becomes a
worshipper of God in sticks and stones. Theologists had commonly
chosen, from time immemorial, to stop at the Trinity; within the
triangle they were wholly realist; but they could not admit that God
went on to realize Himself in the square and circle, or that the
third member of the Trinity contained multiplicity, because the
Trinity was a restless weight on the Church piers, which, like the
central tower, constantly tended to fall, and needed to be
lightened. Thomas gave it the lightest form possible, and there
fixed it.

Then came his great tour-de-force, the vaulting of his broad nave;
and, if ignorance is allowed an opinion, even a lost soul may admire
the grand simplicity of Thomas's scheme. He swept away the
horizontal lines altogether, leaving them barely as a part of
decoration. The whole weight of his arches fell, as in the latest
Gothic, where the eye sees nothing to break the sheer spring of the
nervures, from the rosette on the keystone a hundred feet above down
to the church floor. In Thomas's creation nothing intervened between
God and his world; secondary causes become ornaments; only two
forces, God and man, stood in the Church.

The chapter of Creation is so serious, and Thomas's creation, like
every other, is open to so much debate, that no student can allow
another to explain it; and certainly no man whatever, either saint
or sceptic, can ever yet have understood Creation aright unless
divinely inspired; but whatever Thomas's theory was as he meant it,
he seems to be understood as holding that every created individual--
animal, vegetable, or mineral--was a special, divine act. Whatever
has form is created, and whatever is created takes form directly
from the will of God, which is also his act. The intermediate
universals--the second-ary causes--vanish as causes; they are, at
most, sequences or relations; all merge in one universal act of
will; instantaneous, infinite, eternal.

Saint Thomas saw God, much as Milton saw him, resplendent in

That glorious form, that light unsufferable,
And that far-beaming blaze of Majesty,
Wherewith he wont, at Heaven's high council-table,
To sit the midst of Trinal Unity;

except that, in Thomas's thought, the council-table was a work-
table, because God did not take counsel; He was an act. The Trinity
was an infinite possibility of will; nothing within but

The baby image of the giant mass
Of things to come at large.

Neither time nor space, neither matter nor mind, not even force
existed, nor could any intelligence conceive how, even though they
should exist, they could be united in the lowest association. A
crystal was as miraculous as Socrates. Only abstract force, or what
the schoolmen called form, existed undeveloped from eternity, like
the abstract line in mathematics.

Fifty or a hundred years before Saint Thomas settled the Church
dogma, a monk of Citeaux or some other abbey, a certain Alain of
Lille, had written a Latin poem, as abstruse an allegory as the
best, which had the merit of painting the scene of man's creation as
far as concerned the mechanical process much as Thomas seems to have
seen it. M. Haureau has printed an extract (vol. I, p. 352). Alain
conceded to the weakness of human thought, that God was working in
time and space, or rather on His throne in heaven, when nature,
proposing to create a new and improved man, sent Reason and Prudence
up to ask Him for a soul to fit the new body. Having passed through
various adventures and much scholastic instruction, the messenger
Prudence arrived, after having dropped her dangerous friend Reason
by the way. The request was respectfully presented to God, and
favourably received. God promised the soul, and at once sent His
servant Noys--Thought--to the storehouse of ideas, to choose it:--

Ipse Deus rem prosequitur, producit in actum
Quod pepigit. Vocat ergo Noym quae praepaert illi
Numinis exemplar, humanae mentis Idaeam,
Ad cujus formam formetur spiritus omni
Munere virtutum dives, qui, nube caducae
Carnis odumbratus veletur corporis umbra.
Tunc Noys ad regis praeceptum singula rerum

Vestigans exempla, novam perquirit Idaeam.
Inter tot species, speciem vix invenit illam
Quam petit; offertur tandem quaesita petenti
. Hanc formam Noys ipsa Deo praesentat ut ejus
Formet ad exemplar animam. Tunc ille sigillum
Sumit, ad ipsius formae vestigia formam
Dans animae, vultum qualem deposcit Idaea
Imprimit exemplo; totas usurpat imago
Exemplaris opes, loquiturque figura sigillum.

God Himself pursues the task, and sets in act
What He promised. So He calls Noys to seek
A copy of His will, Idea of the human mind,
To whose form the spirit should be shaped,
Rich in every virtue, which, veiled in garb
Of frail flesh, is to be hidden in a shade of body,
Then Noys, at the King's order, turning one by one

Each sample, seeks the new Idea.
Among so many images she hardly finds that
Which she seeks; at last the sought one appears.
This form Noys herself brings to God for Him
To form a soul to its pattern. He takes the seal,
And gives form to the soul after the model
Of the form itself, stamping on the sample
The figure such as the Idea requires. The seal
Covers the whole field, and the impression expresses the stamp.

The translation is probably full of mistakes; indeed, one is
permitted to doubt whether Alain himself accurately understood the
process; but in substance he meant that God contained a storehouse
of ideas, and stamped each creation with one of these forms. The
poets used a variety of figures to help out their logic, but that of
the potter and his pot was one of the most common. Omar Khayyam was
using it at the same time with Alain of Lille, but with a
difference: for his pot seems to have been matter alone, and his
soul was the wine it received from God; while Alain's soul seems to
have been the form and not the contents of the pot.

The figure matters little. In any case God's act was the union of
mind with matter by the same act or will which created both. No
intermediate cause or condition intervened; no secondary influence
had anything whatever to do with the result. Time had nothing to do
with it. Every individual that has existed or shall exist was
created by the same instantaneous act, for all time. "When the
question regards the universal agent who produces beings and time,
we cannot consider him as acting now and before, according to the
succession of time." God emanated time, force, matter, mind, as He
might emanate gravitation, not as a part of His substance but as an
energy of His will, and maintains them in their activity by the same
act, not by a new one. Every individual is a part of the direct act;
not a secondary outcome. The soul has no father or mother. Of all
errors one of the most serious is to suppose that the soul descends
by generation. "Having life and action of its own, it subsists
without the body; ... it must therefore be produced directly, and
since it is not a material substance, it cannot be produced by way
of generation; it must necessarily be created by God. Consequently
to suppose that the intelligence [or intelligent soul] is the effect
of generation is to suppose that it is not a pure and simple
substance, but corruptible like the body. It is therefore heresy to
say that this soul is transmitted by generation." What is true of
the soul should be true of all other form, since no form is a
material substance. The utmost possible relation between any two
individuals is that God may have used the same stamp or mould for a
series of creations, and especially for the less spiritual: "God is
the first model for all things. One may also say that, among His
creatures some serve as types or models for others because there are
some which are made in the image of others"; but generation means
sequence, not cause. The only true cause is God. Creation is His
sole act, in which no second cause can share." Creation is more
perfect and loftier than generation, because it aims at producing
the whole substance of the being, though it starts from absolute

Thomas Aquinas, when he pleased, was singularly lucid, and on this
point he was particularly positive. The architect insisted on the
controlling idea of his structure. The Church was God, and its lines
excluded interference. God and the Church embraced all the
converging lines of the universe, and the universe showed none but
lines that converged. Between God and man, nothing whatever
intervened. The individual was a compound of form, or soul, and
matter; but both were always created together, by the same act, out
of nothing. "Simpliciter fatendum est animas simul cum corporibus
creari et infundi." It must be distinctly understood that souls were
not created before bodies, but that they were created at the same
time as the bodies they animate. Nothing whatever preceded this
union of two substances which did not exist: "Creatio est productio
alicujus rei secundum suam totam substantiam, nullo praesupposito,
quod sit vel increatum vel ab aliquo creatum." Language can go no
further in exclusion of every possible preceding, secondary, or
subsequent cause, "Productio universalis entis a Deo non est motus
nec mutatio, sed est quaedam simplex emanatio." The whole universe
is, so to speak, a simple emanation from God.

The famous junction, then, is made!--that celebrated fusion of the
universal with the individual, of unity with multiplicity, of God
and nature, which had broken the neck of every philosophy ever
invented; which had ruined William of Champeaux and was to ruin
Descartes; this evolution of the finite from the infinite was
accomplished. The supreme triumph was as easily effected by Thomas
Aquinas as it was to be again effected, four hundred years later, by
Spinoza. He had merely to assert the fact: "It is so! it cannot be
otherwise!" "For the thousandth and hundred-thousandth time;--what
is the use of discussing this prime motor, this Spinozan substance,
any longer? We know it is there!" that--as Professor Haeckel very
justly repeats for the millionth time--is enough.

One point, however, remained undetermined. The Prime Motor and His
action stood fixed, and no one wished to disturb Him; but this was
not the point that had disturbed William of Champeaux. Abelard's
question still remained to be answered. How did Socrates differ from
Plato--Judas from John--Thomas Aquinas from Professor Haeckel? Were
they, in fact, two, or one? What made an individual? What was God's
centimetre measure? The abstract form or soul which existed as a
possibility in God, from all time,--was it one or many? To the
Church, this issue overshadowed all else, for, if humanity was one
and not multiple, the Church, which dealt only with individuals, was
lost. To the schools, also, the issue was vital, for, if the soul or
form was already multiple from the first, unity was lost; the
ultimate substance and prime motor itself became multiple; the whole
issue was reopened.

To the consternation of the Church, and even of his own order,
Thomas, following closely his masters, Albert and Aristotle,
asserted that the soul was measured by matter. "Division occurs in
substances in ratio of quantity, as Aristotle says in his 'Physics.'
And so dimensional quantity is a principle of individuation." The
soul is a fluid absorbed by matter in proportion to the absorptive
power of the matter. The soul is an energy existing in matter
proportionately to the dimensional quantity of the matter. The soul
is a wine, greater or less in quantity according to the size of the
cup. In our report of the great debate of 1110, between Champeaux
and Abelard, we have seen William persistently tempting Abelard to
fall into this admission that matter made the man;--that the
universal equilateral triangle became an individual if it were
shaped in metal, the matter giving it reality which mere form could
not give; and Abelard evading the issue as though his life depended
on it. In fact, had Abelard dared to follow Aristotle into what
looked like an admission that Socrates and Plato were identical as
form and differed only in weight, his life might have been the
forfeit. How Saint Thomas escaped is a question closely connected
with the same inquiry about Saint Francis of Assisi. A Church which
embraced, with equal sympathy, and within a hundred years, the
Virgin, Saint Bernard, William of Champeaux and the School of Saint-
Victor, Peter the Venerable, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Dominic,
Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Saint Bonaventure, was more liberal than
any modern State can afford to be. Radical contradictions the State
may perhaps tolerate, though hardly, but never embrace or profess.
Such elasticity long ago vanished from human thought.

Yet only Dominicans believe that the Church adopted this law of
individualization, or even assented to it. If M. Jourdain is right,
Thomas was quickly obliged to give it another form:--that, though
all souls belonged to the same species, they differed in their
aptitudes for uniting with particular bodies. "This soul is
commensurate with this body, and not with that other one." The idea
is double; for either the souls individualized themselves, and
Thomas abandoned his doctrine of their instantaneous creation, with
the bodies, out of nothing; or God individualized them in the act of
creation, and matter had nothing to do with it. The difficulty is no
concern of ours, but the great scholars who took upon themselves to
explain it made it worse, until at last one gathers only that Saint
Thomas held one of three views: either the soul of humanity was
individualized by God, or it individualized itself, or it was
divided by ratio of quantity, that is, by matter. This amounts to
saying that one knows nothing about it, which we knew before and may
admit with calmness; but Thomas Aquinas was not so happily placed,
between the Church and the schools. Humanity had a form common to
itself, which made it what it was. By some means this form was
associated with matter; in fact, matter was only known as associated
with form. If, then, God, by an instantaneous act, created matter
and gave it form according to the dimensions of the matter, innocent
ignorance might infer that there was, in the act of God, one world-
soul and one world-matter, which He united in different proportions
to make men and things. Such a doctrine was fatal to the Church. No
greater heresy could be charged against the worst Arab or Jew, and
Thomas was so well aware of his danger that he recoiled from it with
a vehemence not at all in keeping with his supposed phlegm. With
feverish eagerness to get clear of such companions, he denied and
denounced, in all companies, in season and out of season, the idea
that intellect was one and the same for all men, differing only with
the quantity of matter it accompanied. He challenged the adherent of
such a doctrine to battle; "let him take the pen if he dares!" No
one dared, seeing that even Jews enjoyed a share of common sense and
had seen some of their friends burn at the stake not very long
before for such opinions, not even openly maintained; while
uneducated people, who are perhaps incapable of receiving intellect
at all, but for whose instruction and salvation the great work of
Saint Thomas and his scholars must chiefly exist, cannot do battle
because they cannot understand Thomas's doctrine of matter and form
which to them seems frank pantheism.

So it appeared to Duns Scotus also, if one may assert in the Doctor
Subtilis any opinion without qualification. Duns began his career
only about 1300, after Thomas's death, and stands, therefore, beyond
our horizon; but he is still the pride of the Franciscan Order and
stands second in authority to the great Dominican alone. In denying
Thomas's doctrine that matter individualizes mind, Duns laid himself
open to the worse charge of investing matter with a certain
embryonic, independent, shadowy soul of its own. Scot's system,
compared with that of Thomas, tended toward liberty. Scot held that
the excess of power in Thomas's prime motor neutralized the power of
his secondary causes, so that these appeared altogether superfluous.
This is a point that ought to be left to the Church to decide, but
there can be no harm in quoting, on the other hand, the authority of
some of Scot's critics within the Church, who have thought that his
doctrine tended to deify matter and to keep open the road to
Spinoza. Narrow and dangerous was the border-line always between
pantheism and materialism, and the chief interest of the schools was
in finding fault with each other's paths.

The opinions in themselves need not disturb us, although the
question is as open to dispute as ever it was and perhaps as much
disputed; but the turn of Thomas's mind is worth study. A century or
two later, his passion to be reasonable, scientific, architectural
would have brought him within range of the Inquisition. Francis of
Assisi was not more archaic and cave-dweller than Thomas of Aquino
was modern and scientific. In his effort to be logical he forced his
Deity to be as logical as himself, which hardly suited Omnipotence.
He hewed the Church dogmas into shape as though they were rough
stones. About no dogma could mankind feel interest more acute than
about that of immortality, which seemed to be the single point
vitally necessary for any Church to prove and define as clearly as
light itself. Thomas trimmed down the soul to half its legitimate
claims as an immortal being by insisting that God created it from
nothing in the same act or will by which He created the body and
united the two in time and space. The soul existed as form for the
body, and had no previous existence. Logic seemed to require that
when the body died and dissolved, after the union which had lasted,
at most, only an instant or two of eternity, the soul, which fitted
that body and no other, should dissolve with it. In that case the
Church dissolved, too, since it had no reason for existence except
the soul. Thomas met the difficulty by suggesting that the body's
form might take permanence from the matter to which it gave form.
That matter should individualize mind was itself a violent wrench of
logic, but that it should also give permanence--the one quality it
did not possess--to this individual mind seemed to many learned
doctors a scandal. Perhaps Thomas meant to leave the responsibility
on the Church, where it belonged as a matter not of logic but of
revealed truth. At all events, this treatment of mind and matter
brought him into trouble which few modern logicians would suspect.

The human soul having become a person by contact with matter, and
having gained eternal personality by the momentary union, was
finished, and remains to this day for practical purposes unchanged;
but the angels and devils, a world of realities then more real than
man, were never united with matter, and therefore could not be
persons. Thomas admitted and insisted that the angels, being
immaterial,--neither clothed in matter, nor stamped on it, nor mixed
with it,--were universals; that is, each was a species in himself, a
class, or perhaps what would be now called an energy, with no other
individuality than he gave himself.

The idea seems to modern science reasonable enough. Science has to
deal, for example, with scores of chemical energies which it knows
little about except that they always seem to be constant to the same
conditions; but every one knows that in the particular relation of
mind to matter the battle is as furious as ever. The soul has always
refused to live in peace with the body. The angels, too, were always
in rebellion. They insisted on personality, and the devils even more
obstinately than the angels. The dispute was--and is--far from
trifling. Mind would rather ignore matter altogether. In the
thirteenth century mind did, indeed, admit that matter was
something,--which it quite refuses to admit in the twentieth,--but
treated it as a nuisance to be abated. To the pure in spirit one
argued in vain that spirit must compromise; that nature compromised;
that God compromised; that man himself was nothing but a somewhat
clumsy compromise. No argument served. Mind insisted on absolute
despotism. Schoolmen as well as mystics would not believe that
matter was what it seemed,--if, indeed, it existed;--unsubstantial,
shifty, shadowy; changing with incredible swiftness into dust, gas,
flame; vanishing in mysterious lines of force into space beyond hope
of recovery; whirled about in eternity and infinity by that mind,
form, energy, or thought which guides and rules and tyrannizes and
is the universe. The Church wanted to be pure spirit; she regarded
matter with antipathy as something foul, to be held at arms' length
lest it should stain and corrupt the soul; the most she would
willingly admit was that mind and matter might travel side by side,
like a doubleheaded comet, on parallel lines that never met, with a
preestablished harmony that existed only in the prime motor.

Thomas and his master Albert were almost alone in imposing on the
Church the compromise so necessary for its equilibrium. The balance
of matter against mind was the same necessity in the Church
Intellectual as the balance of thrusts in the arch of the Gothic
cathedral. Nowhere did Thomas show his architectural obstinacy quite
so plainly as in thus taking matter under his protection. Nothing
would induce him to compromise with the angels. He insisted on
keeping man wholly apart, as a complex of energies in which matter
shared equally with mind. The Church must rest firmly on both. The
angels differed from other beings below them' precisely because they
were immaterial and impersonal. Such rigid logic outraged the
spiritual Church.

Perhaps Thomas's sudden death in 1274 alone saved him from the fate
of Abelard, but it did not save his doctrine. Two years afterwards,
in 1276, the French and English churches combined to condemn it.
Etienne Tempier, Bishop of Paris, presided over the French Synod;
Robert Kilwardeby, of the Dominican Order, Archbishop of Canterbury,
presided over the Council at Oxford. The synods were composed of
schoolmen as well as churchmen, and seem to have been the result of
a serious struggle for power between the Dominican and Franciscan
Orders. Apparently the Church compromised between them by condemning
the errors of both. Some of these errors, springing from Alexander
Hales and his Franciscan schools, were in effect the foundation of
another Church. Some were expressly charged against Brother Thomas.
"Contra fratrem Thomam" the councils forbade teaching that--"quia
intelligentiae non habent materiam, Deus non potest plures ejusdem
speciei facere; et quod materia non est in angelis"; further, the
councils struck at the vital centre of Thomas's system--"quod Deus
non potest individua multiplicare sub una specie sine materia"; and
again in its broadest form,--"quod formae non accipiunt divisionem
nisi secundam materiam." These condemnations made a great stir. Old
Albertus Magnus, who was the real victim of attack, fought for
himself and for Thomas. After a long and earnest effort, the
Thomists rooted out opposition in the order, and carried their
campaign to Rome. After fifty years of struggle, by use of every
method known in Church politics, the Dominican Order, in 1323,
caused John XXII to canonize Thomas and in effect affirm his

The story shows how modern, how heterodox, how material, how
altogether new and revolutionary the system of Saint Thomas seemed
at first even in the schools; but that was the affair of the Church
and a matter of pure theology. We study only his art. Step by step,
stone by stone, we see him build his church-building like a
stonemason, "with the care that the twelfth-century architects put
into" their work, as Viollet-le-Duc saw some similar architect at
Rouen, building the tower of Saint-Romain: "He has thrown over his
work the grace and finesse, the study of detail, the sobriety in
projections, the perfect harmony," which belongs to his school, and
yet he was rigidly structural and Norman. The foundation showed it;
the elevation, which is God, developed it; the vaulting, with its
balance of thrusts in mind and matter, proved it; but he had still
the hardest task in art, to model man.

The cathedral, then, is built, and God is built into it, but, thus
far, God is there alone, filling it all, and maintains the
equilibrium by balancing created matter separately against created
mind. The proportions of the building are superb; nothing so lofty,
so large in treatment, so true in scale, so eloquent of multiplicity
in unity, has ever been conceived elsewhere; but it was the virtue
or the fault of superb structures like Bourges and Amiens and the
Church universal that they seemed to need man more than man needed
them; they were made for crowds, for thousands and tens of thousands
of human beings; for the whole human race, on its knees, hungry for
pardon and love. Chartres needed no crowd, for it was meant as a
palace of the Virgin, and the Virgin filled it wholly; but the
Trinity made their church for no other purpose than to accommodate
man, and made man for no other purpose than to fill their church; if
man failed to fill it, the church and the Trinity seemed equally
failures. Empty, Bourges and Beauvais are cold; hardly as religious
as a wayside cross; and yet, even empty, they are perhaps more
religious than when filled with cattle and machines. Saint Thomas
needed to fill his Church with real men, and although he had created
his own God for that special purpose, the task was, as every boy
knew by heart, the most difficult that Omnipotence had dealt with.

God, as Descartes justly said, we know! but what is man? The schools
answered: Man is a rational animal! So was apparently a dog, or a
bee, or a beaver, none of which seemed to need churches. Modern
science, with infinite effort, has discovered and announced that man
is a bewildering complex of energies, which helps little to explain
his relations with the ultimate substance or energy or prime motor
whose existence both science and schoolmen admit; which science
studies in laboratories and religion worships in churches. The man
whom God created to fill his Church, must be an energy independent
of God; otherwise God filled his own Church with his own energy.
Thus far, the God of Saint Thomas was alone in His Church. The
beings He had created out of nothing--Omar's pipkins of clay and
shape--stood against the walls, waiting to receive the wine of life,
a life of their own.

Of that life, energy, will, or wine,--whatever the poets or
professors called it,--God was the only cause, as He was also the
immediate cause, and support. Thomas was emphatic on that point. God
is the cause of energy as the sun is the cause of colour: "prout sol
dicitur causa manifestationis coloris." He not only gives forms to
his pipkins, or energies to his agents, but He also maintains those
forms in being: "dat formas creaturis agentibus et eas tenet in
esse." He acts directly, not through secondary causes, on everything
and every one: "Deus in omnibus intime operatur." If, for an
instant, God's action, which is also His will, were to stop, the
universe would not merely fall to pieces, but would vanish, and must
then be created anew from nothing: "Quia non habet radicem in aere,
statim cessat lumen, cessante actione solis. Sic autem se habet
omnis creatura ad Deum sicut aer ad solem illuminantem." God
radiates energy as the sun radiates light, and "the whole fabric of
nature would return to nothing" if that radiation ceased even for an
instant. Everything is created by one instantaneous, eternal,
universal act of will, and by the same act is maintained in being.

Where, then,--in what mysterious cave outside of creation,--could
man, and his free will, and his private world of responsibilities
and duties, lie hidden? Unless man was a free agent in a world of
his own beyond constraint, the Church was a fraud, and it helped
little to add that the State was another. If God was the sole and
immediate cause and support of everything in His creation, God was
also the cause of its defects, and could not--being Justice and
Goodness in essence--hold man responsible for His own omissions.
Still less could the State or Church do it in His name.

Whatever truth lies in the charge that the schools discussed futile
questions by faulty methods, one cannot decently deny that in this
case the question was practical and the method vital. Theist or
atheist, monist or anarchist must all admit that society and science
are equally interested with theology in deciding whether the
universe is one or many, a harmony or a discord. The Church and
State asserted that it was a harmony, and that they were its
representatives. They say so still. Their claim led to singular but
unavoidable conclusions, with which society has struggled for seven
hundred years, and is still struggling.

Freedom could not exist in nature, or even in God, after the single,
unalterable act or will which created. The only possible free will
was that of God before the act. Abelard with his rigid logic averred
that God had no freedom; being Himself whatever is most perfect, He
produced necessarily the most perfect possible world. Nothing seemed
more logical, but if God acted necessarily, His world must also be
of necessity the only possible product of His act, and the Church
became an impertinence, since man proved only fatuity by attempting
to interfere. Thomas dared not disturb the foundations of the
Church, and therefore began by laying down the law that God--
previous to His act--could choose, and had chosen, whatever scheme
of creation He pleased, and that the harmony of the actual scheme
proved His perfections. Thus he saved God's free will.

This philosophical apse would have closed the lines and finished the
plan of his church-choir had the universe not shown some
divergencies or discords needing to be explained. The student of the
Latin Quarter was then harder to convince than now that God was
Infinite Love and His world a perfect harmony, when perfect love and
harmony showed them, even in the Latin Quarter, and still more in
revealed truth, a picture of suffering, sorrow, and death; plague,
pestilence, and famine; inundations, droughts, and frosts;
catastrophes world-wide and accidents in corners; cruelty,
perversity, stupidity, uncertainty, insanity; virtue begetting vice;
vice working for good; happiness without sense, selfishness without
gain, misery without cause, and horrors undefined. The students in
public dared not ask, as Voltaire did, "avec son hideux sourire,"
whether the Lisbon earthquake was the final proof of God's infinite
goodness, but in private they used the argumentum ad personam
divinam freely enough, and when the Church told them that evil did
not exist, the ribalds laughed.

Saint Augustine certainly tempted Satan when he fastened the Church
to this doctrine that evil is only the privation of good, an amissio
boni; and that good alone exists. The point was infinitely
troublesome. Good was order, law, unity. Evil was disorder, anarchy,
multiplicity. Which was truth? The Church had committed itself to
the dogma that order and unity were the ultimate truth, and that the
anarchist should be burned. She could do nothing else, and society
supported her--still supports her; yet the Church, who was wiser
than the State, had always seen that Saint Augustine dealt with only
half the question. She knew that evil might be an excess of good as
well as absence of it; that good leads to evil, evil to good; and
that, as Pascal says, "three degrees of polar elevation upset all
jurisprudence; a meridian decides truth; fundamental laws change;
rights have epochs. Pleasing Justice! bounded by a river or a
mountain! truths on this side the Pyrenees! errors beyond!" Thomas
conceded that God Himself, with the best intentions, might be the
source of evil, and pleaded only that his action might in the end
work benefits. He could offer no proof of it, but he could assume as
probable a plan of good which became the more perfect for the very
reason that it allowed great liberty in detail.

One hardly feels Saint Thomas here in all his force. He offers
suggestion rather than proof;--apology--the weaker because of
obvious effort to apologize--rather than defence, for Infinite
Goodness, Justice, and Power; scoffers might add that he invented a
new proof ab defectu, or argument for proving the perfection of a
machine by the number of its imperfections; but at all events,
society has never done better by way of proving its right to enforce
morals or unity of opinion. Unless it asserts law, it can only
assert force. Rigid theology went much further. In God's providence,
man was as nothing. With a proper sense of duty, every solar system
should be content to suffer, if thereby the efficiency of the Milky
Way were improved. Such theology shocked Saint Thomas, who never
wholly abandoned man in order to exalt God. He persistently brought
God and man together, and if he erred, the Church rightly pardons
him because he erred on the human side. Whenever the path lay
through the valley of despair he called God to his aid, as though he
felt the moral obligation of the Creator to help His creation.

At best the vision of God, sitting forever at His work-table,
willing the existence of mankind exactly as it is, while conscious
that, among these myriad arbitrary creations of His will, hardly one
in a million could escape temporary misery or eternal damnation, was
not the best possible background for a Church, as the Virgin and the
Saviour frankly admitted by taking the foreground; but the Church
was not responsible for it. Mankind could not admit an anarchical--a
dual or a multiple--universe. The world was there, staring them in
the face, with all its chaotic conditions, and society insisted on
its unity in self-defence. Society still insists on treating it as
unity, though no longer affecting logic. Society insists on its free
will, although free will has never been explained to the
satisfaction of any but those who much wish to be satisfied, and
although the words in any common sense implied not unity but duality
in creation. The Church had nothing to do with inventing this
riddle--the oldest that fretted mankind.

Apart from all theological interferences,--fall of Adam or fault of
Eve, Atonement, Justification, or Redemption,--either the universe
was one, or it was two, or it was many; either energy was one, seen
only in powers of itself, or it was several; either God was harmony,
or He was discord. With practical unanimity, mankind rejected the
dual or multiple scheme; it insisted on unity. Thomas took the
question as it was given him. The unity was full of defects; he did
not deny them; but he claimed that they might be incidents, and that
the admitted unity might even prove their beneficence. Granting this
enormous concession, he still needed a means of bringing into the
system one element which vehemently refused to be brought:--that is,
man himself, who insisted that the universe was a unit, but that he
was a universe; that energy was one, but that he was another energy;
that God was omnipotent, but that man was free. The contradiction
had always existed, exists still, and always must exist, unless man
either admits that he is a machine, or agrees that anarchy and chaos
are the habit of nature, and law and order its accident. The
agreement may become possible, but it was not possible in the
thirteenth century nor is it now. Saint Thomas's settlement could
not be a simple one or final, except for practical use, but it
served, and it holds good still.

No one ever seriously affirmed the literal freedom of will. Absolute
liberty is absence of restraint; responsibility is restraint;
therefore, the ideally free individual is responsible only to
himself. This principle is the philosophical foundation of
anarchism, and, for anything that science has yet proved, may be the
philosophical foundation of the universe; but it is fatal to all
society and is especially hostile to the State. Perhaps the Church
of the thirteenth century might have found a way to use even this
principle for a good purpose; certainly, the influence of Saint
Bernard was sufficiently unsocial and that of Saint Francis was
sufficiently unselfish to conciliate even anarchists of the militant
class; but Saint Thomas was working for the Church and the

State, not for the salvation of souls, and his chief object was to
repress anarchy. The theory of absolute free will never entered his
mind, more than the theory of material free will would enter the
mind of an architect. The Church gave him no warrant for discussing
the subject in such a sense. In fact, the Church never admitted free
will, or used the word when it could be avoided. In Latin, the term
used was "liberum arbitrium,"--free choice,--and in French to this
day it remains in strictness "libre arbitre" still. From Saint
Augustine downwards the Church was never so unscientific as to admit
of liberty beyond the faculty of choosing between paths, some
leading through the Church and some not, but all leading to the next
world; as a criminal might be allowed the liberty of choosing
between the guillotine and the gallows, without infringing on the
supremacy of the judge.

Thomas started from that point, already far from theoretic freedom.
"We are masters of our acts," he began, "in the sense that we can
choose such and such a thing; now, we have not to choose our end,
but the means that relate to it, as Aristotle says." Unfortunately,
even this trenchant amputation of man's free energies would not
accord with fact or with logic. Experience proved that man's power
of choice in action was very far from absolute, and logic seemed to
require that every choice should have some predetermining cause
which decided the will to act. Science affirmed that choice was not
free,--could not be free,--without abandoning the unity of force and
the foundation of law. Society insisted that its choice must be left
free, whatever became of science or unity. Saint Thomas was required
to illustrate the theory of "liberum arbitrium" by choosing a path
through these difficulties, where path there was obviously none.

Thomas's method of treating this problem was sure to be as
scientific as the vaulting of a Gothic arch. Indeed, one follows it
most easily by translating his school-vocabulary into modern
technical terms. With very slight straining of equivalents, Thomas
might now be written thus:--

By the term God, is meant a prime motor which supplies all energy to
the universe, and acts directly on man as well as on all other
creatures, moving him as a mechanical motor might do; but man, being
specially provided with an organism more complex than the organisms
of other creatures, enjoys an exceptional capacity for reflex
action,--a power of reflection,--which enables him within certain
limits to choose between paths; and this singular capacity is called
free choice or free will. Of course, the reflection is not choice,
and though a man's mind reflected as perfectly as the facets of a
lighthouse lantern, it would never reach a choice without an energy
which impels it to act.

Now let us read Saint Thomas:--

Some kind of an agent is required to determine one's choice; that
agent is reflection. Man reflects, then, in order to learn what
choice to make between the two acts which offer themselves. But
reflection is, in its turn, a faculty of doing opposite things, for
we can reflect or not reflect; and we are no further forward than
before. One cannot carry back this process infinitely, for in that
case one would never decide. The fixed point is not in man, since we
meet in him, as a being apart by himself, only the alternative
faculties; we must, therefore, recur to the intervention of an
exterior agent who shall impress on our will a movement capable of
putting an end to its hesitations:--That exterior agent is nothing
else than God!

The scheme seems to differ little, and unwillingly, from a system of
dynamics as modern as the dynamo. Even in the prime motor, from the
moment of action, freedom of will vanished. Creation was not
successive; it was one instantaneous thought and act, identical with
the will, and was complete and unchangeable from end to end,
including time as one of its functions. Thomas was as clear as
possible on that point:--"Supposing God wills anything in effect; He
cannot will not to will it, because His will cannot change." He
wills that some things shall be contingent and others necessary, but
He wills in the same act that the contingency shall be necessary.
"They are contingent because God has willed them to be so, and with
this object has subjected them to causes which are so." In the same
way He wills that His creation shall develop itself in time and
space and sequence, but He creates these conditions as well as the
events. He creates the whole, in one act, complete, unchangeable,
and it is then unfolded like a rolling panorama, with its
predetermined contingencies.

Man's free choice--liberum arbitrium--falls easily into place as a
predetermined contingency. God is the first cause, and acts in all
secondary causes directly; but while He acts mechanically on the
rest of creation,--as far as is known,--He acts freely at one point,
and this free action remains free as far as it extends on that line.
Man's freedom derives from this source, but it is simply apparent,
as far as he is a cause; it is a reflex action determined by a new
agency of the first cause.

However abstruse these ideas may once have sounded, they are far
from seeming difficult in comparison with modern theories of energy.
Indeed, measured by that standard, the only striking feature of
Saint Thomas's motor is its simplicity. Thomas's prime motor was
very powerful, and its lines of energy were infinite. Among these
infinite lines, a certain group ran to the human race, and, as long
as the conduction was perfect, each man acted mechanically. In cases
where the current, for any reason, was for a moment checked,--that
is to say, produced the effect of hesitation or reflection in the
mind,--the current accumulated until it acquired power to leap the
obstacle. As Saint Thomas expressed it, the Prime Motor, Who was
nothing else than God, intervened to decide the channel of the
current. The only difference between man and a vegetable was the
reflex action of the complicated mirror which was called mind, and
the mark of mind was reflective absorption or choice. The apparent
freedom was an illusion arising from the extreme delicacy of the
machine, but the motive power was in fact the same--that of God.

This exclusion of what men commonly called freedom was carried still
further in the process of explaining dogma. Supposing the con-
duction to be insufficient for a given purpose; a purpose which
shall require perfect conduction? Under ordinary circumstances, in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the conductor will be burned
out, so to speak; condemned, and thrown away. This is the case with
most human beings. Yet there are cases where the conductor is
capable of receiving an increase of energy from the prime motor,
which enables it to attain the object aimed at. In dogma, this store
of reserved energy is technically called Grace. In the strict,
theological sense of the word, as it is used by Saint Thomas, the
exact, literal meaning of Grace is "a motion which the Prime Motor,
as a supernatural cause, produces in the soul, perfecting free
will." It is a reserved energy, which comes to aid and reinforce the
normal energy of the battery.

To religious minds this scientific inversion of solemn truths seems,
and is, sacrilege; but Thomas's numerous critics in the Church have
always brought precisely this charge against his doctrine, and are
doing so still. They insist that he has reduced God to a mechanism
and man to a passive conductor of force. He has left, they say,
nothing but God in the universe. The terrible word which annihilates
all other philosophical systems against which it is hurled, has been
hurled freely against his for six hundred years and more, without
visibly affecting the Church; and yet its propriety seems, to the
vulgar, beyond reasonable cavil. To Father de Regnon, of the
extremely learned and intelligent Society of Jesus, the difference
between pantheism and Thomism reduces itself to this: "Pantheism,
starting from the notion of an infinite substance which is the
plenitude of being, concludes that there can exist no other beings
than THE being; no other realities than the absolute reality.
Thomism, starting from the efficacy of the first cause, tends to
reduce more and more the efficacy of second causes, and to replace
it by a passivity which receives without producing, which is
determined without determining." To students of architecture, who
know equally little about pantheism and about Thomism,--or, indeed,
for that matter, about architecture, too,--the quality that rouses
most surprise in Thomism is its astonishingly scientific method. The
Franciscans and the Jesuits call it pantheism, but science, too, is
pantheism, or has till very recently been wholly pantheistic.
Avowedly science has aimed at nothing but the reduction of
multiplicity to unity, and has excommunicated, as though it were
itself a Church, any one who doubted or disputed its object, its
method, or its results. The effort is as evident and quite as
laborious in modern science, starting as it does from multiplicity,
as in Thomas Aquinas, who started from unity; and it is necessarily
less successful, for its true aims, as far as it is science and not
disguised religion, were equally attained by reaching infinite
complexity; but the assertion or assumption of ultimate unity has
characterized the Law of Energy as emphatically as it has
characterized the definition of God in theology. If it is a reproach
to Saint Thomas, it is equally a reproach to Clerk-Maxwell. In
truth, it is what men most admire in both--the power of broad and
lofty generalization.

Under any conceivable system the process of getting God and man
under the same roof--of bringing two independent energies under the
same control--required a painful effort, as science has much cause
to know. No doubt, many good Christians and some heretics have been
shocked at the tour de force by which they felt themselves suddenly
seized, bound hand and foot, attached to each other, and dragged
into the Church, without consent or consultation. To religious
mystics, whose scepticism concerned chiefly themselves and their own
existence, Saint Thomas's man seemed hardly worth herding, at so
much expense and trouble, into a Church where he was not eager to
go. True religion felt the nearness of God without caring to see the
mechanism. Mystics like Saint Bernard, Saint Francis, Saint
Bonaventure, or Pascal had a right to make this objection, since
they got into the Church, so to speak, by breaking through the
windows; but society at large accepted and retains Saint Thomas's
man much as Saint Thomas delivered him to the Government; a two-
sided being, free or unfree, responsible or irresponsible, an energy
or a victim of energy, moved by choice or moved by compulsion, as
the interests of society seemed for the moment to need. Certainly
Saint Thomas lavished no excess of liberty on the man he created,
but still he was more generous than the State has ever been. Saint
Thomas asked little from man, and gave much; even as much freedom of
will as the State gave or now gives; he added immortality hereafter
and eternal happiness under reasonable restraints; his God watched
over man's temporal welfare far more anxiously than the State has
ever done, and assigned him space in the Church which he never can
have in the galleries of Parliament or Congress; more than all this,
Saint Thomas and his God placed man in the centre of the universe,
and made the sun and the stars for his uses. No statute law ever did
as much for man, and no social reform ever will try to do it; yet
man bitterly complained that he had not his rights, and even in the
Church is still complaining, because Saint Thomas set a limit, more
or less vague, to what the man was obstinate in calling his freedom
of will.

Thus Saint Thomas completed his work, keeping his converging lines
clear and pure throughout, and bringing them together, unbroken, in
the curves that gave unity to his plan. His sense of scale and
proportion was that of the great architects of his age. One might go
on studying it for a lifetime. He showed no more hesitation in
keeping his Deity in scale than in adjusting man to it. Strange as
it sounds, although man thought himself hardly treated in respect to
freedom, yet, if freedom meant superiority, man was in action much
the superior of God, Whose freedom suffered, from Saint Thomas,
under restraints that man never would have tolerated. Saint Thomas
did not allow God even an undetermined will; He was pure Act, and as
such He could not change. Man alone was allowed, in act, to change
direction. What was more curious still, man might absolutely prove
his freedom by refusing to move at all; if he did not like his life
he could stop it, and habitually did so, or acquiesced in its being
done for him; while God could not commit suicide or even cease for a
single instant His continuous action. If man had the singular fancy
of making himself absurd,--a taste confined to himself but attested
by evidence exceedingly strong,--he could be as absurd as he liked;
but God could not be absurd. Saint Thomas did not allow the Deity
the right to contradict Himself, which is one of man's chief
pleasures. While man enjoyed what was, for his purposes, an
unlimited freedom to be wicked,--a privilege which, as both Church
and State bitterly complained and still complain, he has
outrageously abused,--God was Goodness, and could be nothing else.
While man moved about his relatively spacious prison with a certain
degree of ease, God, being everywhere, could not move. In one
respect, at least, man's freedom seemed to be not relative but
absolute, for his thought was an energy paying no regard to space or
time or order or object or sense; but God's thought was His act and
will at once; speaking correctly, God could not think; He is. Saint
Thomas would not, or could not, admit that God was Necessity, as
Abelard seems to have held, but he refused to tolerate the idea of a
divine maniac, free from moral obligation to himself. The atmosphere
of Saint Louis surrounds the God of Saint Thomas, and its pure ether
shuts out the corruption and pollution to come,--the Valois and
Bourbons, the Occams and Hobbes's, the Tudors and the Medicis, of an
enlightened Europe.

The theology turns always into art at the last, and ends in
aspiration. The spire justifies the church. In Saint Thomas's
Church, man's free will was the aspiration to God, and he treated it
as the architects of Chartres and Laon had treated their famous
fleches. The square foundation-tower, the expression of God's power
in act,--His Creation,--rose to the level of the Church facade as a
part of the normal unity of God's energy; and then, suddenly,
without show of effort, without break, without logical violence,
became a many-sided, voluntary, vanishing human soul, and neither
Villard de Honnecourt nor Duns Scotus could distinguish where God's
power ends and man's free will begins. All they saw was the soul
vanishing into the skies. How it was done, one does not care to ask;
in a result so exquisite, one has not the heart to find fault with

About Saint Thomas's theology we need not greatly disturb ourselves;
it can matter now not much, whether he put more pantheism than the
law allowed or more materialism than Duns Scotus approved--or less
of either--into his universe, since the Church is still on the spot,
responsible for its own doctrines; but his architecture is another
matter. So scientific and structural a method was never an accident
or the property of a single mind even with Aristotle to prompt it.
Neither his Church nor the architect's church was a sketch, but a
completely studied structure. Every relation of parts, every
disturbance of equilibrium, every detail of construction was treated
with infinite labour, as the result of two hundred years of
experiment and discussion among thousands of men whose minds and
whose instincts were acute, and who discussed little else. Science
and art were one. Thomas Aquinas would probably have built a better
cathedral at Beauvais than the actual architect who planned it; but
it is quite likely that the architect might have saved Thomas some
of his errors, as pointed out by the Councils of 1276. Both were
great artists; perhaps in their professions, the greatest that ever
lived; and both must have been great students beyond their practice.
Both were subject to constant criticism from men and bodies of men
whose minds were as acute and whose learning was as great as their
own. If the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Paris
condemned Thomas, the Bernardines had, for near two hundred years,
condemned Beauvais in advance. Both the "Summa Theologiae" and
Beauvais Cathedral were excessively modern, scientific, and
technical, marking the extreme points reached by Europe on the lines
of scholastic science. This is all we need to know. If we like, we
can go on to study, inch by inch, the slow decline of the art. The
essence of it--the despotic central idea--was that of organic unity
both in the thought and the building. From that time, the universe
has steadily become more complex and less reducible to a central
control. With as much obstinacy as though it were human, it has
insisted on expanding its parts; with as much elusiveness as though
it were feminine, it has evaded the attempt to impose on it a single
will. Modern science, like modern art, tends, in practice, to drop
the dogma of organic unity. Some of the mediaeval habit of mind
survives, but even that is said to be yielding before the daily
evidence of increasing and extending complexity. The fault, then,
was not in man, if he no longer looked at science or art as an
organic whole or as the expression of unity. Unity turned itself
into complexity, multiplicity, variety, and even contradiction. All
experience, human and divine, assured man in the thirteenth century
that the lines of the universe converged. How was he to know that
these lines ran in every conceivable and inconceivable direction,
and that at least half of them seemed to diverge from any imaginable
centre of unity! Dimly conscious that his Trinity required in logic
a fourth dimension, how was the schoolman to supply it, when even
the mathematician of to-day can only infer its necessity? Naturally
man tended to lose his sense of scale and relation. A straight line,
or a combination of straight lines, may have still a sort of
artistic unity, but what can be done in art with a series of
negative symbols? Even if the negative were continuous, the artist
might express at least a negation; but supposing that Omar's kinetic
analogy of the ball and the players turned out to be a scientific
formula!--supposing that the highest scientific authority, in order
to obtain any unity at all, had to resort to the Middle Ages for an
imaginary demon to sort his atoms!--how could art deal with such
problems, and what wonder that art lost unity with philosophy and
science! Art had to be confused in order to express confusion; but
perhaps it was truest, so.

Some future summer, when you are older, and when I have left, like
Omar, only the empty glass of my scholasticism for you to turn down,
you can amuse yourselves by going on with the story after the death
of Saint Louis, Saint Thomas, and William of Lorris, and after the
failure of Beauvais. The pathetic interest of the drama deepens with
every new expression, but at least you can learn from it that your
parents in the nineteenth century were not to blame for losing the
sense of unity in art. As early as the fourteenth century, signs of
unsteadiness appeared, and, before the eighteenth century, unity
became only a reminiscence. The old habit of centralizing a strain
at one point, and then dividing and subdividing it, and distributing
it on visible lines of support to a visible foundation, disappeared
in architecture soon after 1500, but lingered in theology two
centuries longer, and even, in very old-fashioned communities, far
down to our own time; but its values were forgotten, and it survived
chiefly as a stock jest against the clergy. The passage between the
two epochs is as beautiful as the Slave of Michael Angelo; but, to
feel its beauty, you should see it from above, as it came from its
radiant source. Truth, indeed, may not exist; science avers it to be
only a relation; but what men took for truth stares one everywhere
in the eye and begs for sympathy. The architects of the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries took the Church and the universe for truths,
and tried to express them in a structure which should be final.
Knowing by an enormous experience precisely where the strains were
to come, they enlarged their scale to the utmost point of material
endurance, lightening the load and distributing the burden until the
gutters and gargoyles that seem mere ornament, and the grotesques
that seem rude absurdities, all do work either for the arch or for
the eye; and every inch of material, up and down, from crypt to
vault, from man to God, from the universe to the atom, had its task,
giving support where support was needed, or weight where
concentration was felt, but always with the condition of showing
conspicuously to the eye the great lines which led to unity and the
curves which controlled divergence; so that, from the cross on the
fleche and the keystone of the vault, down through the ribbed
nervures, the columns, the windows, to the foundation of the flying
buttresses far beyond the walls, one idea controlled every line; and
this is true of Saint Thomas's Church as it is of Amiens Cathedral.
The method was the same for both, and the result was an art marked
by singular unity, which endured and served its purpose until man
changed his attitude toward the universe. The trouble was not in the
art or the method or the structure, but in the universe itself which
presented different aspects as man moved. Granted a Church, Saint
Thomas's Church was the most expressive that man has made, and the
great Gothic cathedrals were its most complete expression.

Perhaps the best proof of it is their apparent instability. Of all
the elaborate symbolism which has been suggested for the Gothic
cathedral, the most vital and most perfect may be that the slender
nervure, the springing motion of the broken arch, the leap downwards
of the flying buttress,--the visible effort to throw off a visible
strain,--never let us forget that Faith alone supports it, and that,
if Faith fails, Heaven is lost. The equilibrium is visibly delicate
beyond the line of safety; danger lurks in every stone. The peril of
the heavy tower, of the restless vault, of the vagrant buttress; the
uncertainty of logic, the inequalities of the syllogism, the
irregularities of the mental mirror,--all these haunting nightmares
of the Church are expressed as strongly by the Gothic cathedral as
though it had been the cry of human suffering, and as no emotion had
ever been expressed before or is likely to find expression again.
The delight of its aspirations is flung up to the sky. The pathos of
its self-distrust and anguish of doubt is buried in the earth as its
last secret. You can read out of it whatever else pleases your youth
and confidence; to me, this is all.


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