CHAPTER XVI. SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS
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 nothing."