CHAPTER XVI. SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS
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.