Thomas Aquinas, A Perspective
by Dr. Parviz Dehghani
Thomas Aquinas, A Perspective
Who was this man? Who was this individual? Who am I to ask even this question? I’m about to make use of a source for this humble inquiry, which is the starting point of my investigation. He was a popular philosopher of the Catholic Church. He reconciled the philosophy of Aristotle with Christian doctrine. In his ‘Five Ways’, in ‘Summa Theologica’ he tried to prove the existence of God. In the first attempt he used the idea of change. Without God’s rest on the 7th days there would not have been any change, as I have written in my other articles. But this is not the way Thomas argued. He said that we can see the process of change as we observe the colors of the autumn’s leaves in this fall, Novemeber8, 2021. This change is the result of something else, because a thing cannot change by itself. The cause of this change is also caused by something other than itself. This can go on ‘ad infinitum’ or endlessly. Obviously there must be something which is the main cause of all things without changing itself. “If the hand does not move the stick, the stick will not move anything else” Aquinas said. God is the first mover according to him. Aristotle calls this ‘unmoved Mover’ or ‘uncaused Cause’. In response to Thomas I would ask, who is this God whose proof of existence is so important? Why do I have to think the avocado seed sitting in front of me is changing, because God is the Cause of it? Once the oxygen reached the sealed glass box, the 400 years old fabric changed color at Forbidden City in China. I myself saw this fabric, which had been kept in the box, at Forbidden City in China in the summer of 1982. Once the box was opened after the revolution, the beautiful color of this fabric faded away. What comes to our mind is the immediate cause of it, which is the air. Was God involved in this process? With all due respect for Aristotle, causalogy, or argument from causes, which I would like to name it as such, leaves room for questions. I coined this word myself.
Hume said in the 18th century, we can never have a direct and immediate (with no medium) concept of causality. More than 1000 years ago Ghazzali, the Persian philosopher and theologian, also argued that there was no connection between cause and effect. However, the presence of God was the vertical Cause between the two. For Hume there was no divine Cause between cause and effect. To understand change, Aristotle needed a constant and immutable Reality. Therefore, he came up with the idea of pure Form, which doesn’t need matter to reach its actuality. This must be what he meant by uncaused Cause and unmoved Mover. Thomas must have thought of the beginning of the Old Testament in which God is written to have created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th day. This rest must have given rise to motion. Thomas perhaps felt that he could bring in Aristotle’s philosophy to straighten Christian theology. He told the Pop he had Christianized Aristotle. While in fact he had helped Christianity by the intellectual power of Aristotle. Was he lying to the Pop? The answer is, not at all. However, the question remains as to why even Aristotle had to use causality in order to prove the existence of the Reality though changeless; it is the Cause of all changes in the universe. Hume would say, we can’t go from here to there. The pine tree sap is not the same as blood in our veins.
I think Plato believed in the Ultimate Reality, which is above and beyond all dualities including rest and motion. This Reality doesn’t even exist so we don’t have to prove its existence. When we go beyond God to much higher Reality we realize that names and definitions limit God in our mind.
Was Thomas fascinated by Aristotle unifying Plato’s Forms and the world? After all in the beginning was the word and the word was with God, and the word was God, and it came among us in flesh, namely, Jesus Christ. To Thomas, Aristotle was a unifier of Plato’s realm of Being, the transcendent realities or Forms and the world of change and becoming. Gospel of John conveys a similar message. He turned Jesus into an Avatar (incarnation) as in Hinduism. Christ became Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu, one of the masks of the Ultimate Reality. Thomas needs a train station in order to explain the movement of a train. However, we argue based on the fact that there must be an absolute, if we’re dealing with relative. They’re opposites as you can see. This absolute is the Ultimate Reality, which is ONE, and not mathematical minus one and plus one. This ONE is the mother of all particulars, because it is a universal Reality. It is beyond time and space, rest and motion, being and non-being, existence and non-existence. Thus, it doesn’t exist. Then does it make sense to prove its existence? Kant said “God exists” is an analytic statement, which means predicate ‘existence’ is already in the subject ‘God’. For example, “All bachelors are unmarried people” is an analytic statement, because the predicate ‘unmarried’ is already in the subject ‘bachelors’. Kant removed the word ‘existence’ from the statement, ‘God exists’. This is very similar to when the word ‘existence’ disappears from the Ultimate Reality. Existence is already in the Ultimate Reality. “The sun rose, the reason of the sun’ (A Persian expression) When the sun is before us, do we need the reason for its existence? The existence of the Ultimate Reality is within it. However, there’s a duality here. We can then say in case of the Ultimate Reality, its existence and it are identical. This way there’s no duality to worry about. Besides, this Reality is beyond existence and non-existence. In case of Kant, we detect a duality within the reality of God, because ‘God exists’ is an analytic statement. The Ultimate Reality never becomes a postulate or assumption. But Kant’s God became that. What did Kant replace this postulate with? Nothing!
Buddha didn’t have a room for a personal God in his philosophy. The personal gods he rejected were the creations of the mind of those who had believed them. The personal God of his parents became nothing but assumption.
Thomas, nevertheless, was a believer in the natural law like Aristotle. If you’re not able to find God in your Bible, look into nature and search for Him. The Intellect within us is part of the natural law. What is uncreated in me is one with nature. Mind is not the source of objectivity. The ray of the sun in me is connected to the sun. Atman is one with Brahman, as Shaankaaraa, the Hindu philosopher argued thousands of years ago.
Mind creates its own God, gods, and goddesses. These are all rejected by the Atman or our true Self within us. Are we sure the existence of God Thomas was proving was not the creation of his own mind? Kant’s God doesn’t exist. The Ultimate Reality doesn’t exist either. If Kant’s God is the result of his mind, then it should be rejected. It doesn’t have to become a postulate to be rejected. Kant’s God is the product of his own limited pure reason. No wonder Hegel wanted to go back to Christ. Kant’s pure reason is a way he admits he is unable to penetrate the Berlin wall separating him from the realm of noumenon. He was not capable of seeing God and experiencing this Reality in nature. He thought his world was connected to the natural law. His world was but the result of the projection of his own mind. The objective world of the natural law doesn’t reflect his categories. Thomas tried to prove the existence of God rationally. But in this process he didn’t close the door of empiricism. He said there’s nothing in the intellect that is not already in the senses. However, he was not an empiricist as Lock, Berkeley, and Hume. Experiencing the existence of God doesn’t make you an empiricist. Thomas never said our knowledge comes from experience. But nevertheless, he argued that we can search for God in nature. Kant also said something very similar to Thomas when he argued that our knowledge begins with experience but doesn’t come from it. Ethics for Kant was more important than nature. Nonetheless, what Thomas saw in nature was not what Kant saw. I believe Kant didn’t have the knowledge of the natural law. Thomas, on the other hand, being Aristotelian, was a believer in the natural law.
As we said before, rationally Thomas can’t prove the existence of God. But through the natural law and the principals governing nature, he expects us to find God in nature. Hume, however, turned this argument down by saying that there’re so many problems with nature that makes one wonder if Thomas’ argument makes sense at all. Of course, some of the natural disasters experienced in our time are manmade. However, Hume lived in the 18th century and still didn’t have a good view of nature. How can God be in nature and still tolerate what it does to us? How can nature be the source of values for us as it was for the ancient Greeks? Thousands of innocent children perish in Tsunami, earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods. Where is God to stop atrocities committed to innocence?
In the second attempt for proving the existence of God, he argues that a thing is unable to cause itself. It must be caused from outside. God, however, cannot cause Himself. If He does, this will create a duality. Cause itself is an agent, which produces effect. Apparently in God cause and effect are one. But how can this be a proof of His existence? Since God is not a thing or an entity, it has to cause itself, namely, turn itself into an effect.
In the third Way, things come into existence and pass away. However, there must have been a time when nothing was in existence. Since only nothing comes out of nothing and something comes out of something, it is not possible for thing to have come into being. Thus, something must have always been in existence. This is what people comprehend to be God. Now if this were the case, then why Augustine argued that God created everything out nothing? St. Augustine made an exception when it came to God. He knew very well that something can’t come from nothing. Thomas rather used this principal, namely, only something comes out of something and nothing comes out of nothing, in logic to prove the existence of God. We see a discrepancy between Augustine and Thomas here. One defies the rule of logic to create what didn’t exist in the beginning of the Old Testament, namely, God created everything out of nothing. Thomas, however, used Aristotelian logic to his advantage.
In the fourth Way he argues that as we know, the sun is the hottest entity like the lava of a volcanic mountain. It is therefore, the cause of hot things. Based on this analogy, there must be a source of Good that makes all other things good. This source, to Thomas, is God. We’re reminded of Plato’s Form of the Good here.
In the fifth Way Thomas uses Aristotle’s idea of ‘telos’ or purpose. According to Aristotle all things are aiming towards some final goal or end. However, to be guided by a ‘telos’ or a goal indicates some mind directing that aim. We call that director God. Although all these five Ways are rejected by the modern philosophers, the Catholic Church accepts them all even today.
Thomas, like Augustine believed in free will given to us by God to either love Him or hate him or accept Him or reject Him. To love God requires freedom. We cannot be determined and love God. But God says in the Old Testament that ‘Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated’ (not exact quote), which was argued by Augustine that God must have determined which one of the two was going to receive His Grace way ahead of time. However, one cannot be determined and still have free will at the same time and in the same relationship. Didn’t Augustine realize this fact? Either/or logic of Aristotle wouldn’t allow such a fact to exist. Well again, this was the same Augustine who argued that God created everything out of nothing, which is against logic and apparently doesn’t even exist in the beginning of the Bible. Nonetheless, I think Augustine was aware of the problem of freedom and determinism here. First of all to say that God knows everything ahead of time indicates that God operates on the same level as us human beings. If by God we mean the Ultimate Reality, past, present, and future have no meaning. Who was the author of time anyway, God or us? Let us say God created time along everything else. As things change, we need to organize our life by time. But to understand what God does, we cannot use the same measure for Him. Past, present, and future have no meaning for God, not even a personal God. We ought to be very careful not to use anthropomorphism for understanding God. We cannot be using human characteristics for God. In Greek ‘anthropos’ means man and ‘morphe’ is form. (Webster’s new world Dictionary)Therefore, arguing that God knew way ahead of time Jacob was going to receive His grace is absurd. Determinism here is off the table. The words ‘hate’ and ‘love’ are dualities that cannot exist in the Ultimate Reality. We’re full of love and hate but not God. Freedom is a must, if we want to love God or hate Him. So it is not possible for me to be free and determined at the same time and in the same relationship. (Philosophy, 100 essential thinkers, Philip Stokes, page 51)
What are we looking for? What was Thomas searching for? 13th century was a different world. I was not there to know that, however. Italian people lived in a different time in history compared to us. However, our questions have not evolved, thanks to Darwin, sarcasm intended. Not everything changes for better, Mr. Darwin. 19th century Hegelian philosophy of history must have had some influence on him. We have been asking the same questions for thousands of years. Where did I come from, what is this, and where am I going to, are these fundamental questions. Being Aristotelian, Thomas knew the decisions of the church fathers, as the nature of Jesus, was not without its problems. Christ being fully man and fully God couldn’t past the test of Aristotelian logic of either/or. However, we shouldn’t forget that Aristotle’s either/or logic dealt with the theoretical wisdom or science not ethics. Thomas tried to prove the existence of God based on Aristotle’s theology. But when it came to the Holy Trinity and Jesus being both fully man and God, he had no answer but faith for the time being. Perhaps Plato would have been a better choice to make sense of the ancient problem of ‘one’ and ‘many’. The light of the sun is ‘one’ and its spectrum on the wall with different divided color light is another? The color of the rainbow is another example here. How can ‘one’ be ‘many’ and vice versa at the same time and in the same relationship? In 300 AD Church fathers came up with a creed concerning these ideas. Did they exist before; the answer is, absolutely not? Thomas apparently tried to Christianize Aristotle. But he knew very well that the Holy Trinity wouldn’t fit into Aristotle’s logic. Was Thomas confused here by using this logic for theological matter, because in ethics the logic of neither/nor is used. Neo-Platonism was right around the corner at the time of the church father’s final thoughts on the nature of Jesus.
Some scholars believe church fathers were influenced by Plotinus’ philosophy of the three levels of divinities, namely, the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. It is possible that the church fathers regarded the One as the God the father, the Intellect as Christ, and the Soul as the Holy Spirit. After all, it is possible that the idea of the Holy Trinity came from the philosophy of Plotinus. The One, the Intellect, and the Soul are the vertical chain of being. It is possible that the Church fathers were influenced by this philosophy of Plotinus except the fact that the Holy Trinity can be best described in terms of a disk with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit put on the same level on it. This created some controversy in 300 AD. St Augustine was under the influence of Plotinus’s philosophy. Church Fathers took the triad idea from the latter and laid the feet and the head of Christ down to be in a parallel with his hands. A rod of Plotinus is now going through a disk. The rod represents the vertical reality and the disk manifests the Holy Trinity. This creates a cross, if you level your eyes to the edge of the disk. Therefore, cross becomes a combination of Plotinus, namely, the head and the feet of Christ, and his hands are the horizontal disk of Trinity. This is where the geometric figure of tetrahedron becomes a reality. At the apex we have the Ultimate Reality or the One and at the bottom the pyramid we have the three members of the Holy Trinity. As a reminder, Thomas never used either/or logic for ethics and theology. If he had, he would have anticipated Kant, which he didn’t.
As Christmas approaches and we’re heading towards the year 2022, we can learn a lesson from the prophet of Islam when he emptied the house of God called ka’ba in Mecca, of all the idols. This cubic box reminds me of the boxes under the Christmas tree in front of some buildings in public places. They’re also empty of the content. Perhaps we ought to empty all the gift boxes and let real spirit of Christmas reveal itself and shine.
Did Thomas know the essence of Christianity? What would Thomas have done, if he had studied Kant’s philosophy? Perhaps he would have agreed with Kant’s rejection of his proofs for the existence of God, because this God is not the God of Christianity. This is Aristotle’s God. Who was Kant’s God? Kant was basically rejecting Aristotle’s God by refuting Thomas’ proofs of the existence of God. Was Thomas able to prove the Holy Trinity whose roots were in Plotinus’ hierarch of beings, that is, the One, the Intellect, and the Soul? Apparently he had to revert back to Augustine, because he couldn’t justify logically the belief that Jesus was both fully man and fully God at the same time and in the same relationship. Let us not forget the fact that Aristotle’s either/or logic was to be used for science, not for Religion and ethics. When it comes to ethics, Aristotle considered neither/nor logic. Once applied to Christianity, the latter logic could interpret ‘Christ being fully man and fully God’ as he was neither man, nor God. Don’t be rash, nor coward; be courageous is the example Aristotle left for us. At the end of the recent Cinderella movie, the moral lesson is, “don’t look at the way the world is but the way it could be. (Not an exact quotation) The former is about either/or logic and the latter is nether/nor logic. The question remains, then what was Jesus? It is possible that Jesus answered this question by saying that he was an incarnation (Avatar in Hinduism) of God. I’m God incarnated, he would say. I’m the ray of the sun, he could have answered. I’m like a mirror reflecting the sun. Who so ever has seen me, has also seen the Father, is how he would have responded. Buddha simply answered the same question by saying that he was awakened. I’m in my Father and my Father is in me, is another possible response by Jesus. The ray of the sun is in the sun and vice versa. That is why Thomas never regretted he had adopted Aristotelian philosophy. Aristotle’s saving grace was that he didn’t mix up his either/or logic with moral and Religious decisions. It is possible Thomas told his followers just accept this by faith. However, he must have explained what we just said with the thinkers of his days. Don’t look at life the way it is (either/or logic) but the way it ought to be. (Inspired by the latest Cinderella movie)
Kant being a rational thinker wouldn’t have accepted what was put out as creed in 300 AD the Church Fathers. Jesus was either fully man or fully God wouldn’t have made any logical sense to him. So The Holy Trinity must have been refuted by him. Kant ignored Thomas’ religious and mystical understanding of the Holy Trinity. Kant was not a religious philosopher like St. Augustine or St. Thomas. Without being Buddha, Thomas knew what people believed was not the essence of Christ. Just as Buddha rejected what people’s perceptions were of the gods and deities, Thomas in his heart was reaching for true Jesus, not what people’s interpretations were. He must have seen something remarkable in Aristotle’s philosophy that was missed by average thinkers of his days. Aristotle tried to bring Plato’s Forms down to earth while John tried to show that Christ was the word who came to us in flesh. In the Holy Qur’an he was a Spirit and a word from God. Perhaps the revisionists and the members of the Jesus seminar who were searching for the historical Christ knew something here and they were not wrong in their curiosities. Who Jesus was and who he was in the 19th century and even now are two different phenomena. Hyperbole and exaggeration are not new to mankind. If it is or it was true that St. Mary was not pregnant by Joseph, her husband, but by the Holy Spirit, then it would make sense for Jesus to regard himself as the son of God. Adam could have been right in considering himself the son of God too, with the exception that he had no mother as Mary. Christ was half divine and half man. The Holy Spirit and God the Father are one naturally. However, putting Jesus on the same level as God the Father was disputed in the third century. If you’re not half divine and half man, then Jesus couldn’t have said, I’m neither. If Christ didn’t use the logic of neither/nor of Aristotle, which is to be used in ethics and Religion, then the whole thing would have been hanging in the balance here. In this case Christ couldn’t have said he was an Avatar. Buddha answered the question by saying that I’m neither man/nor God but I’m awakened. Jesus, perhaps, could have said, I’m neither but I’m an avatar or incarnation of God the Father. If what we have know is the truth that Mary was chosen to receive God’s Spirit, then Jesus was her son and God was the Father. Thus, it is possible that Jesus said he was the son of God. However, just because he was the son of God, it doesn’t necessarily mean he was God. I’m the son of my father, but it doesn’t mean I’m my father. I’m made by the Spirit of my Father and my mother, Christ could have said, but I’m not God the Father. I’m the combination of both; namely, I’m both divine and man but not fully. Salt and water become saltwater. They may be opposites but they’re not contradictory. Adam was a combination of divine and earth. Earth represents the female aspect of creation. God and His Spirit are one Reality but I’m afraid, Church Fathers placed Jesus on the same level as God the Father and His Spirit. Church Fathers came up with the Nicene Creed in 300 AD in which the Holy Trinity takes shape. Jesus just like any other Avatar was a combination of divine and man. Therefore, if he responded to the question, what are you? In other words, what is your essence? It would be correct for him to have said, I’m an Avatar or incarnation of God the Father. I’m not fully man and fully God, as it was declared in Nicene Creed by the Church Fathers, because that would be a contradiction. In the hierarchy and vertical chain of beings we had the One at the apex and below it was the Intellect. Under the Intellect was the Soul. Here we have something similar in that God the father is at the summit and Christ His son under it and finally the Holy Spirit at the bottom. Of course, if we go with the geometric drawing of tetrahedron, the Ultimate Reality is at the highest point. However, tetrahedron cannot help us here, because there will be the members of the Holy Trinity at bottom on a disk. The graduated hierarchy seems to be the best to explain this vertical Reality. On the other hand, if we consolidate God and His Spirit, then we’re left with the former and Jesus. When it comes to the question of crucifixion, no one could have crucified the divine. Therefore, they were only able to do that to the physical part of him, which was not a whole. Thus, Christ was not in reality crucified at all. But why did he appear to doubting Thomas with marks on his body? May be it was to make Thomas remember what had happened to him. The divine part of him had already reached back to God. The ray of the sun had already become one with the sun. It had a resemblance of him but it was not him. Perhaps great thinkers of the third century AD were on the right track when they argued that Jesus shouldn’t be on the same level as God the Father. This decision by the Church Fathers, with all due respect, made things very difficult for St Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas.
In the 19th century Hegel, the German philosopher, struggled to make a rational sense by bending the rules of logic. He tried to prove the Holy Trinity and how Jesus could be fully God and fully man at the same time and in the same relationship. All Hegel had to do was understand that Jesus was a combination of divine and man like salt and water. They’re opposites of each other but they’re not contradictory. On the one hand, Hegel resented causality compromised by Hume. On the other hand, he turned to Aristotelian logic for certainty. However, when it came to what the Church Fathers had decided, that is, Christ was fully God and fully man, he said neither being (thesis), nor non-being (anti-thesis) but becoming (synthesis). With this change he introduced the coming of God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit into the flow of time. He in fact compromised the transcendence of Plato’s Forms and God. Hindus didn’t have to do that, because time and change were illusions. Time and history were cyclical. I personally believe St. Thomas had an inner feeling and intuition about the nature of Christ. We can’t blame the Society of Jesus or Jesus seminar scholars for searching for the historical Jesus in the 19th century. They asked, who was he, was he an ordinary man in Jerusalem? Was he a rabbi? Was he another prophet like Moses? All they found out was that there was a discontinuity between the man and what people believed who he was, namely, historical Jesus and Christ of faith. There’s a program called ‘the history of Christianity’ on the public T.V these days, as we get closer to Christmas. From ‘Jesus to Christ’ is the title of it. Perhaps what has inspired this show is the Grand Canyon between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith. ‘From the historical Jesus to the Christ of faith’ has created a question in the minds of many scholars of Christianity. The historian of Christianity, in the same program, argues that Jesus was crucified so the original sin would be removed. However, it is very interesting to know that Jesus was not a Christian but a Jew and they didn’t believe in the original sin. Jesus was not a surgeon to operate on his followers to remove cancerous prostates. Buddha fought against the simple realities which could have snowball effects. I’m afraid in the case of Jesus we have gone from simplicity to complexity. This was exactly what the revisionists were after. Jesus was half divine and half man. Are not we also part divine and part human? If Atman is an uncreated Reality within all of us, then we’re connected to the source of divinity too. Meister
Eckhart, a German theologian, philosopher, and mystic centuries ago said there’s an uncreated Reality within us. In Hinduism this is named ‘Atman’. If we were allowed to use Plotinus’ hierarchy as an example, the ‘One’ could be the Ultimate Reality; The Intellect would be Atman; And the Soul Christ.
What was going through the mind of St. Thomas Aquinas? May be both St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas knew the truth about the nature of Christ but they kept quiet lest they might become accused of heresy. However, I believe none of them thought Jesus was on the same level as the God the Father. I believed also neither of them felt Christ was fully God and fully man at the same time and in the same relationship. Faith comes to their help when followers are advised not to approach theological matters with logic used in science. But nonetheless, intelligence is a gift of God, which leads to knowledge. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” is what Jesus said. We’re encouraged to seek knowledge not just rely on faith.
Let us give Immanuel Kant the benefit of the doubt by saying that perhaps he was right in arguing that “God exists” was an analytic statement. The predicate ‘existence’ is already in the subject ‘God’ like a bachelor is an unmarried person. The predicate ‘unmarried’ is already in the subject ‘bachelor’. Who is this God that is a postulate now? Is it possible that it is an interpretation of the reality of God? Is this the God we have created for ourselves and not what God really is? If this were the case, then the Ultimate Reality would fit Kant’s project, because it doesn’t even exist. So Kant didn’t have to through all that trouble to prove “God exists” is an analytic statement.
Kant seems to be off the hook for now except the fact that he never mentions the Ultimate Reality in his philosophy. Thomas, on the other hand, doesn’t say anything about the Ultimate Reality either. These two great thinkers sound like they have something in common, whether directly or indirectly.
With St. Augustine we learn that we can’t deal with the Holy Trinity through Aristotle’s logic of either/or. We step back into Plato’s philosophy and try to see if John’s idea that in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God and became flesh and came among us makes any sense.
Plato believed in reincarnation along Pythagoras, the mathematician. Is it possible he was somewhat influenced by Hinduism? If this were the case, then he must have thought of Krishna, the Avatar of Vishnu, who entered this world to save it. Time and change for the Hindus are illusions. Therefore, there was no river of time into which Krishna dived. Time and change are immaterial to the Ultimate Reality. Logic of Aristotle cannot understand what it means for one and many to be one. At one level of existence, Plato said, one and many are one. But nevertheless, this doesn’t mean the Holy Trinity falls in this idea and nothing else. St. Augustine thought he had solved the problem of the Holy Trinity this way. The whole universe of many and one is one in a different level of existence. Finally Atman, which is in the realm of many and Brahman are one just like the ray of the sun and the sun are one. St. Thomas, however, tried to make use of Aristotle, the unifier of Plato’s Forms of perfection and the world. He benefited from Aristotle’s neither/nor logic used for the practical wisdom. Who was Jesus? He was neither man/nor God. Buddha said he was awakened. How did Jesus respond? He must have answered, He was half man and half divine, namely, he was like Adam or Krishna an Avatar. Naturally he was not fully man and fully God, which was a contradiction any way. Aristotle rejected Plato’s Forms and made them residents of the mind. I see hundred horses; therefore, I have a concept of what a horse is. My concept corresponds to those horses out there in the world. Thomas thought there was a similarity between Aristotle’s idea and John’s descent of the word in flesh among us. However, we have a problem with Aristotle’s idea of form and matter, which they need each other. Here we can think of Jesus as this form, not as Aristotle’s pure Form, which doesn’t need matter to reach its actuality. This pure Form could match Plato’s Form of perfection. Christ was only half divine like Adam. Did Thomas know that? I believe he did. Adam didn’t have a mother except the earth. His Father was God. Jesus’ mother was Mary. Aristotle’s pure Form didn’t belong to this world, because this world is not perfect. Thus, Christ couldn’t be perfect either. He only reflected the sun but he was not the sun. I’m personally of the belief that all these thoughts must have gone through Thomas’ mind. However, being a great man of wisdom and knowledge, he came up with a world view about God and creation of the world to meet the demands of different people while he kept his own thoughts within himself. He had answers for the average people, theologians, and philosophers perhaps trying to respond to their questions the best he could. He eventually became the lightening rod for the Catholic Church.
As Christmas draws near, we wonder whether this is about Christ at all. A favorite Christmas song by the listeners of WQXR, the public radio is the one by Mariah Carey, which she sings, all I want for Christmas is You. I wonder if she is referring to Jesus or someone else as a gift.