Philosophia Perennis, Vol. III: Cosmology

In stock
Our quantity discounts:
Quantity 10+
Price $13.46
Add to wish list

Br. Francis Maluf, M.I.C.M.

Without sound philosophy to set the limits of scientific inquiry and regulate its modern tendency for cosmological usurpation, science degenerates into scientism. God is the Creator of the universe. All things are ordered to His ends. All matter is at the ultimate service of man’s supernatural vocation. This course was given in the spirit of St. Thomas Aquinas, the “Doctor of Creation.” Nature and the fidelity thereof, matter, space and time, substance and accidents, wisdom and the laws of nature, unicity and the four causes, and finally, the culminating chapter on the final cause, or teleology (purpose) of things, make a captivating study for every man and woman who wishes to be childlike and repose in the contemplative embrace of wonder.

Chapter I
    Common Sense and the Dangers of Scientism   
Chapter II
    Cosmology and Faith   
Chapter III
    Ens Mobile and the Immutable Will of God   
Chapter IV
    Nature: You Can Count on It   
Chapter V
Chapter VI
    The Restoration of Purpose and the Objective Order   
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
    Generation and Corruption and Hylomorphic Explanation   
Chapter IX
    Unicity and the Four Causes   
Chapter X
    Oneness of Purpose in the Divine Schema   
Chapter XI
    Space and Time; Duration and Presence  
Chapter XII
    Heaven and Earth and the Substance of Things Hoped For   
Chapter XIII
    Wisdom and the Laws of Nature   
Chapter XIV
    The Whole Picture   
Chapter XV
    The Teleology of Cosmology   
Appendix I
    The Dangers of Scientism   
Appendix II
    The Cosmology of Faith and Revelation   
Appendix III
    Cosmology Meditations   
Appendix IV
    The Problem of Change: A Mystery of the Natural Order   



With receptive and contemplative attentiveness, guided by the lucidity and serenity of Brother Francis, let the reader freshly consider with gratitude and with wonder the gift of Creation and the implications of createdness.  That is to say, to consider the innermost implications of having been freely created by a Personal, Transcendent Logos Who is Love, and Who, at a unique and unrepeatable moment of created time, came among us in humility, freely bound to a pure human nature that was so capable of suffering, and with such selfless generosity, for the sake of our Beatitude, Plenitude, Vita Aeterna, and for the preparatory restoration of Grace.  Grace is glory begun; glory is grace perfected (Gratia est gloria incepta, gloria est gratia perfecta).

With grateful trust in Brother Francis as a teacher who so loves wisdom and the providential beauty of wisdom’s slow fruitfulness, the reader will thereby come to know and savor what St. Augustine called the gaudium de veritate, the inward and unmistakably radiant joy that comes from the truth.  Given that truth is the good of the intellect (and its only real nourishment), such a radiance or coruscation of joy also implies beauty (the pulchrum) which is itself not only the splendor of order (splendor ordinis), but also the splendor of truth (splendor veritatis).  The Greek word, Kosmos, likewise implies the beauty of an orderly arrangement.  The respectful and reverent study of Cosmology, therefore, will be, with the inimitable help of Brother Francis Maluf, very fruitful of the radiant good, and of the life more graciously (and gracefully) abundant. Our attentiveness will be further blessed by an answering heart full of gratitude.  The test of all happiness is gratitude, said G.K. Chesterton, which is our humble and prompt response to the perception of a gift.
For, says Josef Pieper,

We have only to think for a moment how much the Christian understanding of life depends upon the existence of Grace; let us recall that the Holy Spirit of God is Himself called a gift in a special sense; that the great teachers of Christianity say that the premise of God’s justice is His love; that everything gained and everything claimed follows upon something given, and comes after something gratuitous and unearned; that in the beginning there is always a gift.

Evoking our own oblation of gratitude, our keen perception of the gift of Creation (Donum Creationis) leads us further, and more intimately, to the gift of the Incarnation (Donum Incarnationis) where the ultimate work of creation was linked with the origin of that creation, in the further words of beauty from the heart of Josef Pieper, a man, like Brother Francis, of profound gratitude.  Promptus ad bonum, promptus ad donum, cum gratitudine.  And both of these deeply good men are also marked by  hilaritas mentis (a cheerfulness of heart) which, according to St. Thomas, is the seal of selflessness.

What my beloved German mentor, Josef Pieper, once said modestly to me about another man (a young German priest who was then unknown to me) applies so well to Brother Francis Maluf himself, who happens to be very well known to me.  Dr. Pieper simply said: kein falscher Ton.  Not a false tone!  That is to say, this man has no false tone – there’s not a false tone in him.  Such a deep tribute, I think, befits Dr. Pieper himself, as well as our dear Brother Francis Maluf, and it would have been so good for these two gifted and grateful men to have known each other.  Their vivid-souled counterpointing insights and pietas (reverent respect for roots) would have produced, I think, an even more resonant and radiant harvest of wisdom, marked by selfless generosity and gratitude, and by a winsome implicitness and slow-fruitfulness.

As St. Bernard of Clairvaux said: Cui sapiunt omnia prout sunt, hic est vere sapiens. (The wise man is he who savors all things as they truly are).  Both Josef Pieper and Brother Francis, in their love of wisdom (sapientia), have deeply savored the Creation and the implications of what it means to have been created, and what it means to be in the humble status creaturae and expectant status viatoris, as a wayfarer open in hope.  Both men have contemplated with receptive attentiveness both the order and mystery of the contingent universe (cosmos) in its threefold intelligibility (by virtue of the Divine Logos) and knowability (to man’s created intellective faculties) and yet abiding unfathomability (to man’s altogether finite faculties). Such is the paradoxical ordo et mysterium of the purposive Cosmos which we, too, may savor, by virtue of the Creation and through the reverent mediation of Brother Francis’ serene and lucid text on Cosmology as a part of the philosophia perennis, which opposes, he says, all kinds of models of the universe that absolutely do subvert both faith and morality.  These are the words of an alert Christian soldier (miles Christi) aware of the deeper Christian combat.

As in the Christian life itself, the reader will find in and through this exquisite and robustly pugnacious book both magnanimous adventure and festive communion with the generous truth of things (veritas rerum), which properly means reality unveiling itself to a receptive knowing mind,  to a created mind that is both capax universi et capax gratiae.  By virtue of the Creation, that is, we are enabled and disposed to receive the Cosmos and to accept Grace. But, part of the adventure, the risk, of having this capacity, this terrible dowry of freedom, is that we may refuse them, the gifts of truth and grace.  We may refuse the Gift and know the desolation of ingratitude.  Until the moment of our death, we retain the permanent possibility of voluntary defection.  In our contingency, in our dependence, fragility, and vulnerability, we are not indefectible.

Therefore, as Brother Francis has often movingly said, the fear of the Lord (timor Domini), as a gift of the Holy Ghost (donum timoris), is not only the beginning of wisdom, the beginning of perennial wisdom (sapientia).  It is also (as in the Biblical words of Ecclesiasticus), providentially, the beginning of His love.  In his uniquely encouraging way, Brother Francis Maluf would also have us humbly and gratefully and trustfully live, not with a mere servile fear of punishment, but with an abiding childlike and innermost reverential (or filial) fear, lest we be finally separated from the Good, from the Beloved.

Perhaps, for man, the highest function of created Nature and its purpose (or teleology) is to provide true analogies for the supernatural mysteries:  the Christian mysteries.  An analogy is a form of proportion, a comparison whereby the similarities are relative and the differences are absolute.  There is an intimately analogous relationship and truth-revealing bond, for example, that exists between human fatherhood (generation) and the Fatherhood of God.  There is a link – a true channel of knowledge, a true predication – between the generative fatherhood of a human creature and the sustaining generation of the divine Creator, but the differences are still absolute, and humbling.  The relationship is neither univocal, nor equivocal, but analogical.  By contrast, Protestant theologies or forms of nominalism have tended altogether to deny the analogy of being (analogia entis) and the proper analogy of faith (analogia fidei, analogia pisteos, in St. Paul’s words), as well as the existence of true analogical predication. (This is a very important topic which may not, however, be fittingly discussed in this context any further).  Still today, among non-Catholics and Modernists, subversive nominalism, hermeneutic equivocations, de-constructive exegeses, and liberationist dialectics spawn and seem to flourish. They must be protractedly and intelligently and promptly combatted (with the assisting trenchancy of Brother Francis), as St. Thomas combated Siger of Brabant’s intimately subversive thesis of the double truth.

Analogy is very important.  It is an indispensable form of mediation between the Creator and His rational creature, man.  Part of the meaning of the concept of God speaks that man is capable of discourse, capable of using the mediations of logos and verbum (word), and capable of discerning the reality of God and His revealed speech.  The Nicene Creed, referring to God the Holy Ghost, says locutus est per prophetas – a very rich expression, full of implication and moment.

In contradistinction to the dangers of univocal or equivocal predications about God and His created intelligible order (natural and supernatural), the concept and reality of true analogy are an essential part of the Catholic Faith and the manifold mediations of God, to include the Incarnation itself, the Church, the Sacraments, and the Parables of the Lord.

In contrast to the pride and unmediated, occult, and univocal privileged knowledge (gnosis) of the Gnostics, the analogical mediations of the Catholic Faith, like the sacramental Incarnation itself and the Lord’s use of mud and His spittle to heal blind eyes, constitute the way of humility and of true love. In Brother Francis’ text on Cosmology, the reader will find the charm of his intimate philosophical conversations with his audience.  It is a great gift to us to have these edited transcripts of Brother Francis’ original talks.  Because of the excellent and warmly affectionate editing of Brian Kelly and Doug Bersaw, in close collaboration with Brother Francis, we may savor the living language of philosophic discourse and vividly intimate conversation and recollection.  Plato discovered, or perfected, the dialogue form as a way to preserve lively philosophical conversation and argumentation in a more permanent written form.  Brother Francis’ own articulate memories of the living conversations with Fr. Leonard Feeney, along with his vivid questions to his audience, and variegated allusions to so many fields of study, constitute what the Catholic poet John Dryden said of Chaucer’s diverse plenitude:  God’s good foison [the Middle English word for abundance]!

Like the two-fold teaching mission of the Church – to illuminate positive doctrine and to correct the disorders and privation of error – Brother Francis not only presents the cosmology of the philosophia perennis, but illuminates and corrects the straying deformations of true cosmological principles and outlooks.  He is deftly aware of the teaching principle that contrast clarifies the mind.

The reader will be very grateful to understand the meaning and import of contingency and necessary being, final causes and teleology and beauty and entropy, and welcome the restoration of purpose in our understanding of the Cosmos.  For the Christian, time has a finite past.  It had a beginning, it has a directionality and purposiveness, and it will have an end (a finis) both as a conclusion and as a fulfillment.  Time, as a measure of motion, or change, in part, is itself a profound mystery.  But God’s timing is perfect.  And there will be a final verdict of Truth.

Truth matters.  For Brother Francis, the primacy of truth (to include the truth about love) is pervasive and very consequential.  He finds the root of many theological deformations in false philosophical principles and their disorderly manifestations.  The Hegelian and Marxist concepts of the ontological (metaphysical) dialectic deny, for example, not only the law of contradiction, but also the law of identity, hence of unity and integrity.  The devastation of ugliness and cruelty wrought by these philosophies of radical discontent (and ingratitude) and by their sapping dialectic of dissolution, which is so subversive of Logos and Truth, is a very great devastation indeed, and still among us.  Brother Francis Maluf will help us in our combative and strategically discerning resistance to such grave desolations of despair, and to their principles of disorder (solve et coagula), which so destructively maximize spiritual entropy, as it were, and thereby also the corrosion of hopelessness and the congealment of lovelessness.  But, Brother Francis’ clarifications and truthful affirmations, like his personal example, are fortifying and enlivening to us.  And, they all are an indispensable aid to our further lives in the Faith, that we may live more generously and selflessly and abundantly the intellectual and moral and theological virtues, under grace (sub gratia), in a festive communion of deep gratitude.  How full my heart, O Lord!

I cannot sufficiently thank Brian Kelly, Doug Bersaw, Brother Francis Maluf, and Fr. Leonard Feeney (whom I never met) for all they have given and inspired.  It has touched my heart to see how Brian Kelly has also come to cherish my mentor, Josef Pieper, and yearned gratefully to mediate Dr. Pieper’s insights and eloquence to my other beloved mentor, Brother Francis.  And I thank Doug Bersaw for inviting me to introduce this series of Brother Francis’ wise and winsome works.  May we all thereby become better chivalric soldiers of Christ and the Blessed Mother, and mature into true spiritual childhood.

Robert Hickson
U.S. Air Force Academy
January 9, 2000


Chapter Two - Cosmology and Faith   

Philosophia perennis. The perennial wisdom of the ages exists on two planes, the natural and the supernatural. Our assignment is to help bring both back to life.  That is our crusade. That is part of converting America. In the modern classroom, what has taken the place of philosophy and the education of man; as man i.e.,  true liberal education,  are the sciences: physics, chemistry, biology, and, the queen of them all, mathematics. While these things are necessary and have a place, they certainly have been given an exaggerated importance.

Cosmology is the study of ens mobile, that is, a being that is subject to change. I will resume with my meditations on The Cosmology of Faith and Revelation (see appendix II for full text). Simply put, I want to give you that outlook on the universe that we have in common with all those who have contributed to correct thinking throughout the centuries, and, more especially, with all the faithful who have believed and cherished the revelation of God. These meditations are a kind of mixture of genuine and intelligent common sense with the divine wisdom that was delivered to our first parents and has been continually communicated to the Church in both the Old and the New Testaments. So, the conception of the universe that we will be describing here will be the same (minus the technical philosophical terminology) that was contemplated by Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elias, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Joseph and Our Lady, and all the Catholic faithful in all the Catholic centuries. It is our job, in the rest of the course, to show that all the discoveries of science in no way upset this universe. In these latter days, this is the castle whose defense has been entrusted to us.

These meditations are given very tersely. They are not pithy statements, or epigrams, as they are not at all moralistic; they are simply morsels of fundamental truths with my own reflective emphasis. These are very important, and it is important that you get to know them by heart. Repeating them is one way to help store them in the memory. Repetitio est mater studiorum.  Repetition is the mother of learning.

Creation. Properly defined, creation is the making of something out of nothing. No scientist or philosopher ever reasoned to the notion of creation. That is one big difference between all the philosophers before our Lord’s time and us. We believe in creation ex nihilo, from nothing. God spoke and everything was made. It is no small thing to notice that our Holy Scriptures begin with the words: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” It is re-echoed in the Apostles Creed as well as in the Nicene Creed: “I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator…” Belief in creation was one of those treasures guarded very jealously by the Hebrews, and it was foremost on the minds of the twelve apostles when they came together to formulate the articles of faith.

Almighty and Creator go together. Most people have no concept of the omnipotence of God. Remember the awesome words of Our Lord to the Pharisees: “You err, not knowing the Scripture, nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). That fool, Mr. Gaban, has absolutely no concept of the omnipotence of God. Nor does he believe in creation;  he and his colleagues dismiss it by saying that it is not scientific. That is a principle fallacy of the so-called scientific age. As soon as someone argues against the Faith by saying such a belief is not scientific, you know you have a positivist on your hands. And positivism is another effect of subjectivism. Positivists imprison themselves in their own definitions, in their own minds. They rule out God; they rule out the soul; they rule out immortality; they rule out the entire supernatural order, by definition. They attribute spiritual, intellectual functions to the brain. They make their own definitions so immutable that the truth does not matter. What matters is consistency to these definitions.

In modern philosophy, truth does not matter, only consistency. It is not the original lie that matters, but the consistency of the arguments one uses to support it. Many modern philosophers do not mind contradicting the truth as long as they do not contradict themselves. Do you see how the whole basis of truth has changed completely? Conformity of the mind with what is, is taboo. Rather, one must strive for conformity of conclusions in support of false premises that are already predetermined.

“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, the visible and invisible.” This is the first article of the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed added a few more clarifications to the Apostles’ Creed, but in substance, the very idea of creation was already contained in the original profession. To add visible and invisible is to let us know that there is also a world of spirits, the angels. They must also be part of our conception of the total universe.

Another scriptural text from the book of Ecclesiasticus reads: “He that liveth forever created all things together” (Ecclus. 18:1). Therefore, the whole project of creation was one act. It was not as if God made something and then decided to make something else. It was all one act of creation. The world came full-fledged into existence by the word of God. “Where wast thou,” God asks holy Job, “when I laid the foundations of the earth” (Job 38:4)? For He spoke and they were made. “If anyone does not admit that the world and everything in it, both spiritual and material, have been produced in their entire substance, out of nothing, by God, let him be anathema!” This is a definition from the First Vatican Council. That is the notion of creation that we will defend.

Then, too, there are the counsels of eternal wisdom. We learn from Psalm 134 that the world was created freely. “Whatsoever the Lord pleased He has done”. (Ps.134:6) How was the world made? Just as God wanted it made, when He wanted it made, as He wanted it made, in heaven, on earth, in the sea, and in all the deeps. Anyone who tries to reduce God to some chemist who is experimenting to see what He can get out of forces accidentally latent in the primordial elements has no conception of the true God. No conception at all! For it was through the counsels of an eternal wisdom that He created, and it was for an end worthy of a Divine Maker. The Lord made all things for His own ends. Therefore, we have to find a cosmology that would be worthy of Him,  not invent one, but discover the true one that is already waiting for us. A world that does not make any sense, that leads nowhere, could not come from the eternal wisdom of God.

“And God saw all the things which He had made and they were very good” (Gen. 1:31), thusly concludes the creation account in Genesis. With that verse in mind, hear too, Saint Paul from his letter to the Ephesians: “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). What a tremendous revelation! Before God created anything, He saw the Incarnation of His Son. He saw Jesus and He saw His Mother, Mary. Everything that He made was a preparation for them. The Incarnation is the climax of all creation and, therefore, was on the mind of God before anything was put into existence. He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. See what a tremendous thought that is! Before God created even the electrons, He saw you and me. If you do not know that of God, you do not know God. He chose us in Him, in His Son, to Whom we are to be made conformable. He not only saw us, but He saw us having accepted Jesus and having become one with Him. He saw us as members of His Mystical Body. Now, that is an entirely different world to live in than the world of Dr. Gaban, is it not?

The eighth chapter of the book of Wisdom begins: “She [Wisdom] reaches from end to end mightily and ordereth all things sweetly” (Wisd. 8:1). Saint Paul seems to have been touched by the power and sweetness of this mystery in that blinding light that leveled him on his evil journey to Damascus. For in announcing to the Ephesians the mission he had received from Christ, he, the least of all the saints, proclaimed that he must preach the unsearchable riches of his Savior. He must enlighten all men, “that they may see what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God, Who created all things . . . according to the eternal purpose, which He made, in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Eph. 3:9,11).

There is an eternal purpose in creation. But, what do you notice when you listen to the students coming out of our universities today? A complete absence of any sense of purpose. They do not believe that God is a creator; but if God were not a creator, how would our existence have any purpose? Because we do have a purpose in being presupposes the first purpose in the mind of God. The word first means a great deal in philosophy. The first purpose is that on which all purposes depend. There is an eternal purpose in creation, and part of wisdom is to discover it.

Wisdom is hidden in the universe. When Our Lord spoke of a treasure in a field, He was talking about wisdom. The field is the universe, and the treasure is the divine wisdom hidden in the universe.  The wise man discovers that treasure. What is that wisdom that is hidden? “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world” (Ps. 77:2). Our Lord applied this text  (you find it in Matthew 13:35)  to His parables. Our Lord’s parables give us the hint of how to learn of God, and the kingdom of God, from the simplest things that God made. Everything in the world manifests a gem of wisdom and it is the job of the wise man to discover it.

Solomon, having prayed for and obtained wisdom from God, said of himself through the Holy Spirit: “For He hath given me the true knowledge of the things that are: to know the disposition of the whole world, and the virtues of the elements” (Wisd. 7:17). King Solomon also said, “I will speak of great things” (Prov. 8:6). The great things are the deep things. The most important truths are not superficial. Only those who seek these truths diligently shall find them.

The next cosmological principle you must know is this: the universe is conserved in existence by God. The deists (that includes all those who have made a religion out of science), if they do not overtly deny that God exists, end up with only a first cause. Yes, God started things going billions of years ago, they say, and  because God made such a perfect universe  it runs well enough on its own. Like the perfect watch, God makes no further interference with it. This mechanistic view of the world is called deism. Our universe is not deistic. God not only started the universe moving, or wound it up, so to speak, but He conserves it every second of its existence. We depend on His will to continue to exist, even at this moment.

Let us see how God reveals this to us in Holy Scripture. In the very first verses of his epistle to the Hebrews, Saint Paul not only tells us that the world was made by God through His Son, but that He, “the figure of His substance . . . [upholdeth] all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3). Again, in the eleventh chapter of his letter to the Romans, the apostle writes: “For of Him, and by Him, and in Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). Here is yet another: “For in Him we live, and move, and are” (Acts 17:28).

We know another truth by faith: the world was created originally in a perfect state. We are a fallen race, living in a wounded world. Cosmos means that beauty which is manifested in harmonious order. Is this universe, even now, still beautiful? Is there still an order perceptible in the world? Yes. However, it is not a perfect order. The world started with a blessing, but then we drew upon it a curse. The whole story of the world is the story of a blessing and a curse. We are constantly trying to get out from under the curse to get under the blessing. That is why we say that beautiful word twice in every Hail Mary. “Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” That is how to get into the order of the blessing — through Mary, the second Eve.

So, the world does not now have a perfect order. The atheists maintain that it never did. They use this very fact, of disorder, to deny that there is an omnipotent, benevolent God. It is written: “The works of God are perfect” (Deut. 32:4). This is to say that, as the work came from the hands of God, it came in a state of perfection. It did not come forth from God as some chaotic nebulae just floating around and around, waiting for chances and probabilities to see what would come out of it after billions and billions of years. The angels, who, as scripture says, witnessed the material creation with a shout of joy (Job 38:7,8), did not rejoice in watching eons and eons of lifeless explosions. Anybody who thinks like that just does not have the God of revelation.

“For God created man incorruptible . . . but by the envy of the devil, death came into the world” (Wisd. 2:23-24). So wrote Solomon, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, nearly one thousand years before Christ. Coming forth from the hand of God, our first parents were not made to grow old and die. They were created incorruptible, but in a state of trial. If they had proved faithful, they would have been transmitted to the Beatific Vision, to the state of glory, without having to suffer death. This not only is a conclusion of theology but also is very clearly revealed in Holy Scripture: “And God saw all the things that He had made and they were very good” (Gen1:3). There was no corruption; there was perfect harmony. “And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning wherein He placed man whom He had formed” (Gen. 2:8).

Therefore, then, the world began in a beautiful paradisal state, from which condition it fell. We were born into this fallen world. Someone once said, “Now, would it not have been great if the paradisal state had continued?” I said, “Yes, but I would not be in it.”

We belong to this world and are part of its woes. We are sinners; we are defective. Our loyalty is to the divinely ordained judgments. We have a certain patriotism that we owe to this condition we have inherited. It is the vale of tears that we refer to in our beautiful hymn Hail, Holy Queen. It is impossible for us to understand our universe, and the defective order prevailing in it, until we know that it is a fallen order. We must also reflect upon the fact that it constitutes only an intermediary state between the original state of paradise and the consummate state of renewal at which the whole world will one day arrive.

Remember, too, that the fall occurred on different levels. It first occurred in the angelic realm, in the world of the spirits. There was a rebellion led by Lucifer, one of the high leaders of the angelic world, who drew down one third of the celestial inhabitants with him in his fall. Of this terrible fall, Our Lord did speak, as the Second Person of the Trinity: “I saw Satan, like lightning, falling from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Some people do not realize that statements like that occur in Holy Scripture. They think that when speaking of the fall of Lucifer, we are relating an account given by some visionary, as if it were some pious private revelation. No. Our Lord, Himself, revealed this.

After the fall of the devils, from the angelic state to the diabolic and accursed, they turned their hatred upon man. They had no direct power over man, only indirect power. They could try to persuade, to tempt, and to coax him into being like them,  disobedient creatures. They succeeded  first with Eve, then with Adam. Holy Scripture tells us that the devils motive was envy. He, and his fallen angels, could not stand to see man beautiful and holy and still in God’s grace, enjoying God’s blessing. They succeeded in dragging man into their order, the fallen ordo, of man. (The whole story can be found in the second and third chapters of Genesis.) Then God pronounced a sentence upon man: “Cursed is the earth in thy work; with labor and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life” (Gen. 3:17). God not only punished Adam and Eve, but also placed a curse on the earth. You may wonder, why fault the earth? The earth, of course, cannot be punished, but it could be cursed, and it was, as were all serpents; and the devil is a spirit, not a serpent. Neither the earth, nor a snake, can sin. They are irrational, even though the snake is a sentient creature. It is a most perverse thing the way these naturalists of our day refer to the earth as a goddess, Mother Earth, or Mother Nature. This is not as innocent as it may seem.

Consider this; in paradise, and even outside of Eden’s gardens, the earth was originally made to harmonize its productivity in the service of, and for the delight of, man. It was to be both for utility and for contemplation.  When God placed a curse on the earth, it was for a punishment unto man. You can see the three levels: first, the fall of the angels; then, the fall of man; and lastly, the curse put on the earth and, in the name of the earth, is to be understood the whole material universe.

King David, in the book of Psalms also calls the world in its fallen state the vale of tears (Ps. 83:7). Did you know that that phrase occurs in Holy Scripture? Another expression God inspired in the Bible (which refers to this world in its fallen state) is the valley of the shadow of death. That rather poetic analogue is twice inspired (Isa. 9:2 and Ps. 22: 4).

St. Paul contrasts the old Adam with the New Adam, Jesus Christ. “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). You can see now how much of our Faith depends on the story of Adam and Eve. Anybody who does not believe in Adam, the Adam of Genesis, can have no part in Christ. But in how many ways has Adam been dispensed with? Even in so-called Catholic seminaries, the professors speak of the pre-Adamites. Even in pontifical seminaries, in Rome, students are given a course in anthropology and taught that men existed before Adam. If there had been pre-Adamites, there would be rational beings that had not descended from Adam. This is completely against the Faith. There can be no rational life anywhere (there never has been, nor will there ever be, on this earth or outside of it) that did not descend from Adam and Eve. Nor do people escape losing their faith if they put Adam back just a few million years or so beyond the chronology of Sacred Scripture. Who would have remembered who he was (or what he was)? Yes, there are minor differences, possible gaps, in the two genealogies of scripture. God left us a little ambiguity on that, but it is a question of only about one thousand years.  The Fathers who commented on these things said that the longevity of the patriarchs was ordained by God precisely because religion depended on tradition. Therefore, when Abraham was talking about Adam, it was something that he had learned from his grandfather who, in turn, was told by his grandfather, back to another grandfather who knew Adam in person. He was not talking about a Pleistocene Age.

As in Adam all died, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. If you do not like the idea of your death having anything to do with the death of Adam, you will not get to rise with Christ. The two are part of the same bargain, a package deal, so you must accept it. In fact, you have no choice about the first and you had better make the right choice about the second. We all die in Adam whether we like it or not. We only rise in Christ if we deserve it, and we only deserve it by cooperating with grace.

Man is the principal object of all creation. The scientists call it the anthropoid principle. They have discovered it even in science. This, at least, is one place where science seems to border on reaffirming something that we know from philosophy and from revelation. It is only when you see that the whole material world is ordered to man that you see that all human history is ordered to the Incarnation. It is only then that you have the proper order of things as intended by God. However, if one denies the first premise, one cannot proceed to the greater.

Creation is purposive; evolution is not. Why did God create the world? For man. The Holy Spirit affirms it through the prophet Isaias: “For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens, God Himself that formed the earth, and made it, the very maker thereof: He did not create it in vain: He formed it to be inhabited” (Isa. 45:18). Do you see the context in which this comes? God was making the world with this end: He was preparing a habitation for man. The whole story of creation in Genesis clearly teaches this, especially the divine command to fill the earth and subdue it. All those early chapters are very, very important in showing us how everything that God was making had relevance to the fact that He was going to make man the lord of the material creation. Everything in the entire material world was going to be subject to him. Subdue it, God said. In that lordship, man reflects the image of God or, at least, one aspect of the image of God.

“And he gave him [man] power over all things that are upon the earth “(Ecclu. 17:3). We have many texts affirming man’s centricity in this universe. “Thou hast set him [man] over the works of thy hands,” wrote King David (Ps. 8:7). Man was meant to be the king of the material world, and he was, as long as he remained subject to God. It was only when he rebelled against God that the elements, the animals, and even the weeds worked against him. The Lord referred to thorns and thistles, which had not been known to Adam, as part of that curse upon the earth. With rebellion, weeds immediately started to grow, and our first parents learned what it was to sweat and toil.

Father Leonard told us about the paradisal state and contrasted it with the state of glory. Man was immortal in paradise, and it was only when he disobeyed that he began to die. However, he will be immortal in glory; but, Father emphasized, the immortality will be very different. Paradise, he said, was like an enchanted world. If someone had hit Adam with a sword, it would have killed him. However, no sword ever hit him. If a rock had fallen on his head, it would have crushed him. But no rocks fell out of place. The world was somehow attuned, enchanted, ordered in such a way that nothing would hurt man. Tiring labor was unnecessary. Food, for Adam and Eve, was easy picking. They just plucked it from the trees, having no need of any other sustenance than fruit. In paradise, life was one of joy and contemplation. In fact, that is what the word pleasure means when it is used to describe a garden:  joy and contemplation.

“My delights were to be with the children of men” (Prov. 8:31).  This is a very important verse. (In fact, it was one of Father Leonard’s favorite quotations.)  Could God have said anything more beautiful? By nature, the angels are higher than we; but by grace, the greatest creature of all is the Blessed Virgin Mary. By grace, man has privileges that even the angels envy. An angel cannot go to Holy Communion. An angel cannot be as intimately united to God as we can. We have the divine Incarnation. There has been no divine angelization. God never became an angel, but God did become man.  He did so, not for thirty-three years, but forever, for the rest of eternity. “Why dost thou set thy heart upon him?” (Job 7:17). Job asks of God. God answers, Wouldn’t you like to know? We do not deserve it, to be sure; but God loves us even unto death. To that extent? Yes, even to the extent of the Cross. How anyone who ever looked upon an image of the crucifix could ever forget it, or think about anything except in relation to it, is beyond comprehension. Yet, what usually happens? Men see, and they do not see. They hear, and they do not hear. That is the doleful tragedy of the world. That is what broke the heart of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The whole project of creation was one conception in the eternal mind of God,  one full-fledged act. Not only our material world but, also, all the galaxies, everything in them, and all the billions of angels were included in that one act of creation. The angels are not eternal; they also had a beginning. They were created. Recall the text: “He that liveth forever created all things together.”  Although the angelic creation is not specifically mentioned in the Genesis account, angels are a part of all things; therefore, they, too, were created in that one act, in that together, in the beginning. Actually, under the notion of intelligent creatures, in grace, they are our brothers. They are even called the sons of God in the Old Testament. God is our true Father and theirs.

Saint Paul writes about the angels on almost every page of his epistles. “Are they not all ministering spirits,” he asks the Hebrews, “sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?” (Heb. 1:4) Therefore, if you are on the way of salvation,  do not be proud, be grateful, and very humble; the angels are serving you. Imagine that! These wonderful beings are your servants. Remember what God told Moses, “... do not think him [the angel] one to be contemned [insult him by sin] …my Name is in him” (Exodus 23:21).

There is so much angelology in Saint Paul’s epistles. Take, for example, this verse: “For we know that every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain . . . And not only it [creation], but ourselves also . . . waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:22-23). The whole world groaneth together with man; that is, it reflects man’s anxiety, man’s exile, and man’s desire. That is a tremendous passage.

One of my objections to the way philosophy is being taught today is that philosophers separate it completely from the wisdom that comes from God. One of the mottos that Father Leonard used to repeat constantly was: “We distinguish; we do not separate”. In the Summa Theologica, the reader can always distinguish between truths proved by reason and truths revealed by God. Nevertheless, they are part of the same story. Saint Thomas did not write a book on philosophy and relegate theology to another sphere.

Father Leonard was greatly disturbed by the method used by professors who were teaching philosophy in the seminaries. A young man would enter with tremendous enthusiasm. He wanted to be a priest. He wanted to be truly holy; he wanted to be on fire with the faith. He was eager to spread the faith and win souls. Then the seminary would give him two or three years of strict philosophy:  all reason, reason, reason, and nothing from revelation, at least not in the classroom. By that time, if he had not lost his zeal (sometimes even his faith) he had acquired so many rationalistic habits of thought that what came later in theology came to him like a veneer, covering a foundation that had been completely un-supernatural. Father protested against this method. He said that studies were not conducted that way in the ages of faith. The best proof of that is the Summa of Saint Thomas.

There are certain truths for which we do not need revelation, for we are able see them right away through the power of intelligence that God gave us. All we need do is use our human powers correctly and with good will. No one who seeks the truth with a pure will can fail to find it.

Scientism is certainly not new to our day.  In fact, one of the passages in Plato’s Dialogues actually deals with this issue. It was unbelievable that someone, who lived so long ago, could have seen such a deep truth as clearly as that. Plato introduces Socrates, his teacher. The setting has Socrates in confinement awaiting his execution as an enemy of the state; actually, as an enemy of the gods. He was condemned to death by a democratic vote (that wonderful thing!). His friends who had influence, money, and power were trying to convince him to escape, for they had the means to effect it. (In fact, after the people of Athens had passed the sentence, they probably would have been relieved if he had taken that opportunity.) Instead, the philosopher chose to argue himself into death. He said that it was more honorable to stay in prison and take the consequences of his teachings rather than to escape and become a stranger and an exile. Everybody would have said that he was the one who should have been executed. He gave his friends all the good philosophical arguments as to why he should be right where he was, under arrest.

What was he saying? Although it may seem strange, he was talking about how easy it is for the mind to be moving on the plane of the secondary causes and never in the direction of the first cause, the higher cause. Even in the face of death, he could not cease to be what he was, a philosopher.

Do we have anything indicative of a first cause in our everyday experiences? When I am talking, there is plenty of physics and chemistry and biology going on: the movement of my lips and my tongue and my throat. If anyone tried to describe everything that happens, he could write volumes. However, what is it that is moving the whole operation of intelligent speech? You do not find it by biological analysis. It is not that a first cause is followed by a second and a third cause, then by a fourth, sixth, hundredth, and millionth. There is one first cause, which lifts a person up on a higher plane immediately. A first, in the philosophic sense, is not that on which a second follows, but that on which a second depends for being what it is. The first time you get a sense of this, the principle will delight you. The cause of all that is happening when I speak, all this biology, physiology, brain, and nerve networking, is ideas. Ideas are the first cause. You have arrived upon a new plane. You have to lift yourself up, reflectively, to the thought that is guiding everything I am saying. Do you see how a person who is not at all interested in trying to express the ultimate causes, but is conditioned only to observe a mechanistic chain in secondary causality, can journey on explaining and explaining forever and ever and never arrive?

We have a first cause, of course, in everything. Take the sun, for example: when the sun is illuminating the earth, everything becomes luminous. The tree sends us its colors, having become another source of light, but the first source is the first illuminator. If you could take away the sun, the trees’ brilliant colors would stop being a source of light. You can see why the sun is the first cause of illumination, while everything else becomes a second cause of illumination. These examples should give you a little hint of what we mean when we say that God is the first Being and we are all second beings. We are because He is. We receive our very existence from Him who says, I AM WHO AM.

The following passage from Plato is taken from the final dialogue before Socrates drinks the lethal dose of hemlock. Socrates is discussing causality with his friend Cebes. He tells him how excited he is after having read a work of Anaxagoras, who was the first philosopher to rise above the material causes and find the ultimate reason for things in nous, or mind. (The Greek word nous has no perfect equivalent in English.) The dialogue is entitled Phaedo, after Phaedon, one of the protagonists in the discussion.

What expectation I had formed and how grievously was I disappointed. Socrates had hoped that he had found a philosopher who was talking about the ultimate causes. He began to see how there has to be an intelligence behind the things that happenµ in the world. The world and everything in it are intelligible. Therefore, these things had to come from intelligence.

Suddenly, he discovered that Anaxagoras had become a scientist rather than a philosopher. He continues:
I found my philosopher altogether forsaking mind, or any other principle of order, but having recourse to air, and ether, and water, and other eccentricities. I might compare him to a person who began by maintaining generally that mind is the cause of the actions of Socrates… 
Do you see what Socrates is doing? He is reasoning out, for Cebes, his own philosophy. Do you see the whole abstract order? Socrates continues:
…but who, when he endeavored to explain the causes of my several actions in detail, went on to show that I sit here because my body is made up of bones and muscles; and the bones and muscles, as he would say, are hard and have joints which divide them, and the muscles are elastic and they cover the bones which have also a covering or environment of flesh and skin which contains them; and as the bones are lifted at the joints by the contraction or relaxation of the muscles, I am able to bend my limbs, and this is why I am sitting here in a curved posture. That is what he would say, and he would have a similar explanation for my talking to you, which he would attribute to sound, and air, and hearing and he would assign ten thousand other causes of the same sort, forgetting to mention the true cause, which is, that the Athenians have thought fit to condemn me, and accordingly, I have thought it better and more right to remain here and undergo my sentence; for I am inclined to think that these muscles and bones of mine would have gone off long ago to Megara or Boeotia, by the dog, they would, if they had been moved only by their own idea of what was best. . .

That little segment is a philosophical classic. It shows clearly that Socrates, who was put to death c. 600 B.C., was fighting some of the very same false notions we are fighting today. These ideas were outlined in my article The Dangers of Scientism:
  Philosophy, therefore, not only has the title to be called science, but has it to the highest degree: it is, as already intimated, the queen among the sciences. Beginning with ontology, and running down the hierarchy of the sciences, we would get something like the following arrangement:
    I.    Ontology (or general metaphysics) of which the most important part is Theodicy.
    II.    The Philosophic Sciences (the sciences of special metaphysics): Logic, Cosmology, Rational Psychology, and Ethics.
    III.   The Mathematical Sciences and the General Sciences of Observation and Experimentation: Arithmetic, Geometry, Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy, Biology, Politics, Economics, etc.
    IV.   All the practical arts and sciences whose primary purpose is not the understanding or the explanation of reality but some practical utility. [That is a very important word, by the way, because today that is all most people think about: utility.] Their number is very great. They correspond with the variety of crafts and professions, especially those which are intricate enough to require the development of a science or perhaps many sciences. For example, all the sciences, of medicine, engineering, farming, pharmacy, navigation, metallurgy, banking, jurisprudence, electrical engineering, etc.

With one glance at this outline, you can easily recognize what has taken place today. There has been an inversion of this hierarchy, the lower have not only replaced the higher, they have all but excluded them from influence. This is scientism. The practical sciences have become the foundation of our material civilization. They build our machines, run our hospitals, and fight our wars. In order to maintain our utilitarian system, we are bound to devote a great part of our time and attention to the cultivation of these lower sciences. This trend has been crowding out of existence those sciences of the highest two orders which guarantee culture, unity, and a balanced perspective. In fact, the general sciences of the third order (physics and economics, for example) have come to be regarded as the core of liberal education. However, these sciences are ordered primarily to the practical interest and not to contemplation. Physics, economics, and biology are not innocent crafts, such as carpentry and masonry (which require the development of special skills without distorting the truths of common sense). For, when the mind performs on the plane of science, it must either be led to final and correct answers, or find false substitutes in sophistry and ideological error. We must restore philosophy, religion, and common sense as valid means of knowledge, or else we are going to die from the sickness of scientism.

It is nice to have a nose on one’s face, but when you see a nose swelling and about to efface the remaining features, you know you are dealing with a disease and a dangerous condition. Culturally speaking, scientism is a pathological inflation of science at the expense of all other forms of human knowledge.

As for common sense, little can be done for it, deliberately, that is. It is not, nor can it be, a study in itself. In fact, as soon as the study of common sense becomes reflective and methodical, it becomes something else, that is, it becomes either philosophy or science. Common sense cannot formulate or defend its convictions against the attacks of false philosophies and false religion. Therefore, unless the fundamental certitudes of common sense are developed and defended by good philosophy, false doctrines are bound to arise. Is that not what we see in the world today?

As for revelation, it has its foundation in God. It is under His disposition. As long as we do not confuse ourselves by a perverse use of our natural faculties, God can talk to us and lead us to the saving truth. Our own responsibility consists in using our natural powers according to the purposes intended by God. God gave us intelligence, primarily, so that we may use it to know Him and love Him; secondarily, we are given reason in order that we might rule the material universe as prudent stewards. Modern man is certainly putting a tremendous effort towards the attainment of the second of these objectives, at least as regards nature’s utilitarian purpose. If we are to be faithful to the first objective, however, we must restore philosophy to its place in liberal education.

Of course, this advice cannot be given except to those who know where to find the one sound tradition of philosophic truth. That tradition is protected, and will always be secure, only in the shadow of the Catholic Church. “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and His justice and all these things will be added unto you” (Matt.6:33).  This is a promise given by Our Lord.

Our pandemic temporal problems will never be solved by those who do not care to discover the kingdom of God as it exists in this world. And, if the place of philosophy continues to be usurped by the babel of all the false doctrines and all the perverse opinions that afflict every age, but ours especially, then certainly all this foolishness and conceit will only enhance the pretentious claims of scientism. Someone may argue: How can you hope to bring the perennial philosophy back to man? The disease within him has spread too far. He suffers beyond all hope of recovery, from the complexity and diversity of his deflectionary interests. Would not philosophy add just one more item to this complexity?  This is like saying of a man trying to find his way around in a dark and crowded room,“Why crowd him further with a lamp?” For that is precisely what philosophy contributes to the complexity of modern civilization, a light! It is a candle in a dark and crowded room. If no one takes the candle, let us carry it ourselves; the foolish virgins will one day beg for a share of our oil, I assure you.

Br. Francis, M.I.C.M.

No posts found

Write a review

Your Cart

Search Search

Follow Us Follow Us