[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib

Highlight Words

The Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas

On-line since: 31st January, 2017



After explaining that there are no German verbal forms equivalent in meaning to the noun “Reason,” which correspond to the Latin intelligere, intellectualis, intelligens, and intelligibilis, etc., and that therefore he has retained the Latin words, he proceeds:

In a Chapter of the Summa Theologica, “Concerning the gift of Intellect” — that is, concerning the strengthening of the normal human reason up to the point of vision (through the gift of the Holy Ghost) Thomas clearly defines the place in which man stands as a learning being.

The word “intellectus” contains in itself a certain inner perception: for “intelligere” means at the same time “to read inwardly.” And this is quite clear if one considers the difference between intellect and sense: for perception by the senses is occupied (note the passive form!) with external sensible qualities; but perception by the intellect penetrates (note the active form!) to the essence of things. For the object of the intellects is: what something is, as Aristotle puts it in the third book Concerning the Soul.

But that which is hidden internally is of manifold kinds, that to which man's perception must penetrate, so to say, to the inner side. For under the accidental qualities lies hid the real nature of the thing; behind the words lies their meaning; under similarities and figures lies the truth which is represented — for intelligible things are, as it were, internal, compared with the things that are perceived by the senses, which are thus externally perceived — and in causes lie hid the effects and vice versa. Therefore the word “inward reading” (intellectus) can be used in respect of all this.

Since man's acquisition of knowledge begins from the senses, that is, from outside, it is clear that the stronger the light of the intellect is, the deeper it can penetrate into the innermost things. But the natural light of our intellects is of limited power; and therefore it can advance only to a certain limit. In order to penetrate further, in order to gain knowledge of something which cannot be gained by the natural light, man requires a supernatural light. And this supernatural light given to man, is called “The gift of the Intellect.” (Summa Theologie a, II, 2. Quaestio VIII. Art. 1.)

The central question for Thomas, “What reality have these abstract conceptions?” which man thus “reads inwardly,” leads to the very heart of Thomism [p. 67-69].

Since things are the creations of God — as a house would be the creation of the architect, if he had also shaped all the building material from complete formlessness — their nature, their “substance” is implanted in them — as “universalia in rebus” — and can be “read inwardly” in them by men through the “natural light” — the light of understanding; and they can become the possession of the soul as “universalia post res.” But beforehand the nature of things rested in God, who saw it in self-reading through the “lumen gloriae” the light of glory (the whole and each part in one glance, so that the difference between universal and special form as yet did not exist). At the time of transition of the plan of creation to the realm of the middle light, of the “lumen gratiae” of the Light of Grace, that was poured on to the Hierarchies there arises the division into “morning knowledge” and “evening knowledge.” of which the former proceeds from the universal to the particular, and the latter goes backwards from the particular to the universal.

Thus the quality “inteiligere” is attributed to: —

  1. God in the light of glory, of “doxa,” of essential revelation.

  2. The Angels, in the light of grace, of “gratia,” because God “has created in the angelic intelligence everything he has created in the nature of separate things,” as “universalia ante res” and

  3. Men, who must laboriously collect their knowledge of separate things in “Natural Light” — since the loss of Paradise.

But just as not only an eye but also a legible book is necessary for outward reading, so also inward reading can only take place if something “readable” (intelligible), something knowable is visible, that is, a spiritual substance illuminated by one of the three kinds of knowledge light.

And a third condition of achieving knowledge in reality, is that the “Eye of inward reading” — the “intellectus” is not too weak to grasp the fullness of the splendour which emanates from a spiritual substance.

A thing is capable of being understood, in so far as it is in a condition of actuality. Therefore, God, who is pure actuality with no admixture of potentiality, is above all things capable of being understood. But what is supremely capable of being understood is not so by any intellect, on account of the excess of the intelligible over the intellect. As the sun, which is visible in the highest degree, cannot be seen by the bat, because of the excess of its light.

As Faust says to the sunrise: “It rises! and blinded I turn away my eyes, pierced by pain.” By “excess of light,” says Faust:

“So let the sun stay behind me, we live by the coloured reflection.”

And Thomas says: —

So far we may say that we see everything in God and judge everything according to Him, just as we know and judge everything by participation in His light. For the natural light of reason is also a certain participation in the divine light; as one may also say that we see and judge everything physical in the sun, that is, through the sun's light ...

But as it is not necessary to see the substance of the sun in order to see something physically, so it is not necessary, in order to see something with the intellect, that the essence of God be seen. (S. Theol. I. Quaestio XII, Art. XI).

The light of reason, the natural light innate in man, is participation in the divine light — like the “coloured reflection” from the “excess of flame” of the sun. This “intellectualism” of Thomas — often criticized — is the deepest well of his mighty thought-power. As thinker he knows himself also to be God-protected — attached to heaven by the thread of light. His thought is full of the attitude of prayer.

And the consummation of this attitude in his thought are Thomas' proofs of the existence of God. They do not overstep the realm of the “lumen natural,” but push thought to the very source of this light [pp. 69, 70].

... our natural knowledge proceeds from the senses. Wherefore our natural knowledge can reach as far as the point to which the senses can lead it. But our intellect cannot stretch beyond the realm of the senses so as to behold the divine Essence; for creatures that are dependent on the senses are the productions of God, which do not equal the virtue of their cause. Therefore, the whole virtue of God cannot be known from the knowledge of the sense world, and accordingly also His essence cannot be seen. But since effects depend upon cause, we can be brought by them to know if He exists, and to know of Him what attributes He necessarily has is the First Cause of All, which transcends all. {Summa Theologie a, I. Quaestio XII, Art. XII.)

This is just the personal experience of this age — we cannot penetrate by vision into the spiritual world [p. 70].

... and God in His Essence cannot be seen in vision by the pure man, unless he be separated from this mortal life. For the reason that the manner of acquiring the knowledge follows the manner of existence of the being concerned. But as long as we are in this life, our soul has its existence in corporeal matter, and therefore it gains knowledge naturally of nothing which has not its form in matter, or which cannot be known through matter ...

But this modesty in the sphere of earthly thinking is not a lack of will-power. As the gold heavens of early Christian art disappeared behind the blue curtain, there grew out of humanity the heaven-assaulting Gothic. And as Plotinism dried up, there arose the “gothic” thought-technique of High Scholasticism.

The “Sun behind” is only a temporary condition. In the transfigured body we shall one day see God in His Essence.

As man's highest bliss consists in his most sublime activity, mainly in the operation of the intellect, either man would never attain this bliss, or it would consist of something other than God, if the created Intellects were never to behold the Essence of God — which is contradictory to faith. For in that which is the origin of his existence lies the final completion of the rational creature; and a thing is so far complete as it attains to its origin. But it contradicts Reason also. In man there is natural desire to know the cause when he sees the effect, and from this arises wonder in men. If the intellect of the rational creature were not to reach the first cause of things, this desire of nature would have to remain in vain. Therefore, it must be unconditionally granted that the Blessed behold God's Essence.

This “natural desire for the origin,” is the primary urge of Scholasticism, comparable with the plant-like heavenward urge of Gothic art. As in early Gothic there was no remission of tenseness, so Thomas never allows a “piousness” — of whatever kind — the power to dispense the intellect from activity.

For Thomas the act of thought leads always upward, never to a lying-down to rest. His praying has nothing to do with beds and cushions.

... God is not called incomprehensible because He has some quality which is not seen; but because it is not seen so perfectly as it can be ...

... What is perfectly known, is comprehended, and that which is known as deeply as it can be, is perfectly known. Thus, if something, which is capable of being known by empiric science, is held by one opinion, which originates from some reason of probability, that thing is not comprehended. If, for instance, someone knows by demonstration the proposition that the sum of the angles of a triangle equal two right angles, he comprehends it. But if someone assumes the opinion on the score of probability, because the learned say so, or the majority, he does not comprehend it, because he does not attain to that complete manner of knowing it, in which it is capable of being known. But no created intellect can reach up to knowing the divine Essence, in that perfect manner in which it is capable of being known ... For there is no limit to the knowledge of God. No created intellect can have a limitless knowledge of God. Now, a created intellect knows the Divine Essence more or less perfectly in proportion as it is fathomed by a greater or less Light of Glory. (S. Theol. Q,. XII. Art. VII.)

The deepest work-impulse of Thomas is to limit as far as possible the share of tradition — based on outer authority and therefore probability — in the faith-content of the Church, in favour of what can be gained “per demonstrationem.” He wanted to lead with the Gothic technique of his concept-temple those concepts “which can come only from ourselves and our individuality” far into the kingdom of faith-contents [pp. 41, 42.] To open up faith-content to the understanding — also in order to defend it against unbelievers — was the “main problem in front of Albertus and Thomas,” [p. 72.]

This use of the intellect in the “natural light” supplies therefore on the one hand, weapons for the fight of the “Ecclesia militans” — and from this point of view Thomas writes his “Summa contra Gentiles” (against the “Heathen” — i.e., the Arabs) — on the other hand, it supplies foundations, on which the “Ecclesia Triumphans” can be built up — which is the object of the Summa Theologica.

For through grace — after death or even beforehand, through a miracle (as in the case of Moses or Paul) — the natural light can receive a lifting-up to the power of vision.

When something is raised to a degree which transcends its nature, it must be given a disposition which is above its nature. If, for instance, air is to receive the form of fire, it must be disposed to this form by means of a certain faculty. But when a created intellect beholds God in His Essence, God's Essence itself becomes the intelligible form of the intellect. Wherefore a supernatural disposition must be added to it, so as to raise it to such sublimity. For as the natural power of the created intellect is not sufficient to see God's Essence, it is necessary that by Divine Grace a power of intelligence should be added to it. For this reason, we call the increase of the power of intelligence the “illumination” of the intellect; and this is the illumination of which it is said in the Apocalypse xxi, 28, that “the light of God will illumine them,” namely, the society of the Blessed who see God. [Summa Theologica, I. Quaestio XII, Art. V.)

Of those who behold God in His Essence, one will behold Him more perfectly than another ... because the intellect of one will have more power or ability to see God than that of the other. The capacity to see God, however, does not belong to the created intellect according to its nature, but through Glory and Light ... Therefore the intellect which has a greater share of glory and light will see God more perfectly; and he will have this greater share who has more of Charity, for where there is more charity there is more desire, and desire makes him who desires in some manner apt and prepared for the reception of the objects desired. Whoever therefore shall have more Charity will see God more perfectly, and be more blessed. {Summa Theologica, I. Quaestio XII. Art. VI.)

But the inner drama of the Aristotelian-Thomasian doctrine of knowledge not only runs along an abstract line of development from the less perfect to the more perfect, but already assigns its quite special and distinguishing share to the lower steps of learning.

According to the Platonists' supposition (that the soul carries all knowledge in itself but has forgotten it on account of its conjunction with the body, that all learning is a remembering and that the turning towards the world of the senses is mere imperfection) the soul is not united to the body for its betterment, for because of this union it is less intelligent than when separate, but this union is solely for the betterment of the body, which is against reason, for matter exists for the sake of form, not vice versa.

But one might object that if a thing is always ordained towards betterment (and the direct turning towards the intelligible is a better kind of intellectual activity than the turning towards phantasms) God might have arranged the nature of the soul in such a manner as to make the nobler kind of intellectual activity come naturally to it and so that it would not have to be united to the body for the purpose.

It must be noted that even if the application of the intellect to higher things is more perfect than its application to physical images, still, the former mode was less perfect, if one considers how it would have been possible to the soul; which is made clear in the following thoughts: In every intellectual substance intellectual power exists through the influence of the Divine Light. This is in its first principle one and simple but divided and diversified in proportion as creatures are further removed from the Source, as is the case with lines which radiate from a central point. Thus it follows that God knows all things through His one Essence. And if the higher intellectual substances exercise their intellects through more than form, still it is through less numerous and more universal forms (than the lower substances) owing to the efficacy of the intellectual virtue that is in them. But in the lower substances there are forms, less universal and less efficacious in comprehending, in proportion to their disparity in intellectual virtue from the higher. Now if the lower substances had the forms in that degree of universality in which the higher have them, they would not gain through these forms a perfect knowledge of things, because they cannot develop such an intellectual power, but only a general and confused knowledge. This applies correspondingly to men. For those furnished with weaker intellects do not gain a complete knowledge through the universal concepts of the more intelligent, unless the details are specially explained to them. It is obvious that among the intellectual substances according to the arrangement of Nature, human souls are the lowest. But the perfection of the whole demands that there should be different grades in the world. Thus if God had so arranged human souls that they understood in the same manner as the separate substances can, they would not be capable of a complete knowledge, but in general a confused one. But that they might have a complete proportionate knowledge of things, human souls are so made that they are united with bodies and thus gain a proportionate knowledge from physical things, just as uneducated people can be taught only through concrete examples. Wherefore it is clear that it is for the soul's good to be bound to the body, and to understand by turning to phantasms.

Thus the Thomistic doctrine of knowledge leads from God, who comprehends everything in one intellectual act, through the separate substances, which need ever weaker “universals,” to man, who must study the universals from below, by releasing the phantasms from things through the senses, and from these the species through the “active intellect”, and from the species the universal conceptions through the “possible intellect.” With these by thought, not by vision, he builds up his temple of knowledge through the kingdom of the spirits, to heaven.

As a background to the magnificent summary of Thomas' doctrine of knowledge in the second of Rudolf Steiner's Addresses [pp. 59 et seq.], we will translate the short chapters of the Compendium Theologiae, in which Thomas gave his brother Reginald in compressed completeness the quintessence of his doctrine.

Chapter 78. — That Man's Intellectual Substance is the lowest of the Species.

As it is not the property of things to stretch into eternity, there must be among the intellectual substances not only a highest which reaches nearest to God, but also a lowest, which is nearest bodily matter. And this can be seen in the following manner: Intellectual activity is the faculty of man above the other animals; for it is clear that man reviews the universals, the qualities of things and immaterial things, all of which are comprehended only through intelligence. Now it is impossible that this intellectual activity is carried out by means of a bodily organ, as seeing is through the eye. For every instrument of cognitive power must necessarily itself be void of that kind of matter which is known through it, as the pupil of the eye by nature is void of the colours. For the colours are known by reason of the fact that the species of the colours are taken up in the pupil; but that which takes up must be void of what is taken up. But the intellect is in a position to learn with regard to all physical nature. Thus if it were to acquire knowledge through a bodily organ, this organ would have to be void of all physical nature — which is impossible.

Further: every cognitive instrument is itself known in the manner according to which the species of the object known lies in it; for this is for it the principle of knowledge. But the intellect knows things immaterially, even those which in their own nature are material, because it withdraws the universal form from the material conditions which create the separation. It is therefore impossible that the species of the thing known is in the intellect materially; and it is not received in a bodily organ, for every bodily organ is material.

Equally is it plain that the sense is weakened and destroyed by exaggerated sense-qualities — as the hearing is by loud sounds and the sight by blinding light; and this happens because the harmony of the organ is destroyed. But the intellect is rather strengthened through the exaggeration of the intelligible qualities, for whoever uses his intellect for higher things is able to understand the others not less well, but better. Thus if man is discovered as an intellectual being and his process of knowing does not take place through a bodily organ there must necessarily be some kind of incorporeal substance through which man comprehends.

For anything that can itself be active without body does not depend on the body according to its substance; and all powers and forms which cannot exist without body can also have no effectiveness without body. Thus warmth does not engender warmth by itself but a body engenders warmth by means of warmth.

This incorporeal substance therefore through which man comprehends is the lowest in the order of intellectual substances and that which stands next to matter.

Chapter 79. — Of the Difference of the Intellect and of the Mode of its Activity

Since the intellectual Being is higher than the sensual, as the Intellect is higher than the senses, and since the lower by nature imitates as much as possible the higher, so bodies that are subject to growth and decay imitate to a certain extent the revolutions of the heavenly bodies, it must be presumed that the sensory qualities in their way resemble the intellectual; and thus we can in some manner acquire knowledge of the intellectual from the likeness to it of the sensual. Now in the sensory we find a “highest” as it were, namely actuality, or form, and a “lowest” potentiality, or matter, and a “middle,” namely, that which is composed of matter and form. Similarly, we must differentiate in the intellectual Being; for the highest intellectual, God, is pure actuality, the other intellectual substances have something of actuality and something of potentiality according to their intellectual nature; but the lowest intellectual substance by which man uses his intellect, is in the intellectual realm only in the condition of potentiality. This strengthens the idea that originally man was made intellectual only as a potentiality, and subsequently by degrees was brought to actuality. Wherefore the intellectual substance of man is called the “intellectus possibilis,” or potential intellect.

Chapter 80. — That Maris Intellectus Possibilis evolves the Intellectual Forms from Sensory Things

Now since, as already stated, the higher an intellectual substance is, the more universal are its intellectual forms, it follows that the human intellect, which we called “possibilis,” has, among the other intellectual substances, less universal forms; and here is the reason why it evolves the intellectual forms from sensory things.

This can also throw light on another consideration. The form must be proportionate to that which is to be comprehended through it. Therefore, as the human intellectus possibilis among all intellectual substances lies nearest to bodily matter, its intellectual forms must also necessarily be nearest to material things.

Chapter 81. — That Man needs the Powers of the Senses for Intellectual Activity

It is to be remarked that the forms in bodily things are composed of separate particles and are material, but in the Intellect they are universal and immaterial, which the mode of our intellectual activity establishes, for we use our intellects “universally” and “immaterially.” But this mode must necessarily correspond with the intellectual form and species, by means of which our intellects act. Therefore, since we go from one extreme to another only by way of a mean, forms proceed from bodily things to the intellect through certain media. Of this kind are the sense-powers, which comprehend the forms of material things apart from matter — we see, for instance, the particular form of the stone with the eye but not its matter — and on the other hand they comprehend the forms of things in a particular way — for the senses only comprehend the differentiated particles. Senses therefore, were necessary to man for intellectual activity; and this is confirmed by the fact that if anyone is bereft of one sense, he loses also the knowledge which is dependent on that sense, like a man born blind, who can have no knowledge of colours.

Chapter 82. — That it is necessary to assume an “Intellectus Agens

It becomes clear, therefore, that knowledge concerning things is not caused in our intellect through a participation in some kind of actual intellectual forms, that exist in and for themselves, or through their influence, as the Platonists and others who followed them, supposed. Rather the intellect extracts this knowledge from physical things through the mediation of the senses. But because, as already stated, the forms of things are particularized in the sense-powers, they are comprehensible not according to reality, but only to potentiality. For the intellect works only universally. Now something which is in the potential state can be transferred to that of actuality only by means of some active agent. There must therefore exist an “agent” which makes the particularized forms which lie in the sense-powers comprehensible in reality. But the “intellectus possibilis” cannot bring this about: for it is itself more in a state of potentiality with respect to the comprehending qualities, than active in them. Another intellect must therefore be postulated, which makes particularized forms which are comprehensible in potentiality comprehensible in reality, as light causes potentially visible colours to be actually visible. And we call this the “Intellectus Agens” — which we need not postulate, if the forms of things were comprehensible in reality, as the Platonists assumed.

... The “intellectus possibilis” is receptive of the comprehensible particularized forms ... the “intellectus agens” makes them actually comprehensible.

Chapter 83. — That the Human Soul is Indestructible

“In this way the great logical questions of the universals join up with the questions which concern the world-destiny of each individual,” says Rudolf Steiner [p. 73]: How this chapter 83 joins up with the preceding chapter!

In accordance with what has been said, the intellect, with which man comprehends must be indestructible. Every Being is active in proportion to its nature. But the intellect has an activity independent of the body, as has been shown — from which it follows that it is active of its own accord. Therefore, it is a substance which subsists by itself. But it was shown above that intellectual substances are indestructible. Thus man's intellect is also indestructible.

Moreover, the real basis of growth and decay is matter, and a thing is therefore as far removed from decay as it is from matter. Things composed of matter and form are intrinsically destructible; material forms are destructible through that which is bound up with them and not through themselves; but the immaterial forms which transcend the measure of matter are definitely indestructible. The intellect is by its nature exalted above matter, which is shown by its function: for we comprehend nothing through something else, without separating it from matter. Thus the intellect is, in accordance with its nature, indestructible.

This confutes also Averroës, who supposed “there is no immortality in the sense of an individual continuance after death.” In the connection of problems as shown by Rudolf Steiner, Thomas in the subsequent chapters of the Compendium Theologiae collects together all the principal arguments of his powerful battery against the Arabic antagonism to individuality, by proving “that there is not one intellectus possibilis only among all men” (Chapter 84); “that the intellectus agens in all men is not a single one” (Chapter 85); but “that the intellectus possibilis and the intellectus agens are founded in the essence of the individual soul.” (Chapter 86.)

The Fight against Averroës

For the fight against the denial of the individual by the Arab doctor and philosopher, Averroës (1126-1198), Thomas filled an arsenal with marvellously made and sharpened logical weapons. From this armoury let us take one argument — with which Thomas closes the terrific 73rd chapter of the Second Book of the Summa contra Gentiles.

Averroës' standpoint is: “Each of us has his own body, but not his own understanding.”

Thomas replies: —

If the intellectus possibilis is translated, through its having taken up a particularized form, into a condition of real intellectual activity, it can remain real of its own accord, as Aristotle says in the third book Of the Soul. Therefore, it is in our power to reconsider something of which we have once acquired knowledge, if we only wish it, without being impeded on account of the phantasms — i.e., through a failure to receive these “images” by means of the senses. For we have the power to form such images, which are proportionate to the desired consideration, unless there is some impediment on the part of the organ in question; as in the case of imbeciles and those who cannot keep awake, for they have not the free use of imagination and memory. Thus Aristotle says in the Eighth Book of the Physics that the man who already has the endurance to acquire knowledge, if he is in a condition to be able to undertake contemplation, need not be translated from this condition into that of real contemplation by means of an external mover, apart from overcoming an impediment, but that he can, if he wills it, pass to the act of contemplation himself. But if the comprehensible particularized forms of all sciences lie in the intellectus possibilis (N.B. — which one must assume if one regards it, like Averroës, as One and Everlasting), the role of the phantasms with respect to the intellectus possibilis must always be of such a kind as the case with the man who has already mastered a science, and in consequence can formulate considerations of which without such images he would be incapable (N.B. — by calling them up out of his memory). But since man employs intellectual activity through the intellectus possibilis in so far as this is through particularized forms, translated into the condition of real intellectual activity, every man could, if he but wished, command the knowledge of all sciences. But this is obviously not so, for then no one would require a teacher in order to learn a science. It follows therefore that the intellectus possibilis is not One and Everlasting.

The “doctor angelicus,” the greatest theological teacher in Christian history throws his personal destiny — his spiritual profession of teaching — in the scales against Arabism. For Thomas wanted not to contradict Averroës only, but to smash him (as Dr. Carl Unger said in the last lecture of his life in the Goetheanum). [Esotericism by Carl Unger, published by Percy Lund, Humphries & Go. Ltd., 3, Amen Corner, London, E.C. 4. Price 2s.] He fought with the whole force of his being for “the acceptance of the Word through the power of the Son,” (Unger). The acquisition of knowledge — to which the teacher should guide — is for Thomas not a breaking into a treasure-cave, where the “knowledge of all sciences” lies ready for him who knows the “Open, Sesame!” but a nursing of spiritual seed, which is scattered in the earth, and must be tended with hard work, “in the sweat of his brow.” Thomas takes his metaphors from the realm of plant-life and light in order to make clear the relationship of the teacher to the seed in the pupils' souls; as for example in the chapter on “The Teacher” in the great treatise on “Truth.”

There pre-exist in us seeds of knowledge, as the first conceptions, as it were, of the intellect, which are at once recognized in the light of the “intellectus agens,” through the medium of the particularized forms which are derived from the memory qualities ... Every principle is included in these universal principles. Now if the mind is led out of this universal knowledge, so that it recognizes the particularized parts actually, which had hitherto been recognized only potentially, and, as it were, in general, then one says of someone that he acquires knowledge.

To pre-exist is understood by Thomas not — as by the Platonists — that “original concepts” are incorporated in man already before birth, so that his knowledge is a recollection of something pre-natal, but in the sense that before the process of acquiring knowledge begins there is created in us by God a seed of light, a seed of functional power, a “lumen creatum” and this is educated or brought out in the knowledge-acquiring process.

That every soul harbours in itself its own seed of light, which is brought to life by the “Teacher,” is the thesis that is upheld against Arabism.

But Thomas overthrows Averroës not only on his own ground — that of the teacher — but also on that of the “medicus,” the medical doctor, by an intensely fruitful combination of the problems of teaching and healing. In it he appears to be a forerunner of the splendid revival of Healing which in our day the greatest teacher of intellectual activity, Rudolf Steiner, perfected by the “strengthening of thought-power.” (Cf. Chapter I. “True Knowledge of Human Nature as the Basis of Medical Art,” in the book Foundations for an Extension of the Art of Healing according to Spiritual Science Knowledge.) Rudolf Steiner overthrows the materialistic remains of the Arab treasure-hunt that lie underneath the weak-minded modern empiricism. (One digs for the treasures of knowledge to-day in “Handbooks.”)

… Learning is produced in the pupil by the teacher, not like heat in wood by the fire, but like health in the invalid by the doctor ... (Treatise Of Spiritual Creatures. Art IX. in conjunction with a polemic against Averroës).

In healing, the doctor is the helper of Nature, the chief agent, since he strengthens Nature and adds medicines which Nature uses like instruments in healing.

Just as a man can be healed in two ways — first through the sole agency of Nature, and secondly, by Nature together with a small dose of medicine — so there are also two ways of acquiring knowledge: first, when the seed of reason implanted by Nature in one comes of its own accord to the knowledge of something previously unknown, one speaks of “invention”; and secondly, when the implanted reason is given doses by someone outside, one speaks of “learning” ... And one says also that one man teaches another if he explains to him by signs the forward steps which the reason implanted in him enables him to take. As one says of a doctor, that he produces health in the invalid in the realm of Nature, so one says also of a man that he produces learning in another in the realm of his implanted reason. And this is called “teaching.” And in this sense one can say that a man teaches another and is his teacher. But the light of this reason, through which these primary concepts are known is given us by God (is the “intellectus possibilis”); as also a likeness to uncreated wisdom (to “Sophia” as the likeness of which on earth the “intellectus possibilis” gleams in the human soul). Now since no human teaching can have any effectiveness in us, but for the power of this light, it is quite certain that it is God alone who originally implants learning in us, just as Nature originally produces the healing power in us.

In this “Doctrine of Teaching,” in opposition to Arabism, Thomas opens up for a man a Holy of Holies, where he is in direct communion with the Creator: he fights “for the reception of the word through the power of the Son” (Unger); in each individual God speaks as “Verbum cordis,” the heart's word. There is no space to reproduce the “Word-doctrine” of Thomas, as it developed especially in the “Tractatus de verba.” Here only a few sentences are set out, in which shines that atmosphere of light, which is the greatest contribution — so often misunderstood — of Thomas to the history of Western spiritual thought.

…As one says of the doctor, he makes health, although he works from outside and Nature alone from the inside, so one says also of a man that he teaches truth, if he only enunciates it from outside, but inside it is God who teaches.

…The words of the teacher, either heard or read, in the education of knowledge in the intellect, play the role of things which are outside the soul ...

…Conclusions are reached with certainty if they are referable to the primary concepts. Hence what someone knows with certainty comes from the inwardly created light of reason, through which God speaks in us, and not from man, who teaches from the outside ...

…The teacher does not produce truth in the pupil, but knowledge of the truth. For the subjects which are taught are true before they are known: because truth does not depend on our knowledge of it, but on the essence of things ...

…if one says: nothing can form the mind of man but God, it applies to its highest form, without which it would be formless, whatever other forms it might have. But this is that form by which the mind is turned to the WORD, and inheres in it.

Thus, intelligent man is “turned to the WORD” through his highest form. From the philosophy of learning and teaching which he developed in the war against Arabism, Thomas passes on to the question: “How is thought made Christ-like?” [p. 76.]

But he finds no answer to this question for the man who lives in the earthly body, but only for the man to whom — after the day of Judgment — through God's grace the earthly body, transfigured into the spirit body, will be restored [vide infra p. 180].

Rudolf Steiner has given the answer in our time: Anthroposophy, in which created man through the evolution of creative thought is joined with uncreated Wisdom — sapientia increate — that is the Anthropos with the Sophia.

The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com