Introduction to Theology, Serial No. 01118

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We are going to talk about man as a creature, one of whose special marks which make him god-like is his capacity to reason.
Because, of course, although the more complex kinds of animals do appear to be able to go several steps,
as I said, from A to D, or something like this, and Pavlov's pigeon and so on,
wrote out some kinds of connections, which at least made some sort of patterns, didn't they,
which are rather like philosophical patterns.
Still, it does remain true that I think you have to be a human being before you can do things like that,
if that diagram is meaningful for you at all.
It might be kind of foolish, but if you go out, or into the beyond or whatever,
isn't that, is it correct to say that's non-rational?
Well, I think you're right to raise the point, insofar as what you are saying,
and what indeed St Thomas is saying, or anybody who holds a philosophical argument for the existence of God is saying,
is all right. All I can say is that there must be some what, I don't know what to call it,
out here, and I don't know what it is. It's pure mystery.
And as I say, it's very important to see that any arguments you can produce which are philosophical arguments,
which are going to conclude that it's sensible to say that God exists,
is not going to make it lucid to you what on earth we mean by this.
Because you'll remember that one of the important things about the whole idea of the use of I am as the name of God,
simply I am, everything we know about has to be I am a cat, or whatever the name is, doesn't it?
But God is nothing specific like that. God is not a definable thing.
Hmm? All right? Yes? Yes Mark?
Well, maybe connecting with what Ken was asking, to move, OK you have this line going from A to Z,
and to move on your arrow out of the line is a rational movement, isn't it?
I mean you do that by reason. You say well this, when A to Z would go on.
Well in a certain way, but it's much more like a Zen experience, isn't it really,
if I can talk in some language which probably you all understand.
I mean it is, it's suddenly seeing what you don't see, if you see what I mean.
Does that meet you more or less?
I guess just to talk about it.
Yes, I think it's a good point to talk about.
As I say, somehow or other one has to be able to see that you've got to see that it is out of it.
Is that what you were trying to say, Mark?
Well, I was just, like brother Ken was asking, if that's going into the realm of the irrational.
And I was thinking that the movement, if we can talk in human diagrams,
moving on that, out of that line onto this line, could be a rational movement.
But like you were saying, it takes you into the realm of mystery.
Yes, but I suppose, if you like, what Ken's being is saying,
here am I, poor chap, I'm only a rational being.
Isn't it? I mean, he remains rational by accepting the fact that he's there in the middle of mystery.
I mean, here am I, surrounded by God, and it's just poor me.
And I can't get anywhere, except with this.
Isn't that what Paul says in Romans, that that actually is accessible to everybody?
Well, he does say that, but as I say, it's very significant that neither of the council documents
that have specifically repeated this text, have said that it can be shown from reason,
because this is required by revelation itself to say it.
They don't tell us how it can be done.
I mean, it seems like every Trinity Sunday, every year, for as many years as I can remember,
when the big balloon with the big things coming out of it comes up,
every homilist always says, well, of course, it's an unexplainable mystery.
Meaning that I don't understand the philosophical concepts underneath it.
At least that's what it seems to be saying.
Yes, I think that's because they always start with God, don't they?
Whereas in fact, I found it was, one of the delightful things,
it's not meant to be a compliment to myself, but it's something I've consistently done
whenever I've had to preach on Trinity.
I had, when I was a hermit, as I've told you, a village of peasant farmers,
German peasant farmers.
And after Trinity Sunday, because I had preached exactly out of the New Testament,
starting with Christ, into the Father, and the Spirit coming out,
one lady said to me afterwards, it's the very first time I've ever heard a sermon on the Trinity
that I think I understood.
You see, I think this is a very, I was very pleased with this.
I hadn't done this as a kind of trick, but, yes?
Yes, Peter?
I don't know if it ties in, but I've heard in past language about people talking about the Godhead.
Yes, exactly.
What can that mean?
Well, the Godhead means the kind of abstraction, doesn't it?
Let's say, if you like, the Godhead is Godliness, if you see.
It's rather like so much mud, or raw stuff, out of which the three persons are made.
That's where you get into, really, this balloon thing of John Baptist, isn't it?
This is a very real problem, there's no doubt about it.
Whereas if you do take the New Testament method, of course it's a mystery,
but at least it's a mystery because we always have some experience of personal relationship.
We can intuit some kind of meaning.
We can't know what the inner God of life is like, but we do know what relationship is like.
We do know that Ken and John Baptist sitting together,
are related to each other precisely because they are not the same,
although they may be sitting together.
And the closer they may be there, let's say, the more character there is between us,
the closer we come together, it's rather important.
The very first thing John Bingham has ever said to me in 1943,
it's always stuck in my mind, and I don't think it's worth saying.
He said, it's very, very important, isn't it, for people to remember,
that in order, and I've had a story which I've constantly had to tell about two undergraduate students,
who were my friends in Oxford, who fell in love in their first term.
And everywhere you went, if you were invited to a charity party or a tea party,
there they were sitting together, having their tea together or their coffee together.
And then, after about six weeks, the girl suddenly rang me, in clouds of tears,
and said, it's all over, the whole thing is completely finished.
And what had happened was, the boy had said, I can't stand another minute of this,
because it's absolutely claustrophobic.
And the point he gives us is this, and this is of course what everybody has to go through in love theory,
of any kind.
You see, as long as A thinks that they're one thing, you can't have a relationship.
A can't really love B, unless A can bear the fact that A is not B.
This is where love begins, and it's a difficult thing,
but however close A and B get together, they never become the same.
The father is not the son, although it's been it, though they're all God.
There we are, off again, off the causes thing.
But at the human level, this is a very important thing to do.
It's part of this maturing in love, to be able to bear that A is not B.
And of course it's also part of the joy of love, when you really do begin to appreciate how steady it is.
Thank God, A is not me.
It makes it so much more exciting.
He's got all kinds of causes I haven't got at all.
And so that's an enormous asset in life, that we aren't the same.
We can go together very well.
Father, if that approach of the East, to me, I certainly feel more at home with that.
I think we all do.
How does this balloon loom up in the distance?
Where does that actually stem from?
Well, I think, you see, how we get there, Paul, it's fairly easy to see, isn't it?
We have, for various reasons, to say,
and this is one of the things the fathers, in fact, had to argue their way through.
If we were going to do a complete history of this, we would have to have several more days together.
I must say, I would enjoy it very much indeed.
I should learn a lot from him about this.
You see, St Basil, for instance, who was one of the very first people to say very, very clearly
that the Holy Spirit was God.
He's not the first person, but when Basil's work on the Holy Spirit,
he very carefully makes the point that the Holy Spirit must be divine.
And, interestingly enough, one of his major arguments is that when we baptise people,
we baptise them in the name of the Father and the Son of the Holy Spirit.
He says, this is what the Church does.
It must mean that the Holy Spirit is divine.
So, in other words, that's where the balloon begins, if you like.
In fact, we've got to say each of the three persons is divine, is God.
Then, of course, we've got the problem of saying how they're different.
And St Thomas will do it mainly in the Sermon.
He'll do it mainly through a discussion of relationship.
And, of course, he is going to say when he comes to the Holy Spirit,
this is the most difficult one to talk about,
because the relationship between the Father and the Son
is the relationship of the Word to the one who utters the Word.
And, in one way, we have some interior experience of what this life is about.
We may also have some experience of what it is to love.
That's much more difficult to talk about.
And it is, of course, infinitely more difficult to say what you mean by a love relationship
than a relationship of understanding.
Isn't it?
They are so much more complex.
But I think, if you like, as I say, it's what we have in the early centuries,
and mainly, tomorrow and on Saturday and on Monday,
I'm going to talk about the Renaissance and Hillary,
mostly talking about Christ our Lord.
And there, of course, we have got into some difficulties,
but especially in the case of the Holy Spirit.
Dino, are you with us all right?
It's difficult stuff, I know.
You can see how it gets there.
Yes, you were saying something about this way of knowing by means of con-naturality.
Yes, in a certain way, as we're going to have to see,
this is what I'm hoping to be able to do with you next week,
is when we're talking about what it means to say that we are made in the image of God,
is that we do know something about these inner processes by analogy.
Perhaps you'd better say it.
I think we've got...
Oh, your timing is very bad, Peter.
We've got five minutes more.
I think we've got five minutes we could give ourselves without breaking any rules.
When we're talking about analogy,
we're doing something rather different from using a metaphor or a synonym.
We're going to say that just as A is to B,
so, shall we say, Y is to Z.
In other words, we're not going to say these two,
this kind of relatedness is precisely the same as that one,
but that, this kind, that sort of relation,
a given sort of relationship,
would give you an idea of what the other one is like.
And so, as I was just saying to Paul,
although St Thomas does make this point,
that although we are going to have to talk about the Holy Spirit
as a love procession within the Trinity,
precisely because love is not primarily an intellectual thing,
although it's also going to include what we understand about the other person,
the person we love,
it's going to be an analogy.
That's what you're saying, isn't it, Dino?
It's con-naturality in a certain way, yes, that's to say it is.
It is.
I think, you know, really though, one of the things we're going to see,
which is the richness of thinking about ourselves,
I think it's why we have to do it nowadays,
because the whole concept of love has become so debased,
I think, hasn't it,
that often the relationship element is completely left out of it.
I'm not saying, there are going to be some people,
almost every time in America tonight,
who will imagine they've fallen in love,
and they're going to go to bed with me,
because they're in love, but they aren't.
Oh, I mean, that's saying, in other words,
they're not really related to each other,
because they don't know anything about each other at all,
except that they met five minutes before.
I was actually told by a music critic,
now he's older than I am,
Martin Cooper, who was fronting with his daughter one day,
who'd just come back from one of these very modern kinds of parties,
in which she'd been having a chat with a beside young man,
who suddenly said,
well, why don't we just lie down on the floor here?
And she said,
well, I've never even seen you before in my life,
I don't know who you are.
And promptly left, very sensible girl.
Because, and obviously, in a way,
well, I suppose I'm only mentioning this kind of thing,
because I think some people,
who are limiting these kinds of concepts,
so even the human being is dehumanised,
then they're diminishing their understanding of connaturality.
And those of us who have the joy of actually
knowing what it is to love somebody,
knowing how difficult it is, or so,
then we are going,
I hope to be able to attain some kind of connaturality
that enables us to know,
yes, it must be something like this.
That's what an analogy is.
It's not telling us exactly what the thing is,
but as you say,
it gives us a connatural feeling.
I think this is why all the fathers,
and all the monastic writers,
are trying to help us
to see why we have to have virtues.
Virtues are very dull to talk about,
but they're very humanly important
if we're to remain whole and alive,
and if we're going to be connatural
with these divine things we're talking about.
We have to keep our hearts capable of loving,
capable of bearing the strange mystery of it all,
because this enables us then
to appreciate the divine mysteries better.
Are you going to protest, John Baptiste?
It is important.
Don't do the,
it has to be said nowadays.
I think it's unavoidable.
Well, I was going to protest,
but I didn't realise it showed.
Last Sunday,
in a recent talk by someone,
the whole notion of the monastic life
as preceding, as perfecting virtue.
I was just thinking,
gosh, it's hard to keep it in balance.
In fact, we're not really here
to just pursue virtue,
but in fact we also have to have it.
In other words, you know, to not...
Yes, yes.
You can see this is really why,
from the very beginning we've been saying,
and we shall see Athanasius saying very, very clearly
on Saturday,
when he's talking about the incarnation,
that we don't just have to read the scriptures,
we have to lead the kind of life
that makes it possible to understand what this faith is.
It's only when you talk about virtue in those terms
that then you know how important it is
to do the human thing.
Because that's what virtues are about really, isn't it?
They are things that make us,
not less, but more human.
Because the trouble is,
I suppose we're working our way in monastic life
out of a conception of virtue
which was so abstract.
I know I often used to amuse the nuns
when I was teaching them,
by saying, you know,
I've known so many convents
where there was a whole list of things
that were acts of charity.
And she gave somebody a cup of tea
without asking whether they preferred coffee.
And you see, it really isn't an act of charity
if you don't do that.
I mean, you've got to ask somebody
which do you prefer,
if there's a choice.
You may have to say,
I'm sorry, we've only got coffee in the house.
We'd rather have water.
But if you like,
it's just putting into the act
the human dimension
that keeps you yourself alive, doesn't it?
Unless we keep ourselves alive in this way,
at the human level,
then we shan't understand the divine things.
I suppose it's probably not very wrong of me
to say that I'm standing here this particular week
because when Father Abbott
was trying to get these courses arranged,
somebody worked out a scheme
who was going to begin with a Christian anthropology.
And I said to Father Abbott,
well, I don't see how you can begin with it
if we don't even know what Christianity is
to begin with.
So we must look at Revelation first.
Otherwise, we shan't know
what sort of thing it is.
And you can see,
in the way Paul's question
and Isaiah's question
have brought out exactly
how once we're confronted with
what we're to say about Revelation,
we then begin to see
how we get back to the human thing.
And we've got to think
about some human processes.
Gina's extremely important point
about a certain canaturality
within us
which enables us to understand
divine things,
which shows that we're made in the image of God.
We can lose it.
And we can lose it, of course,
John Baptists, can't we?
If life is only about virtue in the abstract.
If I'm only doing the kind of thing
even though you hate my guts for doing it.
I think I learnt it most vividly
when I was novice.
I've never forgotten this.
How sometimes,
when I could do the wrong thing
with the best intentions.
In those days,
we used to go,
the novices went together
back to the bishop who was locked
in all the religious houses,
I think, in those days.
Mine certainly wasn't.
I knew all the houses I knew.
The bishop was normally locked.
We went down to choir
with the rest of the people
and came back,
the door was locked behind us.
On the way back from choir,
we, in my particular house,
the Day of Revenge of the Dead.
And when we reached a certain point
on the landing
where the door was about to be locked,
I turned round
and the man behind me
was as white as a sheet.
And so I said to him,
you look so terrible,
can I get you some water or something?
Then I suddenly realised,
I'd no sooner said the word
than I realised he was shaking with rage.
I've never really seen anybody
so completely physically transformed
with anger as he was.
I still don't know what he was angry about.
Whether it was something I'd done,
I don't know.
Whether it was something to do with me
or something to do with somebody else,
I just don't know.
But it taught me,
you have to use every bit in yourself
before you know
what the virtuous thing to do is.
I never dreamt of asking him
what it was all about.
That would have been just
to add a word's length to it.
He simply was angry.
And some people can get angry like that.
It's very, very frightening.
It's one of the things I think
we haven't got to omit
when we're thinking about ourselves next week.
That's why I've got so much thinking to do
before I try and put it before you.
Then I hope you won't punch me rather hard
so that we get it right.
But there is quite a lot of chemistry in this.
In fact, this chap was suffering
from various kinds of illnesses
and there may even have been
some quite chemical reason
why anger seized him
just like thunderstorms.
He was obviously quite out of control
and I don't believe he was un-virtuous.
He was simply just plain angry
and it transformed his body
so that he really looked ill with it.
So I wasn't really doing the wrong thing
in offering to Buddha,
but the minute I saw that he wasn't feeling ill
but he was really simply shaking in anger,
I knew I'd done the wrong thing.
Let's hope we don't most of the time
tread on other people's toes quite so hard as that.
One usually doesn't mean to.
One often has to ask people of course
to forgive one for things
one has just been silly of not seeing.
But I suppose at least the virtues are
at least keeping us,
meant to keep us,
sensitive to the reality of the situation
so that we can do what the loving thing is
in the right circumstances.
As I say, I think you brought up
something very valuable there, Gino,
that it does help to preserve our con-naturality
with divine things.
That's what it ought to be doing all the time.
Anybody else want to say anything?
Have we blown up the balloon enough?
I think it's a very interesting result.
Yes, Ken?
I don't quite know.
One thing that has always kind of puzzled me
is how do these men know how the angels
and all this happen?
Have they gone into that unknown and come back?
Is that just speculation?
In some cases it is, I think we must say.
In some cases I think we must say it is.
You see, I'll give you the shortest answer I can with it.
Is everybody too tired?
May we have another few minutes?
May we have another minute or two?
Plenty of time.
Well, I suppose it's got something to do
with the temptation of everybody
who wants to explain what happens in terms of causes.
Nearly all the things start like this.
Interesting enough, you see, the Islamic world
consists of men, angels and jinn, which appear afar.
Don't ask me to defend that particular one.
But again, it's essentially, if you like, a mediated world.
Because Mohammed is going, just like all monotheists,
including us, those who believe there's only one God,
they're going to want to have an area beyond which we cannot see.
And we're going to be aware by experience,
and much more I suppose in our own time than people were in the past,
though people have always been aware to some extent,
that little bears come to bigger bears and so on.
And so they're going to find that some processes are so mysterious,
even St. Thomas actually thought the separate angels moved the clouds about.
So some people are going to think that some processes,
which are not either physically or intellectually above us,
they can be either physical or intellectually,
these are going to require some explanation as to how they function.
So you very quickly get back to a picture,
which is very like that one I had at Dennis,
in which you're going to require one thing.
This is, I think, actually the way certain kinds of neosynasticism
got in a terrible muddle.
Because they wanted to have, they thought,
that in order for God to act on something,
there had to be a kind of first push.
It was called physical pre-motion.
But of course God acts in everything that moves.
And this is the way the most interesting of St. Thomas' five ways begins,
is the observation that something moves.
If you want to try it on yourself,
I find that the most interesting way is to notice
that from Ken's question to where I'm speaking now,
both our minds have been moving,
and that requires something else that is not us,
in all that it may have.
If you think back to it,
Augustine has a wonderful moment in the Dei Trinitati where he says,
if you could only stop at that particular moment,
where the thought passes into another thought, then you'd see.
But at any rate, people don't usually do that.
So they often want to put something in between God.
And that's how you get a world of superior spiritual beings, I think.
Because, I don't think that's the only thing.
There probably are all kinds of things to do with connaturality,
I think about this.
Some of them may have to do with quite natural capacities.
I don't suppose I'm the only one in the room
who very frequently knows
when people whom I feel very close to are in trouble,
even if I'm a long way away from them,
even over the sea or over mountains.
I think this is probably quite a normal human capacity,
which people tend to deaden in a world in which they function very much,
in terms of their concrete things.
But some people might think that was done by angels, but no.
Would you see that as where analogy comes in,
where men need some way to comprehend that,
which is incomprehensible?
It seems to me, if you're going to have a God,
He's going to have to be greater than you,
greater than anything you could think of.
Exactly. He is. He is.
The only way you can know Him is by analogy.
So if I can reason, and God is greater than me,
then He has to Himself either be able to function on a super reason,
or even outside of that.
Yes, exactly. In other words, we're going to say that,
as indeed the New Testament says,
all things are possible for God.
They aren't for me, as you're saying.
But I think, really, if you like,
the way that the angel world comes in,
or the fairy world, or the world of Deprecordance,
whatever you choose to be,
is somehow the feeling of a need for explaining something
which doesn't necessarily go quite as far
as the rather big leap into God,
into the mystery of God,
that a long philosophical reflection does.
And some people feel content to deal with that,
to prepare the fairies,
by putting out a sauce of milk tonight.
Do you do that at night?
Two sauces.
That's your next safe one.
I think it's a good enough answer.
Don't you think it's sufficient
to explain, if you like, why this happens?
This is, of course, not in any way meant to be
a demonstration that angels really do exist,
because I think we are bound to think that they do.
Because it does appear that God does send messengers,
which is what the angels are,
what their name means, as Gregory the Great says
when he's talking about them,
the ones who are sent.
And he says, of course, they have only names
when they're doing things.
Because, if you like, he is again talking about the human end
which Peter is insisting on.
Sometimes we only know what has happened
by what it is that occurs.
We don't know anything more about them.
What Caper is doing when he's not coming to Our Lady
with the Annunciation, we don't know.
One thought that came to me is this word of Our Lord.
He said, I praise you, Heavenly Father,
because you have revealed this to the little ones,
that you have been fair and wise.
Yes, well, as you can see, that's also the kind of text
that's used sometimes for saying
we shouldn't hold the kind of discussion we've just held.
But you see, I suppose, what is the thing
is that by holding this discussion,
surely we've come back to defending the little ones.
Because it's the little ones
who haven't given away the simplicity of the child.
I think the most striking thing about the child
is if you're sitting with a child at a restaurant
and the child says, look at that lady with the funny hat,
you can always reassure him, the child is entirely right.
The hat is silly.
That sort of innocence which is capable of penetrating
through something which is not true,
which is absolutely bogus,
isn't that really why divine things
are available to the beautiful children?
Because they can easily see what is true.
And this is also in line with Peter's point.
We can easily believe in a God who is greater than we are.
What is not possible to believe in
is a God who is less than we are,
who is quite comprehensive.
We are happier in the world than we used to be.
Children always are.
They often feel it with their own imaginary people, of course.
Did you have an imaginary companion at all
when you were a child?
Some people do.
Andre Mourat was from Rosefather,
and there's a wonderful book called Mabe.
Do you ever read Mabe?
He talks about this,
about a sort of complete lair,
where children, especially learned children,
often do invent a deep world of their own to fill.
But then I think they're always capable
of defending the logic of that world.
In a curious kind of way,
I imagine Isaiah will be quite in touch with that too,
because he was interested in his
to an event that was in the family.
There is a kind of logic in the world
that children invent,
and they won't have anything bogus about it.
That's really what the Gospel is about.
The child sees through what's not really honest.
I think it wouldn't be honest
if we didn't just go away now
and say we're quite tired enough for today.
God bless you all.
Pray for me as I get through.
The quotations I shall be making from the sermon
are my own translation.
At least the portion of this little sermon
I should quote mentions the company
in which St Thomas was accustomed to move.
Denis, that mysterious Syrian writer of the 5th century,
Augustine, the Damascene as he calls him,
John of Damascus,
and Gregory the Great.
In relation to the last of those writers,
I may say that very few realise
how often St Thomas quotes Gregory the Great.
Especially in his section on morals in the sermon.
Very often when he wants to make a refinement,
because he wants to find an authority from the past
for making it,
he nearly always has to go to Gregory.
He was an extraordinarily reflective and perceptive,
intuitive person about human beings.
And so there's a very great deal.
If you look up the big Leudenia division,
where you've got all these sources analyzed,
you'll find that Gregory the Great
comes very close after Aristotle.
In the people quoted by St Thomas.
And Aristotle is generally called the philosopher,
as St Thomas called him.
Of course for St Thomas himself he was the primary one.
But here we have St Thomas' rather traditional sounding
first fruits as a young master.
Thou water'st the hills from thy upper rooms,
the earth shall be filled with the fruit of thy works.
From eternity the Lord King of heaven
made the law that the gifts of his providence
should reach lowly things through intermediate principles.
Wherefore Denys says this to be the holy law of divinity,
that they should be led by measured steps to divine light.
This law is developed in bodily
as well as in spiritual creatures.
On this point Augustine remarks
that just as the crasser and weaker bodies
are ruled by subtler and more potent bodies according to plan,
so are all bodies ruled by the rational spirit of life.
And therefore the psalm of our texts
sings this law,
observed in the communication of spiritual truth
through metaphors drawn from things of sense.
Thou water'st the earth from thy upper rooms.
So also from the heights of divine wisdom
are watered the minds of teachers,
signified by mountains.
And through their ministry divine wisdom
is shed on the minds of their hearers.
Let us consider four points in the text we have cited.
The height of spiritual doctrine
the dignity of its teachers
the condition of the hearers
and the method of communication.
The height is reckoned
by the words from his upper rooms.
The glass, and I showed you what that was two days ago,
a little marginal Bible with its annotation from the fathers,
a vast book of annotated scripture.
The glass says from his higher chambers.
Three comparisons may illustrate
how near theology is to the summit of knowledge.
First by its origin,
for this is the wisdom described as ascending from above.
Also the word of God on high is the fount of wisdom,
second because of the rarity of the air.
I dwelt in the highest places.
There are some heights of divine wisdom
to which all may climb, though with difficulty.
As Davison says, some knowledge of God's being
is naturally inborn.
I shall later suggest that there is,
in spite of what I have said earlier,
at least a sense in which St. Thomas
will continue to keep this view,
even in the summer.
Though it is one he does not feel very sympathetic towards.
Gregory the Great is mentioned a little later
where those of us who know him would expect to find him
when the dignity of the teachers is being discussed.
Accordingly, all teachers of holy writ
should stand out in virtue,
that they may be fitted to preach.
For as Gregory says, it must need be
that the teaching will be condemned
of those whose life is despised.
Well, with that little taste of his youth
and St. Thomas' beginnings,
I remind you that he had, of course,
behind him some years of teaching experience
before writing the prologue to the Summa Theologica.
The first question of which contains
so many points of general importance for us
that I am just going to consider it
in some detail with you in care.
And we are only just going to take
the very first article of it today
and the rest of it we'll look at tomorrow.
But I think the sort of thing he's doing here
is important for us to have a look at,
however we decide to shape our programme later.
Now perhaps I ought to say about
those of you who come to look at this,
as some of you will, I expect, in translation,
even if you can't see it in the divisional,
I ought to say about the layout of the Summa in general
that it's always referred to by question
or topic of discussion
and the subdivision of various aspects of the question
which are called articles.
So that, for instance, the bit I'm...
If you look this up in a book of reference,
you will see the bit I'm quoting today
is going to be called something that looks like
this Prima Pars, the first part,
and it's going to be Article 1.
It's going to be Question 1 of the Prima Pars
and Article 1 of that question.
You should see that it's got 10 articles.
I'm only going to talk about Number 1 today.
This structure is, of course, really based
on the public method of teaching in St Thomas' own day
whereby a master or teacher in theology
was faced with various queries
which would seem to raise a difficulty.
This is the sort of thing we do in this class
when we ventilate a subject later on.
The master would then give what was called
a determination.
That's how he exposes what is his position
on the question.
And then, when this appears in a book form,
you will find this as the body of the article,
a little solid bit in the middle,
and then to be followed by particular answers
to particular queries.
So, if you like, in a sort of planned way,
you can say what the average article
within a question will look like.
You'll get, shall we say,
one, two, three difficulties
about a particular point.
And then you'll get a swazio in between
which suggests that perhaps
there might be another point of view about this.
And then you'll get the master's answer
to what he thinks should be said on this subject
and then he will deal with
one, two and three
in three separate considerations
which sometimes will give you important modifications
about what he said in the main thing
and are very seldom to be overlooked.
One other extremely important point
about the printed editions,
even the best ones,
the so-called Leonine edition
in honour of Pope Leo XIII
who got it going as a project,
is that the titles in heavy type
above each question
are not the work of St Thomas.
In order to see what he intended you to see,
you must read the prologue each time.
There he gives a question of what he's going to do
in the question
and then he gives you what his queries are going to be
and sometimes you'll find they're not identical
and so you may find it's clearer
if you really look at what St Thomas himself wrote
rather than what later people thought he was thinking.
It's quite one's own difficulties about work
are quite bad enough
without having been made worse by other people's difficulties.
And so here is the prologue
to the Summa Theologica.
Since the teacher of Catholic truth
ought not only to instruct the advanced,
but it's also his business to educate beginners,
according to the apostolic word,
as babes in Christ have aided with milk,
not solid food,
in this work it is our purpose
to hand on things which pertain to the Christian religion
in the way suited to the training of beginners.
He continues by saying that
the trouble about most of the existing books
is they get involved in a lot of useless questions,
especially when instruction is given
in the form of a commentary on a book.
This is of course the way in which St Thomas
was really trying to escape
from some of the cumbersome ways of teaching.
We obviously all had too much lunch today.
And I'm afraid this is rather difficult to take
when one is feeling a little bit sleepy.
St Thomas was really making an effort
to get away from the rather cumbersome teaching
which would occur if you just simply
do what very often the masters in the schools were doing,
were taking a classical text
and simply commenting on it sentence by sentence.
I've seen some of these students' notes
in a place like Oxford
where we have many medieval manuscripts.
You can form a very good idea
of what students did in the way
of trying to take down the notes from the master.
And I've also seen sometimes
the notes taken down on me,
the result is often very terrifying,
both for the pupil and the master.
So St Thomas was really trying to eliminate this
by doing a very carefully planned scheme
which was not departing from
the substantial method of teaching
but at least clarifying each particular point.
And so he continues,
in an attempt to avoid these and similar difficulties,
we shall try, trusting in God's help,
to proceed briefly and clearly
with the things that are the subject of safe teaching
as the matter itself permits.
I shall try, of course,
to do the same with the same confidence
in these lectures,
though I believe that other times
and other thoughts positively compel us
to follow a slightly different course
in many different places.
And I still believe that the first question of the summer
does conveniently raise
some of the basic questions
which concern us here.
For as St Thomas' own prologue
to the first ten articles
of the first question says,
if we are to embrace our subject
within definite limits,
we must first look into the matter
of what sort of a thing
sacred teaching is.
What is it? What is it?
What kind of a thing?
What ground it covers?
And so he will ask about the need
to have this kind of teaching at all.
And he proceeds at once
to give two arguments
against this being necessary at all.
One from scripture
and the other from philosophy.
In this case, Aristotle,
in whom St Thomas had what for his day
was of course a pioneer interest.
Where for once,
Aristotle is sufficiently representative
of a fairly broad sweep of Greek philosophy.
The first quotation
comes from the book of Sirach,
chapter 3, verse 22,
where the whole sentence says,
as St Thomas' readers would know,
reflect upon what has been assigned to you,
for you do not need what is hidden.
Or if you prefer an older translation,
nearer to St Thomas' Latin,
seek not the things that are too high for you,
and search not into things above your ability.
It's the kind of argument
that people often use
against holding a class like this,
of course.
seek not the things
that are too high for you.
It's an argument that we more often
have to hear in the monastery,
whether this text is quoted or not.
And the philosophical argument
against having this kind of teaching at all
is from the metaphysics of Aristotle,
where it emerges, of course,
that theology
is that part of philosophy
which deals with the question of God.
So another treatment of this difficult matter
is not necessary,
in other words, we've already got one in philosophy.
That's to say, in other words,
obviously, if you're a philosopher,
you can have a God problem.
You don't have to be a theologian
to have a problem about whether
there is a God,
or whether anything sensible
can be said about him or not.
I think it's useful and time-saving thing
to say, in brackets at this point,
that a great deal of the first part of the Summa
is, in fact, devoted to questions
which may be, for some people at any rate,
obstacles to studying theology at all.
I would include in this connection
the so-called five ways
by which St. Thomas believes
that one concludes
that it is right to say
that God exists.
And we shall see some of his reserves
about this kind of question
in a moment or two.
I think that's the right way to formulate it.
Often you hear people talking about
the five proofs of the existence of God.
Thomas believes in no such thing.
He believes that there are five ways
in which you can show that it's true to say
that God exists,
which is rather different.
First of all, St. Thomas gives a suasion
in the opposite direction,
which always occurs under the heading
but to the contrary,
said contra, but on the contrary.
In this case, it's quotation
from the second letter to Timothy.
All Scripture is inspired by God
and profitable for teaching,
for reproof, for correction,
for training in righteousness.
But, St. Thomas comments,
it's not the business of the philosophical disciplines
which are devised by human reason
to treat of divinely inspired Scripture.
So it is useful,
beside the philosophical disciplines,
to have another kind of knowledge
divinely inspired.
So there you are,
you're moving across from the objections
through another text of Scripture
to what the master wants to say
in defense of his being there at all.
And this I'll do before we take our break.
So the master's main summary of his doctrine says,
I reply that we must say
it was necessary for human salvation
that there should be a science of divine revelation
beside the philosophical disciplines
which human reason can investigate.
In the first place,
because mankind is destined for God
as to a goal which exceeds the grasp of reasoning,
according to the word of Isaiah,
the gist of which occurs, of course,
in 1 Corinthians 2, verse 9,
I have not seen no God beside thee,
what things thou hast prepared for those that love thee.
Now, for human beings,
a goal needs to have been known in advance
if they are to direct their desires and their actions to it.
And this is why certain things
which are beyond human understanding
need to be made known by divine revelation
for the salvation of mankind.
Further, it was necessary that things about God
which cannot be discovered by human reasoning
should be presented to mankind by divine revelation.
For the truth about God
which can be discovered by human reason
by a few people
reaches mankind over a long period of time
with an admixture of error.
Yet upon the knowledge of this truth
depends the whole salvation of human beings
and is in God.
Thus, for salvation to come to human beings more easily
and with greater certainty,
it was necessary that they should be instructed
about divine things by divine revelation.
This is why it was necessary to have a holy teaching
dependent upon revelation
in addition to the philosophical disciplines
which are studied by reason.
This second point is one which St. Thomas very frequently makes.
He makes it very elaborately, in fact,
in the Summa Conscientia Antilles,
which I mentioned earlier, the anti-Islamic book.
And it's one which we all of us know very well.
In some ways, of course,
we are very privileged to have the time
to be able to do something like this.
And it is, in fact, the case
that most human beings
are in the middle of their afternoon's work.
But if it is true
that knowledge of divine things
is necessary for all men,
there must be
organized knowledge
which can be communicated
to others
who haven't got this kind of leisure.
And since God has given us revelation
in addition to what we could discover by reason,
and St. Thomas does very often elaborate
all the complexities of doing this kind of work.
You might be married, you might have a job,
and all sorts of other things.
Children might be shouting at the tops of their voices,
and so on.
So, very, very few people...
He says, even those things which you can see,
in principle,
not everybody will, in fact, see.
So you do need somebody
to tell you what they are.
To the two initial difficulties raised,
St. Thomas replies that to the first
it must be said that although
the things which are above human knowledge
cannot be discovered by human beings through reasoning,
they are nevertheless revealed
by a God to be received in faith.
This is why
it's not enough to say,
don't look to things that are too high for you,
because the next sentence says,
as he quite rightly quotes,
Matters too great
for human understanding
have been shown to you.
And holy teaching
is exactly this kind of thing.
So don't tell me
this is not for ordinary chaps,
because if it's revelation
intended for all mankind,
then we need to know about it.
And to the second difficulty,
he says that,
namely that,
there is already a part of philosophy
which deals with the problem of God,
so we don't need another one.
He says the different modes of understanding
lead to different systems of knowledge.
For instance,
that the earth is round
is a conclusion reached by the astrologer
and the specialist in natural sciences.
But the astrologer
does it by mathematics,
which is an abstract subject,
and the naturalist by considering
the nature of matter.
Thus there is no reason
why the same things which the philosophical
distance has studied,
insofar as they can be known by the light of natural reason,
should not be discussed
by another science,
by the light of divine revelation.
So the theology
which pertains to holy teaching
differs in kind
from that theology
which is taken to be a part of philosophy.
I suppose there are several points
we ought to notice about this
way of
situating theology.
Perhaps first that,
evidently, starting from the proposition,
presupposition, that there
are not, as it were, two worlds
interpenetrating each other,
theology here being spoken of
is not being centred primarily on the mystery
of Christ, but on the mystery of God.
Which becomes, at least in a large number of matters,
common ground for the philosopher
and the theologian.
As I've said, you can
obviously, if you're going to have a great body
philosophical discussion,
it may very well include a section
about God.
Even if it reaches a negative conclusion
that there is no God.
At least there'll be a theology.
Many philosophers have
really thought about the problem of God quite a lot.
And St Thomas is really saying
that it's not as though
what we're doing here,
when we're trying to study theology
in the proper sense of the word,
in the Christian sense of the word,
we're doing the same thing
as the philosopher is doing when he's got a God problem.
We're doing this because, in fact,
we have
the waters come down from the mountains.
Because we've got
the divine revelation,
and this is our, as we saw
in the Council, this is the
starting point
of our theology.
In other words,
St Thomas is insisting
if you call this theology, which you could,
these two are
different in kind,
because this one depends on reason
It doesn't mean to say we're not going to use reason
in theology.
But everything that the
philosopher is going to say about God,
he's got to be able to derive
from his own arguments.
This kind of theology
we're doing here,
has got God
behind it.
So this is different in kind.
That's why he compares it with the other
sciences, when he says, for instance,
you may have,
for instance, for
medieval music,
shall we say,
as a subject,
which depends on mathematics.
Which it takes,
where it gets its primary information
from, rhythms and things and so on,
which can be measured.
We don't think of music in that
kind of way, but
that's what's said.
And you can see,
the general principle of the thing is simply
to say, well, we really have got a special
body of matter here,
and the speciality about it is that it's
revealed by
I think we're going to come back again
to finish with the last few reflections
I'd like to make on this, because I think
we rather need a break at this moment,
all of us,
to get out and fresh air.
Because as it was a feast day,
and we had a rather good lunch,
then we're obviously still digesting it.
So let's just have a brief
break, and we'll come back
in ten minutes' time.
Well, I'm sure our lady
would crave this today,
because it was her feast day after all,
and I think we all enjoyed the liturgy
very much indeed.
And I suppose the lunch was part of the
liturgy of the day.
If we were a bit tired,
it'll certainly be excused.
The thought which occurred to me,
which I didn't actually,
I didn't actually finish all I'd written
about this lecture, because
it occurred to me,
just thinking about
the sort of things St. Thomas was saying
here, something which I think
has a contemporary interest for
many of us,
even if it isn't personal to us.
We may meet people coming to the monastery
for whom it is a personal question.
I think that
you can see that
St. Thomas is very concerned
to make a very
clear distinction, which I think
we need to keep in our own minds,
that sort of
discipline which could be
called theological, which is
primarily based on
philosophical principles,
and that
sort of theology proper,
which is what we're supposed to be doing here,
which is really
and dealing with divine
And so it's different in kind.
We don't really need
to understand the theory
of the vision of the sciences,
which St. Thomas was
common, as St. Thomas as well is,
in terms of that.
He had to try to explain it, of course.
Do you find that difficult, Mark?
It isn't really too difficult.
I don't think we need to.
I needn't tell you much about that,
in order to make that clear.
It seems to me that, even in modern terms,
we can see that there
must be two different kinds
of bodies of knowledge,
if you're going to use revelation
as the basis of what you talk about.
When you
talked about that,
some of us had a class
when his father
met Torpey,
and he talked about different blackboards
in terms of different
ways of looking at
one particular thing.
We look at it through the
blackboard of philosophical
theology, or we look at it on the
blackboard of revelation.
As long as I think one
does get quite clear that really,
of course, the ground covered
is not necessarily the same.
And that's to say
that sometimes, of course,
you're going to have to at least mention
or presume, in some way,
something which
can be philosophically
demonstrated, at least by some
people. I think, you see,
Thomas is making two quite
special points. And one of them is that, first of all,
if it were going to be
philosophical, anyway,
only a very small section of the human
race would ever get to know about it.
So there is a need to have
something like this.
At the same time,
I can't help feeling that nowadays
for instance, in the Summa
Continentales, which is the Summa
written against Islam,
it's difficult to
escape the feeling that St. Thomas is
more concerned with the fact that so few
have the time or capacity to penetrate
the mystery of God by reflection.
for someone like me, and I may not be
the only one in the room, who has tried
several times to look into what we can
know of the problems faced by Buddha,
I've had to do this
partly out of interest of my own
in the earlier stage, and partly because
I was eventually,
while I was in Norway,
asked to give
a series of discussions on the
great world religions, and so I had to
try and give an honest picture of Buddhism.
And it does seem
to me that
it's tempting to think
that the sort of thing that
St. Thomas is here using
in the
philosophical part of his work
is exactly the
kind of thing which persuaded the Buddha to leave
these questions aside.
In other words, it seems to me
more probable that Buddha was an agnostic
rather than an atheist. I mean, he does
seem to be, I think he may
very well have thought, you know, this is
all too difficult.
We can leave this aside.
I'm not, of course, saying that
St. Thomas was an agnostic,
either the theologian or the philosopher,
I don't think he was.
But I am saying that I feel a little
concern that he does appear,
doesn't appear to be showing, at least at this
point, why we should be
Christian theologians.
And this is
something I'm going to come back to.
although you can see that
the Summa is going
to contain a whole section
on Christ, and of course it's
very soon in the first part
the Trinity is going to be discussed and so on.
At any rate, you don't
have quite the same feeling
as you have in John of Damascus, that
is the gateway,
the door into the mystery of God.
And in fact,
if you're going to learn
about Christian theology from the Summa,
you're going to have to wait a very long time
before you get to the third part.
Before this matter, in other words,
is going to be brought explicitly into focus.
As I say,
please don't misunderstand me
in saying this, but it's one of the ways
in which I think you might feel some reserve
about this way.
Let's say it's one of the reasons
why I don't think it's very satisfactory
for a modern student only
read St. Thomas by himself.
Mercifully, nowadays, at least he might be able
to do that instead of reading St. Thomas
through other people's eyes, which is
mostly the way I was taught.
And sometimes
a very strange interpretation
which I'm quite sure St. Thomas wouldn't have
understood or certainly
wouldn't have agreed with.
But, I suppose,
if you'd like me to put
what I might say about this first
if I'd been a Muslim,
I should say,
why on earth shouldn't I take the Koran
as my sacred book?
You might think about that a bit.
Do you see why I say that?
I mean, that's to say,
if we take the divisions
we've had on the board here,
in other words, a theology
which is based on revelation
and a theology based on
well, the Koran makes
claim to be a revelation.
What are you going to say
to that?
Well, I quoted something
from Fr. Morty yesterday,
which is,
I think, part of
the answer, and we've
repeated it again today, that
really, Christian
theology is
first of all the encounter with Christ as a person,
and the Koran
is specifically a written book
by a specific man,
and is the
foundation of Islam.
It is actually a very, very fascinating book
indeed. If you've never looked
at it, you should now, because I'm done.
One of the chapters,
especially the chapter, Light over Light,
is very like something St. Gregory the Great
says at some point in Moroni.
But I think
this is, if you like, a kind of private
problem, which I just kind of put to you.
It's something that I think I'm going to
try to keep before us.
Later on,
when we're
trying to think about Christian
you can see that
the first
really big theological
books are all going to be concentrated on
the person of Christ, and of course the first
great theological
consciences are going to be about the person
of Christ.
So that
Christian theology is very, very
And the very
big proportion of this, as I say, I think
the fairest and brightest way to see the
large amount of the first part
of the sermon, which is devoted to the discussion
of God,
and let's say, if you like,
there are two, I suppose we could say,
if they, it's the kind of thing
the Orthodox, especially the more
bigoted kind of Orthodox,
they have to hold against the West,
is that we start, if you like,
with God
as one, and then
talk about Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
the East
has preserved the tradition
that we know about the
Father through the Son,
and the
Holy Spirit is the gift
of the
after the
ascension of the Son.
Which means to say, in other words,
you have to think about your
Trinitarian theology
a rather different way.
Do you see that?
Does anybody not see that?
You can see that, as I say,
by having,
by positing
what is a perfectly genuine
problem for us, after all,
we're going to confront very many people
for whom God will seem
to be primarily a philosophical problem.
we're going to have to confront the fact
that in order to be a
living Christian, you have to have
some conception of revelation.
this is an easier thing to defend
in terms of the New Testament
than this one is.
He who
sees me, sees the Father.
All those things that
our Lord says.
So that
if you start with a big monotheism
then you have to show
how to talk about
three persons.
You've got
what becomes to be the same problem,
but his problem
is posed in a different manner.
Do you see what I mean?
Well, I don't want to give you my difference,
what are yours?
I wonder.
Ken, do you see
the point I'm making?
Yeah, I think I do.
My question is,
do they speak of the Holy Trinity?
How can I speak?
Yes, indeed.
because you have to.
In other words,
you start
very much
the picture of
our Lord as the person
we are confronted with,
who leads us to the Father,
who sends us
the Holy Spirit,
teach us
as, indeed,
Christ promised at the Last Supper,
those things which we need to remember
about faith.
One seems to be more based on
man's view of God, or man's concept of God,
and the other, God
as he tells us about himself
in the Scriptures.
Yes, that's true.
I'm glad to see that you see this.
It is an embarrassment, if you like,
I think, and
I don't see why
we should feel really compelled to
choose. I mean, I think that sometimes
the Orthodox have to make
too exaggerated a claim
for the superiority
of their approach to things.
But I think most of us
in this particular
period feel more sympathetic
with this one, because
it's the way in which we are
confronted with it in Revelation.
We're confronted with it in
the personal teaching of Christ,
who shows us the way to the Father,
and who tells us
in his Last Supper discourse in
St. John, that the Spirit will
be sent to teach us
and bring to remembrance all the things we need
to know.
Whereas this one is very
strongly influenced
by, although it is
it's the one who is speaking to Moses.
At the same time,
there is something which is much closer
to a philosophical conception of
one God, one mystery
behind it.
That's what you're saying,
isn't it? Yes.
I think you've got it. You see it
that it is different.
It's just a question of...
I think it's primarily a Christian
method. I mean, I don't think
that the Orthodox are right to make
an issue of the filioque.
As you know,
as a matter of fact,
Professor Pelican,
in his history of the Christian
tradition, says that it's mainly
through Augustine, who simply
said that the
Spirit proceeds from the Father
and the Son,
and that the West
tended to want to defend
this position.
Of course,
in fact, the East don't deny
that the Spirit
can also be sent by the Son.
But I think,
if you like, the approach to theology,
this being much more
Christocentric than the other one,
is clearly the case, and the shape
of the Summa does
bring that out, I think, just as the
day-feeding Orthodox.
Which has, after all,
they've got a great deal in common.
They're going to have to
discuss the same kind of concepts,
because they're both dealing
with a tradition, which
uses hypostases
and substance
and person and individual,
and so on. Those things have got
to be talked about. They are unavoidable
somehow or other.
it is a different picture,
and it's much more,
even in St. John's version,
which is really much more untidy
than St. Thomas's,
it has an extraordinary clarity
about it, as I think we'll see
as we go on tomorrow.
Tomorrow is Friday.
I promise you it will be
my most difficult day,
but I don't think it will be as difficult as all that
we've got through today.
Is there anybody
who can't really feel
this is unavoidable?
It seems to me, if you like,
that if we're going to be
trained with theologians,
we simply have to be able
to say
in what way
our faith is different
from their philosophy.
We really do have to say that.
And it seems to me this is the way
in which this particular question of Summa
is a clearly necessary one.
We have to be aware
of the fact that we are
committed by our faith
to defending
a divine revelation.
As I say,
the documents of the Church
and the New Testament
itself make clear that this
divine revelation
has a certain element of ambiguity
about it when we use this word
because it is a
confrontation with the person of the word
and not just the spoken word.
Do you see a problem
here, John Baptiste, which I'm not seeing?
Lauren, what do you feel
about this?
It's obviously difficult to have
to face this, but I think somehow
we can't quite get ourselves off
We don't have to know very much philosophy
in order to see that it would be.
In fact, we are bound
actually by
something from Revelation
by the text
beginning near the beginning
of the letter to the Romans
to believe that it is possible
to conclude
that God exists
from the observance
of the world of nature.
In other words, even our Revelation
connects us to believing that
there could be.
I think it's highly significant
that neither Vatican I nor Vatican II
said how you can actually do it.
None of them
in fact presented Thomas' five ways
although sometimes
introductions to the Catholic faith
sometimes presented Thomas' five ways
as exactly as though
they had a kind of
infallibility about them
which certainly isn't
But they don't themselves, they do not prove
that God exists.
There are analytical arguments that
show that it can be argued that he exists
if he exists.
Thank you Peter. This is a very very important point.
It's one which I think seems to me
was not sufficiently clearly said
when I myself
was being taught.
Sometimes the arguments
were presented exactly as though
somehow you suddenly
almost see God
when you get to the end of the argument. That's not true.
What Thomas says
is that these conclude
to the proposition
that it's true to say that God is.
But then you are left out
in the mystery of God.
This somewhat
he says is what all men
call God.
I remember once being called in
by one of my Norwegian students. He was holding a
philosophy class and talking a bit
about St. Thomas
and got him rather affixed when he got to this point.
He said, will you come, please come
and talk to my class about this.
And what Jacob,
my dear friend to whom I dedicated
my last book, a very
charming person,
made very honest
to present this
very well.
And what Jacob hadn't quite grasped
is this.
For instance, if you take the argument from
A causes
A causes B
B causes C
C causes D
and so on.
St. Thomas' argument
is going to be that
if you go on indefinitely along a chain
like this, you can go on forever.
There is an infinite regress.
So what the argument concludes
to is, there must be
something which is outside this chain.
In other words, there is a cause which is
In other words, it isn't really
true that the argument
goes from A to Z because
Z is still on the same line.
What the argument concludes
to is that it goes up to
R, if you like, or whatever
you call it. This is what we call R.
You see
how we got there?
Can I ask, Father, though,
can the two views
complement one another? I mean, do we necessarily
have to take one over the other? It seems
to me that if the philosophy
is an enlightened one, insofar as it is enlightened,
it really can
get one closer to the
truth of God.
Yes, I suppose
in a certain way, if you like,
I think you're raising something which
is important.
I believe it's important for all the great
theologians. I think you'll feel it
in Athanasius when we're talking about him
on Saturday.
Very strongly.
I think all the great theologians feel
very strongly that
truth, wherever you meet it,
is going to have something of God
about it. And if you like, I'm sure
you're right, there's a complement.
If you can do this,
if you can
produce a philosophical
argument which convinces you that
it's true to say that God is,
well, all right, you do it.
I don't happen to work that way, but
most people don't.
I was thinking more of the Western and Eastern views.
I was back on that.
Whatever man can know about God
from his own...
Yes, well, you see, I don't
think, after all,
the fountain of knowledge does contain a very long
philosophical section.
And I say, although it's clearly, clearly
anticipating what it's going to have to say
about Christ, right from the beginning,
that commands a philosophical
isn't it?