January 28, 2008

Thomas Aquinas and Scholasticism

Thomas Aquinas is part of our church heritage and we live in a world that has been changed by his work. I only choose to remember him because he was instrumental in bringing in the Age of Scholasticism. The Church didn't accept his contributions for 50 years. Opponents worried that reason would undermine faith. His teacher who outlived him, Albertus Magnus, defended his writings until the Church made Aquinas a Doctor of the Church.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), was born of Italian nobility and lived during the Reformation - of both Protestantism and the Catholic Church. He lived at a critical juncture following the Dark Ages when so many original writings were being found and able to be printed for the masses to read, including the works of Aristotle. Aquinas is mainly known for combining faith and reason - showing them as complementary gifts from God. This is an era when universities were being founded.

Thomas Aquinas was a philosopher theologian (I personally don't separate the two). His magnum opus, most noted writing, was Summa Theologica, or 'summary of theology'.

But ... I have some quotes from him that show the "scientific" thoughts of the day
about women. There was this "liquid theory" in relation to females. "Because there is a higher water content in women, they are more easily seduced by sexual pleasure" ... They maintained that frequent intercourse (pointing out that man "shared with beasts") could lead to sickness, body odor, baldness, and could cause one's brain to shrink to the size of a pomegranate ... "Only as regard nature in the individual is the female something defective and misbegotten. For the active power in the seed of the male tends to produce something like itself, perfect in masculinity; but the procreation of a female is the result either of the debility of active power, of some unsuitability of the material, or of some change effected by external influences, like the south wind, for example, which is damp, as we are told by Aristotle." Being a female, I take offense, and also wonder at their ignorance. But that was a long time ago.

But too, it could be his personal dim view of the Fair Sex was brought on by his family's disapproval of his choice to join the Dominicans. They locked him in the tower of the family castle for a year, and his brothers sent a naked prostitute up to his room. Thomas seized a firebrand and drove the hussy from his chamber - whereafter he had a vision of two angels wrapping his loins in a girdle - and he was never troubled with temptations against purity.

I hate to throw this into what started out as a great treatise on a great man. But it's odd things like this that add realness
for me into all the hagiography. Rather than putting people on pedestals I prefer to remember we all wear underwear (someone will probably email me saying they don't wear underwear - that's not the point!)

So if I distracted you ... just remember there was an Age of Scholasticism.

He also said, "How can we live in harmony? First we need to know we are all madly in love with the same God." I wish we all could come to this place.
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