by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB
When Lonergan speaks about judgment in terms of affirmation and negation (one affirms, for instance, that something is so or one affirms that something is not so), he speaks differently from Aquinas who had tended to speak about judgment in terms of notions which refer to composition and division (compositio et divisio). Cf. Giovanni B. Sala, “Intentionality versus Intuition,” Lonergan and Kant: Five Essays on Human Knowledge, trans. Joseph Spoerl, ed. Robert M. Doran (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994), p. 101. As Aquinas, for example, speaks about two basic operations of the human intellect (which is his way of speaking about the structure of human understanding), in the Super Boetium De Trinitate, q. 5, a. 3, he says as follows:
The intellect has two operations, one called the “understanding of indivisibles,” by which it knows what a thing is; and another by which it composes and divides, that is to say, by forming affirmative and negative enunciations. Now these two operations correspond to two principles in things. The first operation has regard to the nature itself of a thing, in virtue of which the known thing holds a certain rank among beings, whether it be a complete thing, as some whole, or an incomplete thing, as a part or an accident. The second operation has regard to a things’s act of existing (esse), which results from the union of the principles of a thing in composite substances, or, as in the case of simple substances, accompanies the thing’s simple nature.
In his St. Thomas Aquinas Philosophical Texts (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960), p. 221, n. 604 , Thomas Gilby translates this same text as follows:
Of the two phases of mental activity, the first is the understanding of essential meanings, while the second is a judgment, either affirmative or negative. A dual reality corresponds to these activities: to the former corresponds the nature of a thing, according to its state of being, complete or incomplete, part or accident, as the case may be; to the latter corresponds the existence of the thing.
However, in turning to Lonergan, one finds an account which clearly distinguishes between a synthetic element which always exists in any given judgment and a process or act of affirming or denying a proposed synthesis in a given judgment–a synthesis which has already been understood or grasped by prior acts of understanding before questions later arise which ask about the truth or falsity of one’s prior act of understanding. Cf. Lonergan, Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, pp. 62-63. When Aquinas uses the language of Aristotle to speak about judgment, an initial meaning which is communicated suggests that every judgment creates or discovers a synthesis or relation which, before, had not been known or experienced as a rational possibility. But, when Lonergan speaks about the difference between acts of direct understanding and acts of reflective understanding, he speaks about judgment in a manner which gives to it a more precise, a more specific meaning. Acts of direct understanding as acts of understanding reveal or present connections or relations between things that are not sensed but which are understood within one’s acts of understanding. In every act of abstractive understanding, one can speak about a mental synthesis which reveals itself. Cf. Verbum, p. 63. But later, through a judgment as an act of reflective understanding, a connection which has been understood and which is first inwardly postulated within one’s act of understanding is either affirmed or posited or, on the other hand, it can be denied or negated. In every affirmative judgment, a synthesis which is first given in an idea and as an idea is taken and then, through one’s discursive self-reflection which goes back and attends to what one has done in one’s thinking and understanding, this synthesis is converted into a rationally known truth or a rationally known fact. Through the truth which is affirmed, a person as a knower is then joined to a world of real objects.
Hence, through a differentiation which Lonergan introduces into how Aquinas speaks about the nature of human understanding (through a differentiation which is introduced into Aquinas’s understanding of judgement), in his theology of God Lonergan is able to say that God is not simply ipsum intelligere (Intelligence itself or Understanding itself). Cf. The Triune God: Systematics, p. 187. It is true, of course, to say that God is ipsum intelligere. He is the source of all understanding as an unrestricted uncreated act of understanding from which all else comes and flows. However, if understanding properly exists as a rational positing or as a rational affirmation of intelligible relations, one can speak of God not only as ipsum intelligere but also as ipsum affirmare (as an unrestricted act of affirming or as an unrestricted act of judging). To speak of God as the highest being, the highest truth, and the highest good means that one can speak of him as an unrestricted act of understanding (an unrestricted act of meaning), as an unrestricted act of judging, and as an unrestricted act of loving. The meaning, the truth, and the goodness all exists supremely in God–God as an pure act (actus purus) whose lack of potentiality is such that it is wholly lacking in any restrictions or limitations.
by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB
For an initial understanding about what is meant by a “transposition of meaning,” as Matthew Lamb argues in “Lonergan’s Transpositions of Augustine and Aquinas: Exploratory Suggestions,” The Importance of Insight Essays in Honour of Michael Vertin, pp. 3-21, it is one thing to understand or to come to grips with a theological understanding which had been enjoyed by someone like Augustine or Aquinas and which they had spoken about within an earlier context of meaning. But, after one has truly and properly understood what another has understood and said, one must then find a way to take this same understanding and bring it into a new context of meaning–a new, broader context of meaning which is the result of later achievements in the history of science and philosophy. By means of what is new, one takes the old and raises it to a greater degree of perfection. As Pope Leo XIII had urged in his encyclical Aeterni Patris: Vetera novis augere et perficere. Augment and perfect the old by what is new.
Turning then to how Lonergan speaks about the existence of more than one kind of intellectual emanation within God, Lonergan opens an initial argument by moving from the created order of things to the uncreated order of things. By a positive or affirmative analogy, he moves from created acts of understanding, knowing, and willing to the reasonableness of concluding that, in God, understanding, knowing, and willing must exist to an extraordinary degree. If, among human beings (and angels), understanding, knowing, and willing exist in a self-transcending manner as spiritual acts, to an even greater degree, such things (these acts) must exist in God (God as the creator and ultimate source of all understanding, knowing, and willing). For this reason, as Lonergan argues in his The Triune God: Systematics, we can speak of God as an unrestricted act of understanding, or as an unrestricted act of knowing, or as an unrestricted act of loving and doing. The infinity of each act explains why each species of act includes the other species. From an explanatory viewpoint (or, in other words, from a divine point of view), only a conceptual distinction exists between these different kinds of acts in God.
However, as one attends to a close reading of Lonergan’s argument and at how he applies his analogy and speaks about it, one finds a juxtaposition of words and meanings which suggests that, to some extent, Lonergan is attempting to introduce a transposition of meaning in his discussion. With respect to how Lonergan speaks about God in terms of understanding, knowing, and willing, he juxtaposes (to some extent) a traditional way of speaking about God with a manner which directly and more properly comes from his analysis of the structure of human cognition. As Aquinas had spoken about God in the language which he uses, God exists as a totally self-subsistent being, as pure act (actus purus), or pure being (esse tantum), or as being itself (ipsum esse). No other being is more fully in act. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 25, a. 1. Being by participation is sharply distinguished from simple being (being per se), or being by nature or essence which only belongs to God as a being whose essence is simply to be or to exist (in contrast with the essence of every other being whose essence is not simply to be but to participate in some limited way in the act of being or existence which is God). As Aquinas also notes, as subsistent understanding or understanding itself, God is ipsum intelligere. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 54, aa. 1-3. By and through His understanding, God exists in His being. Cf. De Malo, p. 16, a. 3. God confers being or existence on all other things. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 44, a. 1. Hence, and as Lonergan repeats, it can be said that God is truth or reality itself. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 16, a. 5. God’s existence as a disembodied, disincarnate form (which is to be equated with an unrestricted act of understanding) precludes the possibility or need for any kind of existence which must exist or rely in anything else. Cf. De Veritate, q. 21, a. 5. The self-subsistence is entirely absolute and not relative in any way since, as other things emerge and relate to God and as they depend for Him for their own being and existence, in no way does God depend on them for anything which could be needed by him. Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 18, 2; 2, 18, 4; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 3, a. 7.
However, from a Thomist understanding and insight which speaks about God as pure act or as an unrestricted act of understanding and loving, Lonergan is able to speak about God in a more fully differentiated manner–in a manner which speaks about acts by way of acts of understanding, affirming, and loving. God as intelligibility is an unrestricted act of understanding. God as truth is an unrestricted act of judging or affirming. God as love is an unrestricted act of loving. As we accordingly distinguish between different kinds of intellectual emanation which exist within ourselves (our souls), we can then think about the question of emanations in God. Yes, God is one. God exists, in himself, as an unrestricted act of understanding which, in its infinity and perfection, encompasses every kind of proceeding or emanation that can exist. Everything unfolds from within. In turning to our human experience, we are aware of inner words which proceed from prior acts of understanding (be they acts of direct understanding or acts of reflective understanding) and we are also aware of acts of willing or doing which also proceed or emanate from prior acts of understanding as these exist within moral deliberation. However, as Lonergan argues, these different emanations all exist in a relation with each other which points to an unmistakable, fundamental unity. As much as real distinctions exist among these different emanations, each emanation exists in a manner which naturally either elicits the need for another species of emanation or which points to the necessity and value of having earlier, prior emanations. The proceeding of an inner word from a prior act of direct understanding elicits a desire and need for a second form of proceeding which is the emanation of an inner word of judgment from a prior act of reflective understanding. But, as understanding and knowing lead to loving and doing, the proceeding of any act of willing or doing from a prior act of reflective understanding in ethics not only presupposes a proximate act of reflective understanding about goodness or value but, at the same time, this same emanation also presupposes prior, earlier emanations with respect to truths of fact and being which refer to a world that is always the context of our moral deliberation.
In adverting thus to truths of faith which speak about a coming or a proceeding of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and in also adverting to different kinds of proceeding which exist in our own souls, in this way, we can think about the possible existence of more than one emanation in God. We can think about two basic species of emanation. One refers to the proceeding of an inner word from an act of understanding (whether the act of understanding is an act of direct understanding or an act of reflective understanding). The other refers to a movement which shifts from understanding and knowing to an expression or communication that exists in willing and doing. In some mysterious way, one can think about two possible emanations which exist within God–two emanations which do not contradict with each other as love naturally and rationally emerges from understanding and as understanding also naturally and rationally arises from the kind of love which exists in any desires that yearn for understanding. Because of mutual or reciprocal relation which exists within human subjectivity as regards how our understanding and knowing relate to our desiring, loving, and willing, in an analogical way, one can think about the kind of unity which must exist in God with respect to how divine understanding is related to divine willing. A perfect unity can be thought about. It can be conceived by us though, truly, it cannot also be imagined by us. Within this context, two emanations can be conceived: the proceeding of God as Word and the proceeding of God as Love. In a very real sense, no emanation can exist without the other. Always, where there is the proceeding of a Word (an inner Word), a proceeding of Love exists and where there is the proceeding of Love, the proceeding of an inner Word also exists. As Lonergan concludes his argument here: “…two divine processions…can be conceived through the likeness of intellectual emanation.” Cf. Triune God: Systematics, p. 189.
by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB In Lonergan’s theology of the Trinity as this is given in his The Triune God: Systematics, Lonergan postulates explanatory principles (as needed) in order to move toward richer experiences of meaning with respect to how the God of Christian belief is to be conceived and understood. If one can postulate an explanatory principle which allows one to apprehend a larger number of connections, a dogma of faith becomes more fully known with respect to its intrinsic meaningfulness. A truth by meaning acts within a person’s soul to effect a change in consciousness (which becomes a change in one’s life and how one lives one’s life). From a standpoint which is grounded in an interiority analysis of human subjectivity, Lonergan proposes that one can speak about an intellectual emanation within God if one supposes that God is conscious. As Aquinas had noted in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 18, a. 3, God has life “in the most perfect degree” by existing as an act of understanding. Nobody or nothing is more alive or more present to itself than God. God is intellectually conscious as an unrestricted act of understanding and, because this is so, it is not possible to conceive about how God can exist as an unrestricted act of understanding and, at the same time, not be aware of himself as someone who is existing as an unrestricted act of understanding. In lacking organs and acts of sense, it cannot be said that God is sensibly conscious. He cannot be conscious in a way which is determined by any act of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling. However, from a degree of self-knowledge that we have achieved–a degree which tells us that intellectual consciousness is specified or determined according to what kinds of intellectual act we are presently engaged in–on the basis of this principle, we can say about God’s intellectual consciousness that it is determined by only one act. From God’s perfect unity and utter simplicity (a simplicity that we have no direct experience of but to which we may conclude), with respect to God, we can say of him that he exists as an unrestricted act of understanding. No real distinction exists between his existence as an unrestricted act of understanding and the existence of intellectual consciousness in God. The two are identical. However, with respect to God’s existence as an unrestricted act of understanding, the unrestrictedness of this act, at the same time, also clearly suggests that it is an indeterminate act, i.e., it is whollly lacking in any restrictions or limitations (as an essentially reasonable, rational act). An infiniteness exists with respect to it, and this infiniteness or lack of restriction leads one to conclude that it possesses an inherent boundlessness. In the kind of language which Lonergan uses, God is inherently dynamic. Cf. Lonergan, Triune God: Systematics, p. 163. The lack of restriction suggests a degree and level of activity which can only belong to God and to no other being, i.e., no other subject. And so, we can say about God that God’s activity is always full and complete. There is nothing potential in it. There is nothing to be realized, nothing more to be done. Everything is always fully in act. As Aquinas had put it, God is pure act (actus purus). Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 14, a. 2. He understands everything about everything in an understanding and knowledge of self that, as dynamic, is to be perfectly identified with the unrestrictedness of God’s willing, doing, and causing. From the boundlessness of God’s understanding comes an understanding on our part that acknowledges a fittingness for the existence of emanations or processions within divine understanding (where one thing comes from another), a fittingness which Lonergan refers to as a “conscious exigence.” Something about the nature of divine understanding (in its infinity) suggests that intellectual emanations should exist within it although in a manner which should exist in a perfectly natural way (in a manner which is wholly proper to God). From the boundlessness or the essential dynamism of divine understanding, Lonergan then concludes that one can move from the unrestrictedness or infinity of God’s understanding to an understanding which can grasp how God’s understanding can be understood as a point of origin: as an “originating act.” Between an infinite act and an originating act in God only a conceptual distinction can be postulated and affirmed since, as has been noted, divine understanding is perfectly simple and one in itself. An infinite act cannot really differ from an originating act. But, on the other hand, to understand why the infinity of God’s understanding can be understood as an originating act (an originating act of understanding), one can refer to a datum of human consciousness which refers to our human self-consciousness and the knowing about knowing which exists in our self-consciousness. And so, with reference to God as an unrestricted act of understanding, a consciousness of self cannot but also exist in God’s unrestricted act of understanding since, in the unrestrictedness of his understanding, God cannot be unaware of the knowledge which God has of himself and of the unrestrictedness which exists in his divine understanding. In divine self-consciousness, in divine self-understanding, and in divine self-knowledge, an infinite knowing exists about an infinite knowing. The infinity of God’s understanding includes an infinity which refers to divine self-understanding and which is rooted in divine self-understanding. And so, when we advert to divine self-understanding and as we think about God’s self-knowledge (as much as this self-knowledge is unequivocally perfectly united with God’s being as an unrestricted act of understanding), we have a principle that can be used to help us understand how or why God’s existence as an infinite act of understanding can also be understood as an originating act of understanding–an origination act which exists as a first, most basic principle from which other things follow in a sequence which emanates but which is not caused (given that what is being emanated, in its infinity, possesses a status that is no less than the infinity of what is emanating in an originating act). In divine self-consciousness, an originating always already exists. It is already, constantly occurring. Everything else comes from it. With respect thus to how one might attempt to think about the possible existence of intellectual emanations within God, by attending to what Aquinas has to say about the subject, one finds two things. First, in Aquinas, an analogical explanation also speaks about God in terms of God’s existence as an act of understanding and the perfect kind of self-knowledge which exists in God. One understands something about the origins and provenance of Lonergan’s discussion even if one finds that Aquinas prefers to speak of movements within divine understanding in a manner which prefers a metaphysical form of expression and less a form of expression that refers to inner experiences of conscious acts. As Aquinas argues, for instance, about God’s self-knowledge (in different texts): what is understood in God’s act of understanding is the same as God’s act of understanding and, since God’s being is to be equated with God (existing as an act of understanding), God’s understanding is engaged essentially in self-understanding or self-knowing. See Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, 1, 48; Sententia super Metaphysicam, 12, 11, 2613; 2617; 2620; and Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 14, a. 2. Self-understanding accordingly exists as a fecund first principle from which everything else comes by way of sequences but not as effects. In the language that Aquinas uses, in or from God’s perfect self-understanding comes a perfect divine self-movement which is strictly internal. In Aquinas’s wo
rds (which suggest that Aquinas is working from a reflective understanding of human cognition), “what understands itself is said to move itself.” Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 18, a. 3, ad 1. And so, in this movement, one finds a kind of self-movement which is unlike any other kind of self-movement because it is the self-movement of a being (a “divine subject” as Lonergan would speak of it), who is fully and entirely perfect as he exists in himself (being fully in act in terms of its self-movement). Nothing in any way is lacking which is quite unlike the self-movement or any acts of origination that exist in other kinds of being. Second, in the metaphysical arguments of Aquinas, one finds discussions which add to the kind of understanding which Lonergan tries to give and to provoke in persons–discussions which move one’s understanding of subjective events toward an understanding which can grasp an order of transcendent objects. As an adage which can be quoted from a number of Lonergan’s writings: “the path to objectivity is by way of authentic subjectivity.” Hence, through introspective psychological analysis, one can find sources of meaning within the self which help move one toward an appreciative understanding of metaphysics (as the science or study of being). However, if one wants to understand how different thing fit together in a general scheme, as one naturally moves through subjectivity toward objectivity, one yearns for some kind of overall metaphysical grasp, a general understanding of things which can reveal a broad horizon–a wider scope of meaning which takes in a greater whole. And so, one finds this kind of meaning if one burrows into Aquinas’s texts. For instance, if one attends to a close reading about what Aquinas has to say about the existence of life in God (cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 18, a. 3), one finds a chain of reasoning which moves from one grade of being to another within the hierarchical order of being which exists in the universe. Self-movement (or origination) exists more prominently and more radically as one moves through created things: from plants to animals and then to human beings. Plants engage in self-movement when they send out shoots and move their leaves toward brighter light although they are not capable of locomotion. But, in contrast with plants, animals can move themselves from one location to another though some animals are more capable of locomotion than others. And then, when one turns to human beings, one finds that physical locomotion is sublated by a new species of locomotion which is intellectual or rational–a movement which belongs to the discursiveness of human cognition. In human inquiry, questions function as originating acts. Without inquiry, nothing else can follow. Nothing can come later in terms of acts of reasoning, understanding, and judgment. From acts of understanding, acts of conceptualization always follow. Relative to acts of conceptualization, acts of understanding present themselves as originating acts. However, as one attends to self-movement (or origination) as this exists in contingent things, one finds that the origination always exists or occurs in a conditioned way. If originating acts are to exist and function, other things need to happen. Prior acts need to occur; they need to be received. Acts of sense, for instance, need to be operative if questions are to arise about what is being experienced and known through our acts of sense. Acts of understanding in human beings always exist as receptions and not as actions. Hence, as one attends to the conditioned character of originating acts in the contingent order of things, and as one also attends to a trajectory which exists among contingent things and which points toward the necessity of some kind of act that is purely or radically originating, we are moved to acknowledge something which is purely and essentially originating in God’s existence as an unconditioned, unrestricted act of being and understanding. Something about this act is purely originating. It is purely originating from within itself even if this originating is a reality which we cannot properly know or comprehend in this life (though our reasoning and arguments does lead us to acknowledge the fact that such a thing exists–a special and unique originating which exists only in God and which accounts for every other kind of originating that can exist in other acts). In conclusion thus and more as a corollary than would otherwise be the case, if one recalls that, between the order of knowing and the order of being, an isomorphic structure exists (Aquinas speaks about proportionality while Lonergan speaks about isomorphism), one finds that an explanation of things that is proffered either in psychological terms or in metaphysical terms is not too comprehensive. Each is not quite adequate. Each is limited in some way since, in terms of meaning, each offers a different slant, a different perspective. But, if in one’s studying, reading, and thinking, one can intelligently move from one species of meaning to another (back and forth as is needed), one will better understand things if one can work with a critical philosophy of human cognition that can be combined with metaphysical apprehensions of meaning which are cognate. If one thinks in general about the relation between knowing and being (knowing and reality), one must conclude thus that knowing exists as a service to knowers. It exists so that potential knowers will be able to enter into a world which is greater than all the acts of cognition that are needed if one is to encounter into this greater world which is constituted by sets of real objects. On the basis then of this orientation of knowing to being, one can conclude that, in theology (and in other disciplines), in giving explanations for things, if consciousness (if activities which are constituted by consciousness) are to experience the transcendence which is proper to them, metaphysical apprehensions of meaning will serve as a corrective antidote. Between these two spheres or realms of meaning, a mutual enrichment in meaning should properly result.
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by David Fleischacker
I hear people wondering at times about the meaning and purpose of the Catholic belief in the seven sacraments. Traditionally, these sacraments are understood as sacred gifts given to us from God which both signify and effect grace in us. Yet, some ask, creation is given by God as well, and doesn’t it reflect God, and even provide moments of God’s grace and love, both of which transform us? Hence, what is the big deal about the special seven?
It is a question I have heard for most of my adult life, and many of my friends who grew up Catholic with me would answer this last question with the answer “nothing.” There is really no difference between the way that God can come to us in the seven and in the general world itself. General revelation is more universal they would add (as a note, they would not say “general revelation” but rather “nature”). It is more open to people of all places and times. It really is more Catholic in the end. However, though at one time in my head I would have agreed, in my heart and in my experience of the sacraments, I knew it was not true. What is true is that God can and does work in just about any place and time. Creation really is God’s and God really does speak to us through it. However, in my own heart, I know that this was not in contradiction to the claim that the sacraments have a special place. I now would like to put some philosophical and theological flesh on these existential perceptions.
The key, I believe, resides in the acts of meaning that constitute Divine gifts that transform us in specific types of gifts given to us from God, in Jesus, through his Passion. In general, it is God’s entrance into the “world mediated by meaning” (METHOD IN THEOLOGY, 118 – 119), and this is what grounds the difference between meeting God in creation and meeting God through the sacraments, brought to us through the apostolic mediators that carry that grace. If one examines any of the sacramental rites, one finds a person to person mediation of the Divine entrance into the world mediated by meaning. God enters into a person to person conversation with us, to transform us, to let us know about that transformation, and in these gifts to actually constitute the transformation. It is different, in the end, because God has made it different. This is something that one would not experience in creation alone, as glorious as it can be at times, especially in the great events of the birth of child or the great sacrifices that some make for others.
And as glorious as the birth of a child can be, or a courageous act of self-sacrifice, these same acts become greater yet when they enter into the sacramental carriers of God’s life and love. Then the birth of a child can unite with the great Eucharistic thanksgiving, and the sacrifices of one’s self can unite with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. What this means is that the special revelatory graces that come through the seven sacraments sublate the created natural order and its goodness (for Lonergan’s meaning of “sublation” see METHOD IN THEOLOGY, 241).
A parallel can be found in St. Augustine, in his essay against the Manicheans, which illustrates this same point of sublation, but with regard to the moral virtues rather than the sacraments. Prudence is not annihilated by God’s love but raised up into the wisdom of God. Courage not only means courage in the context of society and the natural order, but it is raised up to be self-sacrifice on the Cross. Temperance is raised up to become kingship, in which the love of God and neighbor rules over one’s mind and one’s body. Justice comes to take on a whole new meaning as giving what is due to others because it is giving what is due to God (which later becomes the virtue of religion). Hence, the moral virtues are sublated into the theological virtues.
Thus, not only are the moral virtues sublated, but so is creation when brought into the life of the seven sacraments. The theological virtues are the aim of the seven sacraments constituted by God’s entrance into our history, especially through the mission of the Son incarnate and the mission of the Holy Spirit. Through these missions, God sheds his love upon upon us. It reaches its highest levels when it comes through His Body, through His Church, through His sacraments.
As a note, Lonergan has some profound theological formulations of these missions in “THE TRIUNE GOD: SYSTEMATICS” part 6 on the divine missions. This critical edition of this book is now available to the public (Volume 12 of the Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan). I recommend this text to any serious systematic theologians interested in the Trinity. It far surpasses anything else that I have read from the 20th century, whether from Karl Rahner or from Walter Kasper or from Jürgen Moltmann. There are interesting insights in some of these other authors, but none as far as I can tell genuinely understands the great achievements of St. Augustine, Boethius, St. Thomas, or others as does Lonergan, and then creatively builds upon them.
In short, what makes the seven sacraments more important for encounter God than the “general revelation” of creation? The answer can be formulated in terms of the same relation as grace and freedom or grace and nature. Just as grace sublates nature and freedom, so the graces that God intentionally bestows upon us through the sacraments sublate us, our world, and our history.
In short, the highest and most profound and personal encounter with God comes through the seven sacraments.
by Dr. David Fleischacker
Only adult stem cells work in adult tissues. Embryonic stem cells work in embryos, not mature organisms.
The Term “Stem Cell”
Unfortunately, the technical language that develops within a discipline does not always suggest what it should, especially when it is used in the general public. I think this is the case with the use of “stem cell” for both Embryonic and Adult stem cells. The term itself is not a problem, since stem cell suggests an originating cell. To that degree, the language is fine. Both embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells are origins of more mature types. However, in people’s minds, the use of the term suggests a greater relationship between the two types of stem cells than actually exists.
The relationship I believe that has been created for the political arena is that embryonic stem cells could be directly inserted into the same locations as any adult stem cell, and they will do the same thing as those adult stem cells. It is like a one stop solution, since embryonic stem cells are sold as cells which can become any type of cell in the body. However, this one stop solution simply is not true. Embryonic stem cells are designed to work properly at the beginning stages of the organism, not at its mature stage. Conversely, the adult stem cells work properly at the mature stage, not at the beginning stages. Swapping adult stem cells with embryonic stem cells does not work therapeutically for all kinds of genetic, biochemical, and organic reasons.
The Developmental Relationship between Embryonic Stem Cells and Adult Stem Cells
There is of course a relationship between embryonic and adult stem cells, one that is developmental. Stems cells of any type have a relation of finality to the mature types into which they emerge. In Embryonic stem cells, one is speaking of cells that exist early on in the life of the organism which then unfold into all of the various cells types of a mature organism, which includes adult stem cells. As this unfolding takes place, a variety of genetic, biochemical, and organic changes take place (one might be surprised that genetic changes take place. This refers to the actual packaging of the DNA molecules which causes shifts of the actual genes that can be transcribed). Adult stem cells in contrast maintain and heal the various organic systems in the body, and thus have significant differences in the genetic and biochemical schemes that are operative. In short, there are a variety of developmental stages between embryonic and adult stem cells. These stages effect a series of developmental shifts with all the accompanying changes that take place in the genetics and biochemistry of the cells.
Adult Stem Cell Therapy. There is NO Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy.
Thus, theoretically, embryonic stem cells can lead to the creation of adult stem cells, and then potential therapies from diseases that are treatable by healthy adult stem cells. But this is the key, one cannot simply use an embryonic stem cell directly in an adult without problems. ONLY adult stem cells can be used in adult tissues (and ones that would not be rejected as “foreign” cells by the immune system).
In embryonic stem cell therapies used in animal experiments, many of the troubles found are related to control of cell division and maturation. In these experiments on animals, embryonic stems cells sometimes function in the right way in adult tissues, at least in part, however they lack the rather nuanced schemes for equilibrium. What happens when equilibrium schemes fail to work properly? One of the results in these animal experiments is cancer (cancer is uncontrolled cell growth). Unfortunately, when we read of the healing successes that occur in these animal experiments that result from embryonic stem cells, the conclusion is not added in, namely that the animal then died of cancer.
The medical point thus is simple to make. For embryonic stem cells to be of medical use, they have to be “developed” into adult stem cells so that they operate properly within adult tissue systems. There is no magic to this. However, there are no such therapies derived from embryonic research yet, because little is still known about how embryonic stems cells develop into adult stem cells, and even less about creating treatments from the knowledge of these stages. In contrast, adult stems cells are already adult stem cells. They can be used in adult tissues, because that is where they are derived (as long as the standard problems of rejection by the immune system are resolved). Thus, there is no magical reason why over 100 types of human stem cell therapies exist in this world which are derived from adult stem cell research, NOT embryonic stem cell research. In fact, not a single human therapy has been developed from embryonic stem cell research. There is no magical reason to this either.
So, if you have some hope that embryonic stem cell research will prove more medically valuable, it simply is not true. Only adult stem cells work properly in adult tissues. It is a simple fact already known in the stem cell community. And it is much easier to develop therapies from adult stem cells than from embryonic, and thus, the likelihood of eventually creating embryonic stem cell therapies is minimal.
And of course, this simply addresses the direct pragmatic outcomes of stem cell research. It does not address the ethics of the means, especially when the means on the one side is the destruction of an embryonic child. That, is a topic for another blog. People might be willing to kill others for medical benefits, others might be willing to kill for scientific benefits. But killing human life for scientific or medical benefit necessarily proceeds from a hardened heart.
by Dr. David Fleischacker
As with men, the organic and psychic life of women possesses an intelligibility that begins with the finality to conceive life. And as in men, the lower levels are intrinsically oriented toward higher levels of intellectual, rational, volitional life, with an obediential potency to a life of sanctified grace in faith, hope, and love.
Before continuing with the female procreative schemes, I would like to bring some clarification to the nature of finality within the human body. This also requires a slight expansion in the notion of emergent probability as it was developed in INSIGHT, in the chapter on development (chapter 15).
Schemes of Recurrence vs. Schemes of Development within Things
The slight expansion results from the need to make a distinction intrinsic to complex organisms between schemes of recurrence and schemes of development, both of which maintain the life of the organism. One might think of a mature organism as a flexible range of schemes of recurrence. This is certainly true in part. The mature cells of the circulatory or the respiratory systems form schemes of recurrence (though many of these are only “completed” in higher conscious levels). The respiratory system supplies oxygen and removes carbon dioxide from the circulatory system. If oxygen decreases in an environment, the respiratory system will increase its rate to maintain the particular need for oxygen in the organism (this is also linked to neural processes). So, the respiratory system has a “flexible” way of responding to the environment. Likewise, the needs of other cell systems in the body for disposing carbon dioxide and increasing oxygen increase the rate at which the circulatory system operates. Hence, as one exercises, one’s heart rate will increase (again, this is also linked to the neural system). Then, this in turn will cause increased rates in the respiratory system. One breaths harder. This also points to a vast flexible range of schemes of recurrence that allows us to operate in different manners in different environments.
However, the maintenance of our organic systems is not through schemes of recurrence. Rather, it takes place through adult stem cell systems, which are related to these systems developmentally rather than functionally (or correlationally). These adult stem cells possess a developmental finality that is oriented toward maintaining the organic cells systems and their ability to operate in flexible ranges of schemes of recurrence.
In addition to maintenance however, the stem cells help to increase the flexibility of the schemes of recurrence of the cell systems. Muscle stems cells will increase their rates to adjust to greater muscle needs. The circulatory stem cells will shift and expand to adjust to changing needs of the circulatory system.
Thus, these schemes of development (as opposed to schemes of recurrence) rooted in stem cells function both in maintaining and in increasing the flexibility of matured schemes of recurrence. Complex organic systems that possess stems stem cells are thus comprised of both schemes of recurrence and schemes of development.
Returning to the Procreative Schemes of Recurrence and of Development
Thus the procreative system, like other organic systems, is comprised of both schemes of recurrence and schemes of development (biologists call these schemes of development “developmental pathways”). Just as adult stem cells provide for the maintenance and increase the flexibility of adult cell schemes of recurrence, so the procreative stem cells provide for the maintenance and the increased flexibility, and the development of the human race. Thus they have a developmental relationship to that which is the conscious realization of the finality of the universe as a whole. The procreative system thus has a magnificent horizontal and vertical finality intrinsic to it, because it has a developmental relationship to the creation and formation of adult human beings and to the fullest realization of the finality of this universe. Adult human beings are integrations of many levels of intelligibility from inorganic and organic life through all the levels of conscious existence, and therefore the procreative system has vertical intelligibilities intrinsic to it as well. Furthermore, human beings are “systems on the move,” which is why they are not merely single individual species defined by a non-developing set of conjugate forms, but rather, human beings are ongoing horizontal and vertical unfoldings of intellectual, rational, and volitional operations. Procreative systems therefore also possess an intelligible finality to the human person as an intellectual, rational, and volitional “system on the move.”
A few consequent notes on The Procreative Schemes of Development, Emergent Probability, and the Scale of Values.
The procreative system comes to possess one of the most far reaching intelligibilities within the order of emergent probability as a whole. Emergent probability has a general finality of increasing systematization or intelligibility and meaning, as Lonergan argues in INSIGHT, especially chapter 4, and more precisely in the later chapters on metaphysics. The human person is the height of the increasing intelligibility of this universe, and it is elevated all the more by the fact of grace and the actuation of the capacity for self-transcendence in a love that is without bounds. The procreative system therefore is one of the key elements that makes possible a being who is on the horizon of truth, being, and the good, and who thus comes to be the conscious realization of the finality of the universe as a whole. This finality intrinsic to the procreative schemes of development is thus incredible. And though it is beyond the current blog, I would like to add a pointer to the objective moral value of the procreative schemes. When one bases the horizon of the good on the horizon of the true and the intelligible as Lonergan does, then the level of intelligibility is proportionate to the level being, which in turn is proportionate to the level of objective goodness. This elevates the procreative schemes to one of the most important schemes within this universe.
As I will discuss in the next few blogs, the woman’s procreative schemes are central to the emerging perfection of this universe and of the human race and all of the persons that comprise it.
 The word “system” can include both the schemes of recurrence and the schemes of development. Thus, one can distinguish in these organic systems between that which is functionally related (defined by mutually related conjugate forms) and developmentally related.
This is true not only for organic systems, but higher systems as well. One can think, for example, about how values are maintained in society. Human beings are higher systems on the move, and for a variety of reasons, the way this takes place is by expansion and replacement. The birth of the young, and their education into citizens, family members, members of culture, and religion not only maintains the life of these “institutions” but also gives those institutions a principle for greater flexibility in its mode of operation in the world and it gives those institutions the possibility of development. In general, once someone has reached a certain level of maturity, change slows down. This stabilizes the system, and gives it endurance. If maturation was good on the whole, then the overall life of the system will be better. If it was a decline however, then the entire system will become less stable. This is true in organic systems as well as in human systems. The longer cycle of decline that Lonergan explains in INSIGHT illustrates this point. Voegelin, in his account of ideological societies, points out that the greater the ideological structure of the society, the shorter its life. Hence, modern ideologies, especially those that are tyrannies such as the Nazi regime, or modern dictatorships, are short lived. Only societies increasing attuned to the “Beyond” have endurance to them. One can point out that these same insights are found in the revelations of the Old Testament. Societies that have apostatized will become destabilized and eventually destroyed either by an internal or external enemy.
On a technical note, schemes of recurrence are grasped by combining conjugate forms (known by implicitly defined relations) and their statistical emergence and ongoing existence. Developmental recurrences add finality to the intelligibility of how they operate. The relationship of a stem cell and a mature cell is one of development. Thus, it is not the systematic relationship of one cellular conjugate form to another that has been actualized, but rather the relationship between the cellular conjugate forms of a stem cells and those of a mature cells, which is one of developmental finality.
by Dunstan Robidoux, OSB
In the works of Aquinas and, sometimes, even in some of Lonergan’s writings, one finds references to human conscious life in words which traditionally belong to a psychological language which today is not viewed with much favor. In the bulk of his work, in the context of his intentionality analysis, Lonergan adverts to human conscious life in terms which usually speak about acts of experiencing, understanding, judging, deliberating, and doing. But, in contrast, Aquinas tends to speak more simply about intellect and will, or about the difference between theoretical and practical reason. Cf. Lonergan, Second Collection, p. 79. In Aquinas, a faculty psychology can be detected. Intellect and will are viewed as distinct faculties and, as one attends to them, other distinctions can be made so that one can say that this is not that. One is not the other.
In some descriptive language that Lonergan uses, with respect to what is meant by faculty psychology, Lonergan notes that faculty psychology tends to separate things when it speaks about the inner life of human beings. Cf. Method in Theology, p. 120; Philosophical and Theological Papers 1965-1980, p. 37. The distinctions made tend to detract from grasping how very many things are related to each other in the life of the human psyche and how different elements all rely and depend on each other. In Lonergan’s own words (p. 37):
A faculty psychology divides man up; it distinguishes intellect and will, sense perception and imagination, emotion and conation, only to leave us with unresolved problems of priority and rank. Is sense to be preferred to intellect, or intellect to sense? Is intellect to be preferred to will, or will to intellect? Is one to be a sensist, an intellectualist, or a voluntarist?
Then, in moving to an explanation, Lonergan notes that Aristotelian psychology existed as a kind of deduction or subordinate science. Cf. Papers, p. 395. Its basic terms were crafted as adaptions of basic principles as these were derived from metaphysics as “first science” or “first philosophy.” The human soul is a special kind of form; the body, a special instance of matter. One reaches the human soul by adding specifications or differences that distinguish the human soul from other kinds of souls. The human being is soon defined as a rational animal. Rationality sets human beings apart from plants and animals. And so, by this approach, a hierarchy gradually manifests itself with respect to the structure of the human psyche. A rational human soul tends to present itself as a basic first principle. This principle is identified as the mind or intellect. All various human desires or appetites are then understood in terms of how they relate to the life of the human mind. An ordering of desires is postulated in a manner which tends to separate purely intellectual desires from other kinds of desire. Intellectual desires are commonly distinguished from purely volitional or appetitive desires. Lower desires serve higher desires or, by a mediation that is effected by higher desires which sustain the life of the mind, lower desires are subordinated to serve higher purposes and goals. In the wake of Socrates’s footsteps, it is said that reason rules will. If one knows the good, one does the good. But, from a contrary standpoint which works from Christian belief and an Augustinian teaching which speaks about the formative power of love within human individuals and human history, it is suggested that our desires or passions rule our reason. Our desires move us ultimately either toward God or toward our ruin and self-destruction. It is said thus that “a person ‘is’ what he or she loves.” Cf. Augustine, Tractates on the First Letter of John 5.7-8; 2,14. Without love, we are lost.
Hence, as Lonergan argues, by an analysis which attempts to grasp how one thing leads or follows from another, linear relations are postulated in arguments which cannot too easily speak about a play or interaction that reveals a far much more complex reality which is constitutive of the life of human beings as subjects. By not attending to our experience of consciousness through our self-consciousness, interrelated intentional operations are not attended to. They are commonly not noticed and identified.
In thinking then about Lonergan’s account and as one compares it with contemporary accounts, one finds that, by and large, it agrees with contemporary understandings which speak about separations and a lack of relation between elements. According to an interpretation gleaned from internet sources (http://employees.csbsju.edu/esass/facultypsychology.htm):
Faculty psychology conceived of the human mind as consisting of separate powers or faculties. It viewed the mind as a separate entity, as something apart from the physical body. A popular form of this theory held that the mind consisted of three separate powers: the will, the emotions, and the intellect. The mind (especially the intellect) was seen as a kind of muscle and, by exercising it, one could strengthen to control the will and the emotions.
However, as one engages in a close and careful reading of Aquinas’s texts, one might wonder if Aquinas is being adequately understood if one places too great a weight on his use of a language which speaks about faculties. Yes, certainly, Aquinas speaks about intellect and will and about the difference that distinguishes theoretical reasoning from practical reasoning. However, at the same time, textual evidence can be cited to the effect that Aquinas also speaks about necessary, ongoing interactions between acts of sense and acts of the intellect and necessary, ongoing interactions between acts of the intellect and acts of the will in the life of human beings.
On the necessity of a constant, ongoing interaction between acts of sense and acts of understanding, Aquinas notes that the proper object of human inquiry is always an intelligibility that is embedded in materiality. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 12, a. 11. The nature of this object helps to explain why human knowing always requires an interaction between the exteriority of sense and the interiority of intellect– as Aquinas often speaks of it. Cf. In 2 Scriptum super libros sententiarum, d. 20, a. 2, ad 3; In 3, d. 14, a. 3, sol. 3; Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 96, 10; Sententia super librum De caelo et mundo, n. 2; and Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 8. Because the human intellect relies on what sense can do to help and encourage its reasoning activities, it can then be argued that thinking and reasoning is done by human beings and not by minds or intellects. Human personhood cannot be identified with the existence of the human intellect, mind, or soul. Cf. Francis Selman, Aspects of Aquinas (Dublin: Veritas, 2005), p. 105. In a self-assembling way, human understanding discursively functions through a constant, ongoing interaction a rebus ad animam, “from things to the soul” by way of reception and, conversely, ab anima ad res, “from the soul to things” by way of motion. Cf. De Veritate, q. 10, aa. 5-6; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 8. Acts of sense continually interact with acts of understanding. The composite structure of human cognition explains why human knowing knows things that possess a like composite structure.
Similarly, with respect to interactions between intellect and will, Aquinas argues that the human will does not exist separately from a life of the intellect. Knowing and willing move each other in a reciprocal relation between the two which excludes the primacy of reason over the will (as, since Socrates, the Greeks would have it) and also excludes the primacy of the will over the intellect (as many modern thinkers would have it: Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Nietzsche, and Freud). In one’s understanding, one’s desires and inclinations are known and, in one’s desires and affections, one moves toward inquires which seek understanding. Cf. De Veritate, q. 9, a. 10, ad 3, 2ae ser. Willing moves knowing for the good which can be achieved either purely in knowing, or by and through a knowing that leads to other kinds of activities. Cf. De Veritate, q. 22, a. 12; De Malo, q. 6, a. 1: “I understand because I will to do so.” Two partial causes act together in the life of the will to move human willingness. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 9, a. 1; a. 3. Though reasoning and understanding, a particular object or end is specified as something which should be desired by our willing it. But, at the same time, the will moves itself in possessing an intelligible nature of its own. A distinct set of first principles is constitutive of its inner life. In the order of our desires, some kind of concrete good is always being desired by us as often as we may err in determining what goods we should desire and seek to attain. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 1, a. 7. An order of actions which is constitutive of the life of the will gives the will a characteristic form or structure that is normative for all of its operations, although, at the start of things, an appetibile or “seekable” specifies the object of a particular striving. Cf. Rhonheimer, Natural Law and Practical Reason, p. 26; p. 32; p. 71. Will exists within reason even as it can never be compelled by any act of reasoning and understanding to do a given task. Cf. In 2 Scriptum super libros sententiarum, d. 25, q. 1, a. 2; De Veritate, q. 22, a. 6; Summa Contra Gentiles, 3, 10, 17; De Malo, q. 3, a. 3; Peri Hermeneias, 1, 14; and Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 81, a. 3, ad 2; q. 82, a. 2. Knowing and willing condition each other in a mutually causal way through a form of reciprocal or mutual priority which Aquinas explicitly identifies. As Aquinas argues in the De Veritate, q. 14, a. 5, ad 5 (trans. F. Crowe, Three Thomist Studies, p. 82):
…will and intellect have a mutual priority over one another, but not in the same way. Intellect’s priority over will is in receiving (in via receptionis), for if anything is to move the will it must first be received into intellect…. But in moving or acting (in movendo sive agendo) will has priority, because every action or movement comes from the intention of the good; and hence it is that the will, whose proper object is the good precisely as good, is said to move all the lower powers.
More succinctly, in the Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 83, a. 3, ad 3, the same point is averred:
The intellect precedes the will, in one way, by proposing its object to it. In another way, the will precedes the intellect, in the order of motion to act, which motion pertains to sin.
Hence, as one compares Aquinas’s position with that of Lonergan on the relations which exist among the different elements that, together, are constitutive of human psychic life, one finds substantial common agreement. Both acknowledge a mutual conditioning which exists in the interior life of human beings. In the reality which exists, everything happens through a constant interaction that obtains between different material and spiritual elements. As much as one might want to distinguish elements apart from each other and then determine why one element should not be confused with another, one must acknowledge the reality of basic relations which are necessary if anything at all is to happen. Each element exists so that another can properly exist and function. The sensing is for the sake of understanding and, for the sake of growth in understanding, one must return to one’s sensing. Similarly, with respect to knowing and willing, each exists for the sake of the other. Without knowing, willing cannot build or construct anything and, conversely, without willing, no one can give their lives in efforts that are dedicated to a search for knowledge and wisdom.
Lonergan admits that, yes, he engages in an intentionality analysis. He argues that, by doing so, he can accomplish two tasks. He can distinguish a hierarchical ordering of things which exists in the life of the human psyche. Cf. Papers, p. 396. In borrowing from Aristotle an understanding of human inquiry which distinguishes between different types or sets of questions, he can distinguish distinct levels or stages of human conscious operation in the structure of human cognition. Cf. Lonergan, Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, p. 26. Certain things do normally follow from each other or come after each other. And yet, within this same ordering, a mutual conditioning accounts for interactions that move things forward in the life of human beings. No element exists separately from another even if all the elements can be properly distinguished from each other. In Lonergan’s intentionality analysis, a development presents itself but as an achievement that is grounded in a number of earlier achievements in the history of catholic thought.
St. Thomas Aquinas argues that sanctifying grace transforms the very essence of the human soul (Summa Theologica, I-II, Q 110, a. 4). This essence is at the basis of the powers and operations of the human soul. And with grace, those powers are elevated to a supernaturally capacity.
Lonergan transposes St. Thomas’s formulation of our essence, articulating it as the capacity for self-transcendence. This capacity comes to be known, as is the essence and the powers for Aquinas, via attending to our interior operations and acts of the human person. These operations and acts form into distinct sets of groups rooted upon distinct aims of human conscious existence. Lonergan sorts these sets into four levels with which many of us are familiar, three of which are specifically human: the level of understanding, the level of judgment, and the level of decision, and one that is shared with higher animals, namely the level of motor-sensate forms and schemes. And as for the aims of each of these levels, just as St. Thomas will speak of the agent intellect as the power that aims at “being” and brings about an actualization of the potency of the intellect1, Lonergan in INSIGHT will call this agent intellect the notion of being. By notion, he means a heuristic notion, which guides and directs us toward an object. And this particular notion underpins, penentrates, and goes beyond all other heuristic notions and the objects they intend (INSIGHT, chapter 12). By the time he wrote METHOD IN THEOLOGY, Lonergan will differentiate this into three notions; the notion of the intelligible, the notion of being/truth, and the notion of the good. Furthermore, he will add the term “transcendental”, because these notions, which are transcendental in scope, are the principles that both orient us toward the Transcendent and bring about self-transcendence in us.
These transcendental notions are the basic questions in us, but these are more than just questions. Once answers have arisen, it is by these same notions that we have the power to intend the answers (the objects). Furthermore, these same notions bring up new questions in light of the answers. Hence, in METHOD, Lonergan identifies three transcendental notions which bring about the ongoing development of three levels of conscious existence:
1. Level of Understanding Transcendental notion of intelligibility
2. Level of Judgment Transcendental notion of being/truth
3. Level of Decision Transcendental notion of value/good
Futhermore, one can understand each of these notions as being related to each other in terms of sublation. Sometimes Lonergan will also speak of sublation using the language of higher and lower levels of being; of the relatively natural and supernatural (only God is absolutely supernatural); or of the infrastructure and suprastructure (for a discussion of this, see my article on “Higher and Lower Levels of Being” in the section of the workofgod.org web site called “The Living Cosmopolis”). Thus, the notion of intelligibility sets-up the level of understanding so that it can provide the lower matrix which can then provide the conditions for the life of the level of judgment. The general form of the question at the level of judgment is “Is it true?”, and the “it” literally comes from the level of understanding. And in turn, the level of judgment permeated by the notion of being enhances the life of the notion of intelligibility. One cannot reach good judgments without an adequate number of insights that need to be weighed. When we ask “Is this true?” we might both seek more evidence in larger ranges of experience, but also seek more insights to reflect upon in relationship to experience. So, when we ask the question “what” it usually is also within the context of the intentional notion that seeks being. Likewise, the notion of value (or the good) enhances and expands the levels of judgment and understanding. One cannot become attuned to what is good without knowing what is real or true. And when we are seeking what is real and true, and trying to understand, it is usually in the context of seeking what is good.
The capacity for self-transcendence thus is what one begins to grasp once one comes to understand the unified or integrated levels of the potentiality of the transcendental notions. That capacity is a basic orientation toward a complete perfection of all these notions in their integral unification. This is the essence of the human soul.
Love as the orientation of our capacity for self-transcendence.
One of the things that begins to oriente this capacity is love. Whenever we fall in love with anything or anyone, we can then give the reason why we seek understanding, being, and goodness. This love is the reason why we use our bodies as we do, why we ask questions and get insights as we do, why we seek to know the real as we do, why we want to know what is good and respond in decisions as we do. Thus, if we love our car and only our car, then the way we use our body, our hands, our feet, our eyes and ears; the way we ask our questions to understand at the level of understanding; the way we ask our questions for reflection at the level judgment; the way we ask questions for deliberation at the level of decision are guided by the love of this car. Now, such a total love for such an object would of course be a bit distorted and unexpected, even for a young teenage boy. But one can see the point. Love orients our capacity for self-transcendence, whether that love is for another person, a family, a country, or for God.
But can such a love fully actuate our capacity for self-transcendence?
God and the gods.
This is where we can begin to grasp that only one love can oriente and actuate the totality of the capacity for self-transcendence. However it is a love that really is beyond the power of this capacity.
In order to love something, we have to have some kind of basic ability to attend to it and fall in love so as to be able to oriente our being toward it. This is a basic type of knowledge of the reality of the other. It does not mean that we necessarily understand the full intelligibilty and being, and thus goodness of this other, but it does require a basic knowledge that this other exists and is worthy of our love, and thus can become a centering point of our self-transcendence. This is not naturally possible to do with God.
First, what do we mean by “God”? Lonergan, in chapter 4 of METHOD IN THEOLOGY (and in chapter 19 of INSIGHT), gives some clarity to this. The term or aim of our transcendental notions are a bit mysterious. Our questions for understanding, and most comprehensively, our transcendental notion of intelligibility, is not restricted. It includes all that is intelligible, and excludes only what is not. It includes therefore the potential reality of an unrestricted intelligiblity. But this inclusion is not like other finite intelligible beings. Rather, that which is an unrestrictedly intelligible is an analogue that one grasps when one discovers the full unrestricted range of this transcendental notion. It is what happens when one beings to wonder about the complete and total intelligible meaning of everything about everything and whether there is an ultimate meaning to everything about everything. When one has reached this unrestricted meaning of this transcendental notion, one has reached the question of God. It is a question still, because it takes a further leap to affirm that such an unrestricted intelligibility exists that actually is proportionate to the totality of the transcendental notion itself. But nonetheless, Lonergan would highlight, that the reaching of this total question is itself how we come to know what is meant by God (and we do not necessarily do it with the precision that Lonergan has spelled out in chapter 4 of METHOD).
The same happens in examining the transcendental notion of the true or of being, and of value or the good. Each of these becomes the analog by which we grasp a meaning to “God” and thus are able to raise a question about the reality of God as being the proportionate completion or aim of these transcendental notions. Only then do we understand the totality of our aims in life, and that totality is really aimed at an unrestricted intelligibility, being, and good. Our question of God is rooted in our created being and the nature of our conscios intentionality. It is one way for understanding how we are in the image of God — and image which not only has rationality like God, but which is only completed in God.
Thus, since love orients our capacity for self-transcendence, the only term that could adequately complete that self-transcendence, and thus be the real perfection of it, is love of a being who is unrestrictedly intelligible, unrestrictedly true/real/being, and unrestrictely valuable/good. And thus only by loving God could our capacity be fully completed.
Yet, our own powers to oriente our capacity for self-transcendence are limited to things that we can naturally understand, know, and respond. Why? Lonergan throughout his life argues that we understand by insight into experience. And he goes on to argue that we know by judgments based on a reflection upon the adequacy of our insights into our experiences, a reflection which might lead to sufficient evidence grasped through a reflective insight. And furthermore, that we make decisions which transform our world based upon this naturally known knowledge into our experiences. Thus, what we can see, hear, taste, touch, smell, along with our motor activities form experiences, because we can get insights, reflective insights, and evaluative insights into these. Likewise, once we have questions and insights, make judgments and decisions, we can then get insights into these questions, insights, judgments, and decisions as such. Thus we have access to a second type of experience called data of consciousness, and thus can get insights and knowledge into that nature of our own selves, and also respond in decisions to transform ourselves (and through this, we can also understand others conscious existence).
However, we have no experience of God as God, only our orientation toward God in our capacity for self-transcendence. Thus, we cannot have direct insights, reflective insights, and evaluative insights into God, and thus we cannot love God as God, as the proportionate perfection of our capacity for self-transcendence.
Hence, if we truly can love God as God, then this is a divine gift, a supernatural gift, a gift which raises the power to realize our capacity as such. It becomes a basic orientation and actualization of our capacity for self-transcendence. Thus, it can be identified as being placed into this essence of our soul. It can be described as Lonergan notes, as the love of God flooding our hearts, giving us a heart of flesh, a heart of flesh which has a supernatural destiny.
Thus, we can now define the gods.
Whenever we love something or someone who is not unrestrictedly intelligible, unrestrictedly real, unrestrictedly good as if they were, then we have turned this being into a god. It may be fleeting. It may be enduring. It could be our spouse. It may be our work, our intellects, or power. And whenever it happens, we have violated the first and greatest Commandment. We have made something to be what in reality it cannot be. And in reality, it never really can be the actuation of our capacity for self-transcendence, because just as we cannot naturally love God as God, so we cannot love a god with that kind of love of God as God. In the end, it would be a natural, finite love that masquerades as ultimate love and meaning. And this too is a lie.
1This agent St. Thomas identifies is also known as the light of being. This is a more descriptive language which has older roots. One finds it, for example, in St. Augustine, in a number of places in his book on the Holy Trinity. The light of being is a created illuminating power within us that is analogous to the sun. As the sun illumine physical objects so that they might be seen, so the light of being illumines intelligible objects so that they might be understood and known. It seems that earlier in Augustine’s life, he identified this light directly with God, however, toward the end of the De Trinitate, he clearly says this is a created light in us. This light, or agent intellect, is the way that human beings participate in the Being of God.