St. Thomas Aquinas / by Jacques Maritain



  1. "There too will the eagles be gathered." Matt. 24/28; Luke 17/37.
  2. "Woe to me, if I do not Thomisticize. (Cf. I Cor. 9/16).
  3. I tried in Art and Scholasticism to show how a dialogue between the enduring philosophy and the art of our day could be engaged in. Years later the same effort was resumed, on a larger scale, in Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry (Note to the second edition).
  4. Ezech. 111, 27.


  1. This date has been established by Father Mandonnet in his invaluable critical studies to which it will always be necessary to refer on matters concerning the life of Saint Thomas. One may also consult Father Petitot's Saint Thomas d'Aquin; Monsignor M. Grabmann's Thomas von Aquin; as well as the Pègues-Maquart translation of William of Tocco and of the testimonies presented at the process of canonization.
  2. Some of Thomas' brothers having taken part in the uprising of 1246 against Frederick II, his family was forced into exile in the papal Campagna. It was at that time that Raynaldo of Aquino was tortured and put to death by order of the Emperor. Saint Thomas no doubt remembered these events when he wrote the article of the Summa in which he affirmed, in conformity with the Church's teaching, her right to depose prince or emperor -- a striking instance of her power of intervention in politics for the safeguarding of the spiritual. (Sum. theol., II-II, 12, 2.)
  3. Sum. theol., II-II, 189, 6.
  4. As Father Mandonnet has established, this event, like the imprisonment at Roccasecca, has been a bit embellished by the first historians. If they have added something of the picturesque to the capture of Thomas by his brothers, the reality which they thus embroider, that is, the reality of the constraint undergone, remains nevertheless incontestable, and it is in vain that one would try to remove from these incidents every trace of brutality. That Thomas, who had lived in Naples according to the state of a young noble of his time, knew very well how to mount a horse, we have no doubt. In the circumstances, and after the fight he had to put up to prevent being stripped of his habit, it is very likely that he carried on the resistance up to the very end, and that they had, as the old accounts report it, to set him on the horse by force.
  5. He composed at that time, for his old fellow-students in the Faculty of Arts, the two opuscula, De Propositionibus Modalibus and De Fallaciis.
  6. According to Mandonnet, the commentary on the Divine Names would have been composed later (about 1261). It seems, according to some very serious arguments which Father Théry has been kind enough to share with me, that this work dated from the youth of Saint Thomas and would have to have been written before 1256, perhaps even at Cologne, about 1248 -1250. It is to this work that Tocco would be alluding when he says that Thomas, the dumb ox, began to legere when he was at Cologne.
  7. Sermon De vetula.
  8. Ps. 103, 13.
  9. On the team of secretaries who worked for Saint Thomas, see the excellent book by Antoine Dondaine, O.P., Secrétaires de Saint Thomas, Commissio leonina, Rome, Sainte-Sabine, 1956 (Note to the second edition).
  10. According to Grabmann (Mittelalterliches Geistesleben, 1926, ch. VIII), the commentaries on the Physics, the Metaphysics, the Ethics and the Politics were composed after the year 1268.
  11. According to the latest works of Father Mandonnet (cf. Revue Thomiste, 1927, p. 157, and the Introduction to the latest edition of the Opuscula [Lethielleux]), the Compendium was composed in the years 1272-1273. The Sermons to students are also of this period.
  12. "In the middle of the Church the Lord opened his mouth." Introit of the Common of Doctors (cf. Eccl. 15/5).
  13. This sentence is borrowed from a line of the French poet Mallarmé: "tel qu'en lui-même enfin l'éternité le change" (such as into himself at last eternity changes him). [Translator's note.]
  14. A saying of Cajetan taken up by Leo XIII and Pius XI.
  15. H. Woroniecki.
  16. According to Dom Baudot (Dict. d'Hagiographie, p.387), Julienne du Mont-Cornillon died the 5th of April, 1255.
  17. Such is at least the opinion of Father Mandonnet in his work on Siger de Brabant. According to Father Chossat (Revue de Philosophie, 1914, XXIV and XXV), it is the De anima intellectiva of Siger which was an answer to Saint Thomas' De unitate intellectus, itself written against another work of Siger, Super IIIo de Anima.
  18. The divine touch had been too profound to permit him to give himself thenceforth to his ordinary works. Nevertheless, he forced himself to compose, on his way to the Council of Lyons, his brief Responsio ad Bernardum abbatem; and on his deathbed he did for the monks of Fossanova his second commentary (now lost) on the Canticle of Canticles. (I say his second commentary, not his third, for of the two commentaries attributed to Saint Thomas only one is authentic.)
  19. Ps. 131,14.
  20. My book appeared before the pontificate of Pius XII. I am happy to be offered by this new edition an opportunity to mention his important statements on the matter (see Appendix II and Appendix III). (Note to the second edition.)


  1. The same remarks and the same doubts about the metaphysical authenticity of the doctrines in question are clearly valid for the existentialist movement which later developed in Germany and in France as an offshoot of phenomenology (Note to the second edition).
  2. Cf. Primauté du spirituel, p. 8.
  3. I do not mean by this that regional and linguistic particularism does not correspond to conditions which the statesman is bound to take into account. I mean that this particularism cannot constitute a political end or circumscribe the proper object of politics.
  4. As to the idea of a "primitive mentality" essentially different from civilized mentality, Lucien Lévy-Bruhl himself explicitly rejected it. Cf. my book Quatre essais sur l'esprit dans sa condition charnelle, 2nd ed., Paris, Alsatia, 1956, pp. 10-11 (Note to the second edition).
  5. Primauté du spirituel, pp. 145-147.
  6. Ibid., p. 164.
  7. The exact title was The Light of the East (published from 30 Park Street, Calcutta).
  8. Bulletins de la Classe des Lettres et des Sciences morales et politiques de l'Académie Royale de Belgique ("Indianisme": Discours de M. Louis de la Vallée Poussin, 9th May, 1928). We recall that Father de Nobili, in his various treatises in Tamil or Sanskrit, also propounded Christian wisdom -- and the arguments of Saint Thomas -- under Hindu modes of thought. For example, criticizing in his treatise on the soul, Attumanirunayam, the doctrine of transmigration, "he opposes with perfect ease the Aristotelian concept of form, of the principium vitae, to the Brahminical idea of the soul imprisoned in the body like a bird in a cage: 'When a man dwells in a house, does the house grow with him? When he is not at home, does the house fall to bits?' All through the book we find Brahminical allegories and legends woven into the woof of the argument" (Pierre Dahmen, Un jésuite brahme, Robert de Nobili, Brussels, 1925).
  9. More recent examples could be cited: I am thinking of the remarkable works of Olivier Lacombe on Hindu philosophy and of Louis Gardet on Islam, and of their studies of comparative mysticism. The book Introduction à la Théologie Musulmane (Paris, Vrin, 1948), by Louis Gardet and M. M. Anawati, was given a very favorable reception in Musulman circles (Note to the second edition).
  10. To the order of the spiritual par excellence, that is to say, of the supernatural spiritual.
  11. In the vocabulary of French philosophers these two words are almost synonymous, whereas many German and Russian thinkers distinguish civilization from culture, understanding by the first term, taken in a pejorative sense, a development above all material of social life. In the sense in which we understand it, a civilization merits this name only if it is a culture, a development truly human and therefore principally intellectual, moral and spiritual (taking the word "spiritual" in its widest acceptation).
  12. Charles Journet.
  13. Cf. "Le Thomisme et la civilisation" in Revue de Philosophie, March-April, 1928, pp. 138-139.
  14. Primauté du spirituel, p. 124. In Father Allo's book on the Apocalypse, we find the following remarks, which seem to me very deserving of our attention: "If this is so [if the figure 42, equal to 3 x 14, is a Messianic figure], there follows from this a consequence of great importance for exegesis: in the Apocalypse, the duration of the power of evil on earth is represented by a Messianic figure. In other words, the terrestrial phase of the Kingdom of God, that of the conquests of the Gospel, entirely coincides with the last and the most violent efforts of Satan to oppose this Kingdom. What we had already dimly perceived in regard to 3 -- the time of the persecutions and of the ministry of Christ -- is singularly confirmed by 42.
  15. "... This fusion of the most sinister prospects with the most glowing aspects of the present and the future is in no way inadmissible a priori. It was not inadmissible in Jewish circles, to judge from the statements of various rabbis, that the days of the Messiah were to know more than one calamity. Khiya ben Nehemia depicts the days of the Messiah as so sad in one respect that it would be impossible to distinguish guilt from innocence. (Koheleth rabba, XII, I; but similar ideas are already to be found in the Talmud. Cf. Volz, pp. 62-63; Lagrange, Le Messianisme chez les Juifs, pp. 99-115.) The idea was to be just as familiar to Christians who referred to the Gospel.

    "... Besides, in our Apocalypse itself, we have already seen the two aspects continually mingled: the beneficent Horseman of VI, 2 goes forth to conquer spiritually at the same time as the other horsemen will be spreading disaster; the elect of God, in VII, will be preserved at the same time as the great tribulation, etc. (Cf. infra, Ch. XII.) It is the quite simple transposition of the sufferings of the Messiah to the preparation for the Second Coming." E. B. Allo, L'Apocalypse de saint Jean (Paris, Gabalda, 1921), pp. 145-146.


  1. This chapter is taken from a conference (the text, to avoid repetitions, has been somewhat revised and compressed) given at Avignon, October 20, 1923, during the course of a triduum arranged by the Archbishop of Avignon to celebrate the sixth centenary of the canonization of Saint Thomas.
  2. "If your eye is worthless, your whole body will be in darkness." Matt. 6/23; Luke 11/34.
  3. "And the truth shall make you free." John 8/32.
  4. Pius XI, Encyclical Studiorum Ducem.
  5. As Father Petitot rightly observes, Saint Thomas, who had a passage from the Collationes of Cassian read to him daily, may be said to have remained deeply imbued with Benedictine spirituality, so little introverted, so little preoccupied with "psychology."
  6. "This is a hard saying." John, 6/61.
  7. Cf. Father Garrigou-Lagrange, "La première donnée de l'intelligence" in Mélanges thomistes, 1923.
  8. "Wisdom preaches in the open spaces, she cries in the streets." Prov. 1/20.
  9. "Unless you become as little children." Matt. 18/3.


  1. Sum. theol., I, 1, 8, ad 2.
  2. Cf. Denzinger-Bannwart, 1797, 1799, 1674, 1682, 1714; 1681, 1786 (Cf. Vacant, Etudes théologiques sur le Concile du Vatican, I, p. 347; St. Thomas Aquinas, Sum. theol., I, 1, 1; Sum. contra Gent., I, 4; Garrigou-Lagrange, De Revelatione, I, pp. 411-415); 1798, 1674; 1683-1684.
  3. Even during Thomas' lifetime, he received from Alexander IV a letter in which the Pope did not hesitate to write: 'To Our Beloved son, Thomas Aquinas, distinguished alike for nobility of blood and for the radiance of his virtues, to whom the grace of God has accorded the treasure of the science of the Scriptures'." Pius XI, Encyclical Studiorum Ducem.
  4. J. J. Berthier, Sanctus Thomas Aquinas "Doctor Communis" Ecclesiae, vol. 1, Testimonia Ecclesiae, Romae, 1914.
  5. Motu Proprio Doctoris Angelici. The words are taken up by Pius XI in the Encyclical Studiorum Ducem.
  6. The Franciscan school, at the instigation of Scotus and with the enthusiastic support of the faithful, asserted with all its strength that the Mother of God had to be and was in fact immaculate. It was a matter of reaching by any course this port which their ardent love for the Most Holy Virgin made them desire so intensely: hence they were more concerned with speeding up the ship and quickening the journey than with plotting the exact course.
  7. "St. Thomas and his school, accustomed to applying the brake of reason to the emotions and to not risking an advance over the mysterious terrain of dogma without first drawing light from the beacon of already defined dogmas, asserted no less strenuously that the Mother of God, like every child of Adam, had to be really and personally redeemed by the Blood of Calvary, and that they were ready to block the way of the Mother of God even, so long as they would not consider her as unreservedly involved in the way of personal debt, the only one which motivates redemption by the blood of Jesus Christ.

    "Exposed to this dual influence -- the Scotist fervor and the Thomist rudder -- the barque of the Immaculate made slow but steady progress for centuries. Without Scotus and his school it would never have moved at all, or at any rate would have made but little progress; without the intervention of St. Thomas and his disciples it would certainly have lost its way. After God and His Church, it is to Scotus and his school that we are indebted for the definition of the Immaculate Conception, but it is to St. Thomas and his disciples that we owe the definition of the true Immaculate Conception." F. Marin-Sola, L'Evolution homogène du dogme catholique, Fribourg, 1924, vol. 1, pp. 327-328.

    See above all, on this question, Father del Prado's Divus Thomas et Bulla Dogmatica "Ineffabilis Deus" (Fribourg, 1919). What St. Thomas teaches (against certain erroneous ways of arguing for the Immaculate Conception) is that the Mother of the Savior was redeemed, she too, by the merits of her Son, and that we must recognize in her all degrees of purity, provided they be compatible with her redemption by Jesus Christ. All that is then required is a more explicit statement, together with the addition that this redemption was a preserving redemption (presupposing not sin, but the debitum, the personal and proximate debt remitted by the foreseen merits of Christ at the very moment of creation and infusion of the soul), for us to have the notion of the Immaculate Conception such as the Church has defined it, a notion expressed very precisely in the Oration of the Mass for the feast of December 8: "Deus . . . qui ex morte ejusdem Filii tui praevisa, eam ab omni labe praeservasti . . ." ("God, Who by the foreseen death of Thy son, preserved her from all stain.")

  8. See the Appendices, p. 183.
  9. Letter of December 12, 1884, to M. Pidal.
  10. November 25, 1898.
  11. December 30, 1892.
  12. From Father Janvier's essay, Action intellectuelle et politique de Léon XIII en France.
  13. Col. 2/8.
  14. Thomas von Aquino und Kant, ein Kampf zweier Welten, Kantstudien, VI, 1901.
  15. Pius XII's encyclical Humani Generis -- published many years after the writing of this book -- appears in Appendix III of the present edition. (Note to the second edition.)
  16. Leo XIII, Encyclical Aeterni Patris.
  17. See the Appendices (III, p. 215) for the full text of this Motu Proprio.
  18. Can. 1366, par. 2. -- To make exception for the customs and traditions peculiar to the Oriental Church, the first canon of the Code of Canon Law states that the Code applies only to the Latin Church. The juridical obligation to make St. Thomas the basis of studies does not therefore extend, by the letter of the Code, to the Eastern Church. But what is here important to consider above all is the thought and the desire of the Church, of which its laws are the expression adapted to time and place. And there is no doubt but that in the mind of the Church it is in the light of the principles of St. Thomas that the wisdom of the Greek Fathers and of the Oriental traditions must also be understood and systematized. The teachings and exhortations of the Popes on this subject have an absolutely universal bearing.
  19. Encyclical Fausto appetente die, for the seventh centenary of the death of St. Dominic (June 29, 1921). -- See also the testimony given to St. Thomas, whose philosophy is according to Christ, in the Motu Proprio Non Multo on the Roman Academy of St. Thomas: "But since We, in common with Our Predecessors, are perfectly convinced that We should be concerned only with that philosophy which is according to Christ (Col., 11, 8), and that consequently We are bound to insist altogether on the study of philosophy itself according to the principles and method of Aquinas . . ."
  20. August 1, 1922.
  21. Encyclical Aeterni Patris.
  22. Let us quote also the following lines, concerning theology: "What We say of philosophy must likewise be said of theology. This follows from these words of Sixtus V: 'This most salutary science flows from the most fertile fountains of the Divine Scriptures, the acts of the Popes, the works of the Fathers, and the decisions of the Councils; the knowledge and the use of theology have always been a powerful aid for the Church, either to understand and to interpret with exactitude and fidelity the Scriptures themselves, or to read and explain the Fathers with more surety and more fruit, or to discover and refute the different errors and heresies. But it is especially in our day, when we live in those times full of perils described by the Apostle, when blasphemous, arrogant and seductive men unceasingly progress in evil, plunged in error and dragging others into it, that this science is supremely necessary for confirming the dogmas of the Catholic Faith and refuting the heresies.' (Bull Triumphantis, 1588.)
  23. "Now what is it that makes theology a discipline possessing the force of a science truly worthy of the name, capable of providing, in the admirable words of Our lamented Predecessor Pope Benedict XV (Motu Proprio De Romana Sancti Thomae Academia, 1914), 'an explanation as complete as human reason permits and a victorious defense of the truth revealed by God'? It is the Scholastic philosophy, and it alone, employed under the guidance and leadership of St. Thomas Aquinas and put at the service of theology. It is it that furnishes 'that exact and solid connection of things with each other and with their principles, that order and disposition which make one think of an army drawn up in battle array, those luminous definitions and distinctions, that solidity in argument and that subtlety in controversy, all that ensemble which separates light from darkness and truth from error, and which denounces and lays bare the falsehoods of the heretics by ripping off the mask of illusions and sophisms with which they cover themselves' (Sixtus V, loc. cit.).

    "They, consequently, understand wrongly the education of young clerics, who, setting aside the Scholastic method, think that one ought to give the whole theological teaching according to what is known as the positive method; and those teachers fail still more in their duty who have their whole course in theology consist of going over, in learned disquisitions, the list of dogmas and heresies. The positive method is the necessary complement of the Scholastic method, but it does not suffice by itself alone. Our clergy must be armed not only for establishing the truth of the Faith but also for explaining and defending it. But to review, in chronological order, the dogmas of the Faith and the opposed errors, is to teach ecclesiastical history, not theology." (Ibid., August 1, 1922.)

  24. Encyclical Studiorum Ducem. See the Appendices (III, pp. 222) for the full text of the encyclical.
  25. One may consult with profit the remarkable commentary on this encyclical by Father Benoit Lavaud: Saint Thomas guide des études, Paris, Téqui, 1925.

  26. As regards theology, let us note these remarkable lines which show how this science asks of itself to be completed in contemplation:
  27. "A man is not said to know a country thoroughly if he just knows some description, even a detailed description, of it, but only if he has lived in that country for some time; so also no one acquires an intimate knowledge of God by scientific investigation alone, if he does not live likewise in an intimate union with Him."

    And on the theological work of St. Thomas:

    "First of all, he established apologetics on its true bases, determining clearly the distinction between the truths of reason and those of faith, between the natural order and the supernatural order. Also, when the Vatican Council defines the possibility of knowing some truths of religion by the lights of reason, the moral necessity of a divine revelation with certitude and without error, and finally the absolute necessity of a revelation if we are to know the mysteries, it employs arguments borrowed from St. Thomas only. Thomas expects that all the apologists of Catholic dogma hold as sacred this principle: 'to give assent to the truths of faith is not arbitrariness, even though they are above reason' (Contra Gent. I, 6). He shows indeed that however mysterious and obscure the truths of faith may be, the reasons at least which impel man to believe are clear and manifest, so that 'he would not believe if he did not see that it is necessary to believe' (I-II, 1, 4). He adds that, far from considering faith as an impediment or a yoke of burden imposed on humanity, we must look upon it as a most precious gift, since 'faith is in us as a kind of beginning of eternal life' (De Verit., XIV, 2).

    "The second part of theology, which has to do with the explanation of dogma, is also examined by St. Thomas with exceptional richness. No one has penetrated more deeply or expounded more wisely all the sacred mysteries, especially the intimate life of God, the abyss of eternal predestination, the supernatural government of the world, the power afforded rational natures of attaining their end, the redemption of the human race effected by Jesus Christ and continued by the Church and the Sacraments, those two 'relics of the divine Incarnation,' as the holy Doctor put it.

    "In morals, too, Thomas established a solid theological doctrine, aimed at directing all our acts in a manner appropriate to our supernatural end. And because he is, as We have said, the perfect theologian, he assigns the steady purposes and the rules of life which must guide not only the individual in his personal life, but also the family and civil society, which latter are the objects, respectively, of those divisions of moral science that are 'economics' and politics."

    [We may observe that these few lines, affirming so unmistakably the principle of the subordination of politics to morals and to the theological light, pointed out beforehand in the doctrine of St. Thomas the remedy for the political naturalism since condemned by the Supreme Pontiff.]

    "And We have then, in the second part of the Summa Theologiae, those admirable teachings on paternal or domestic govermnent, lawful power in bodies politic or nations, natural law and the law of nations, peace and war, justice and property, laws and their observance, the duty of helping individuals in their needs and of co-operating for the well-being of the political community, and this in the natural order and in the supernatural order.

    "The day when, in private life, in public life and in the relationships between nations and nations, these rules would be religiously and inviolably observed, nothing else would be required for men to be assured of that 'peace in Christ through the reign of Christ' for which the whole world longs so ardently."

    Thus does the Encyclical Studiorum Ducem itself describe the office of wise architect incumbent upon the Angelic Doctor in regard to the restoration of Christian culture in the modern world.

  28. Cf. the anti-Modernist oath prescribed by Pius X (Motu Proprio Sacrorum Antistitum, September 1, 1910).
  29. By common sense I mean here the understanding of first principles, and the first rational certitudes which follow, as an endowment of nature, upon the spontaneous exercise of reason. From this common sense as natural intellection must carefully be distinguished common sense as primitive imagery, which pictures the earth as flat, the sun as revolving around the earth, the upper and the lower as absolute properties of space, etc., and which has no philosophical value.
  30. Cf. Garrigou-Lagrange, Le Sens commun, la philosophie de 1'être et les formules dogmatiques, 3rd ed., Paris, Desclée de Brouwer.
  31. Cf. A. D. Sertillanges, Revue des Jeunes, August 25, 1921.
  32. Cf. note 18 above.
  33. Cf. above, p. 136.
  34. See above, p. 137.
  35. These twenty-four theses have been explained and commented on in a work by Father Mattiussi: Le XXIV tesi della filosofia di S. Tommaso d'Aquino, 2 ed., Roma, 1925; translated into French by Father Levillain under the title: Les points fondamentaux de la philosophic thomiste, Torino (Marietti), 1926. See also Father Hugon's Les vingt-quatre thèses thomistes, 7e éd., Paris (Téqui), 1937.
  36. Pius XI, Encyclical Studiorum Ducem.

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