THE KINGDOM OF MAN
Scriptural account of the kingdom of man
Modern rejection of the story
IN THE Book of Genesis there is an account of the beginnings of the world that has amused the scholars of our age. In fact, their amusement was so huge that they shared the joke with the man in the street. The story was pleasant enough in its way: hardly plausible, still it was taken seriously by millions of men before the clear light of science exposed it for what it was: a myth among many similar myths. In that bright light, it looks as ridiculous as an actor caught in broad daylight with his make-up on.
Such amused tolerance is the product of a sense of immense superiority, superiority so great as to make it unnecessary to bother about details. In any field, such superiority is dangerous: it is the sort of thing that topples an experienced lineman from a telephone pole, that makes a drunkard challenge the world. Superiority is a heady drink to be sipped, not gulped; however enticing its bouquet, clear its color and warming its taste, it too easily brings on early morning regrets. Perhaps our moderns are only gay, not really drunk, though they have proved steady drinkers of this dangerous drink; they have not yet reached the morning-after stage, but they have been careless, they have laid the bases for the groans of regret.
The two elements of the story: The fact of creation.
Account of the distinction and adornment of the universe.
Along with the story of the world’s distinction and adornment, they have, extravagantly, carelessly, blindly, thrown out a momentous fact, the fact of the origin of the world. They have tossed the whole thing out like an old rag doll. Perhaps nothing stamps Thomas as so completely out of date, in the eyes of the moderns, as the fact that he took this story seriously: Surely, nothing so clearly marks him off from modern thinkers as the fact that he saw the two elements in this story: the momentous fact of creation and the simple account of the distinction and adornment of the world. His intellect bowed before the first of these, as an unimpeded intellect must always do homage to solid truth, and he could mete out justice to the second because of his firm grasp of the first.
Unreasonable rejection of the fact of creation
Rejection of the fact of creation is unreasonable, not in the sense a man is unreasonable because he is slightly pig-headed or extremely meticulous. This rejection is unreasonable because it is an open flaunting of reason.
Résumé of proof of creation.
In a former chapter we have treated the matter of creation quite thoroughly, insisting that the world was brought into existence by a first cause creating it. However, a brief restatement of that reasoning will not be out of place here. A first cause means no more than an utterly independent cause; that is, a cause that has nothing or no one before it, that is in every sense first. To be independent in this full sense of the word means to be completely self sufficient as well as to be the first source of all else. Creation is commonly defined as “making something out of nothing”; more profoundly, it is the production of something independently of any pre-existing subject. In a word, it is the production of the whole being not merely a part of it, not disposing for it, or bringing it forth from something else. So that creation, the truth so eminently clear to reason and so solidly taught by faith, means simply that the world was produced by the first cause in the way proper to that first cause, that is, with complete independence. If we postulate anything on which this first cause depends, we are simply denying that this is a first cause and we push the problem just that much further back; we do not solve it. For it will always remain true, that where we discover someone leaning, depending, there will be something to lean on, to depend on; and the stability of this latter will not be the product of the feeble one who drapes himself on it. Complete independence in act means the production of the effect from nothing.
The reasons given for this explanation of the universe are those given for the existence of God. They can be put briefly by saying that either this was the way things were produced or there are no things — which last is evidently false. There is no other way to account, not only for the universe, but for the very least thing in it. The question here is not merely of mountains, continents and planets; but of even a speck of dust or the wink of an eye. one cries out the existence of the first cause as loudly as the other, or of all together. An endless chain of dependent causes does not explain any one of them or all of them, for their very dependence precludes the possibility of their being self-sufficient, the source or the first; that dependence demands something upon which to depend. Either there is an independent or first cause, or there are no effects; either that first cause created, if it acted at all, or it is not first. The fact of creation, with its strict adherence to the facts of the world, is not something a man needs to feel self-conscious about or to apologize for. Rather, it is something demanded in the name of all that is reasonable.
Different senses of the word “evolution
Reasonable or not, this fact of creation has been swept out of men’s minds along with the rest of the account given in Genesis. But the house need not be left empty; in place of creation we can have evolution, either all at once or on an installment plan that eases the pain of its acceptance by spreading the burden over millions of years. Lest such a statement bring on, with the promptness of an echo, the charge that we are anti-scientific, ultra-conservative or behind the times, let us investigate the meaning of the world “evolution.”
Such an investigation is important for the word designates a strange set of triplets; one or the other may enjoy the confusion of a stranger who cannot distinguish them, but each will indignantly resent having the faults of one of the others attributed to her, especially the faults of the weak sister of the three.
A scientific hypothesis
Most properly, the word is taken to refer to a scientific hypothesis. As such it was, and is, advanced as a scientific record of the development of life. As a scientific hypothesis, and within its own field, it has immense value. The mass of cumulative evidence supporting it certainly classifies it as a first class working theory; and this is all the scientist seeks. It is not, nor is it in this sense intended to be, a final explanation of the universe. The object of science is not an explanation but the uncovering of a universal; it does not seek the last cause, but a general law; its reasoning does not terminate in conclusions or explanations, but rather in the generalizations which are called scientific laws.
In this proper sense, no philosopher or theologian can have any objection to it. To contrast an adherent of the creation explanation and an evolutionist in this sense is as silly as it would be to consider as mutually exclusive terms the words “democrat” and “nordic.” The only possible source of conflict here would be the extension of this scientific working hypothesis to the origin of the human soul. That would be stepping outside the field of science immediately, for it would be to step outside the field of experimental observation; moreover, it is a step not taken by the scientist.
A pseudo-scientific solvent on a universal scale
The word “evolution” is also widely used for a pseudo-scientific theory that is in the nature of a patent medicine to remedy all intellectual ills by resolving all difficulties. It is considered applicable to nearly all fields and is actually wielded with the recklessness that formerly characterized the use of arnica or camphor. It is, for example applied to comparative religion and adduced as the explanation of the present existence of monotheism; to sociology and hailed as the explanation of the alleged development of monogamy from promiscuity; to ethics as the explanation of Christian ethics developing from a completely amoral condition — and so on and on and on.
This approaches the ridiculous. If a man concludes, from the fact that the theory of relativity works beautifully in mathematics and explains many phenomena in physics, that everything is relative, he might, at any moment, logically start to use a pair of shoes for a handkerchief. These pseudo-scientific statements are quite groundless from a purely scientific point of view. As a matter of fact, the evidence shows no development of monotheism from polytheism or atheism; there is much more evidence for the conclusion that monotheism was the primitive form. A promiscuous society has yet to be discovered; and again the evidence of anthropology, insofar as it allows of a conclusion, points to monogamy as the primitive form of marriage. An amoral condition of men is a modern nightmare, not a scientific fact; some of the most surely primitive peoples we have yet discovered hold a high moral code and practise it. These things are flatly unscientific; yet they are solemnly advanced day after day, in publication after publication as though no scientific discoveries had been made since first the theorists started their castle building untrammeled by the brick and mortar of evidence.
For these things, there need be no sympathy whatever. They are without justification. They have none of the beauty of a fairy tale, the utilitarian efficient of a swindler’s story, the venerable dignity of a myth, the plausibility of a lie or the humor of a whopping joke. Least of all have they any of the characteristics of a fact. They have only the ugly repulsiveness of intellectual degeneracy.
A philosophical explanation of the universe
In its third sense, “evolution” is seriously advanced as a philosophic answer to the question of the origin of the world. This philosophic theory, which denies causality and finality, assumes that the process of change is a self-sufficient explanation both of itself and of the perfection of the universe. One form of this explanation declares that the story reads like this: some primary stuff — very imperfect — eternal or mysteriously coming into existence of itself, has slowly developed, thanks to chance and environment, with the force of inexorable law into the complicated world as we know it today. A scientist would have a graphic picture of all this if, in the vacuum he has created, there should suddenly appear a puff of smoke fragrant of a blend of Virginia and Turkish tobacco; and then, under his astonished eyes, the smoke took form, developing into a perfect ring slowly floating off (without air to float on) and, as a last delicate touch, sporting just the suspicion of a bit of lipstick to support the illusion that there had been a smoker’s mouth and a cigarette in back of the whole thing.
Another form of this explanation pictures a mysterious life force, again utterly imperfect, necessarily surging its way up through matter (which is unexplained and, indeed, not a reality at all) into the perfections we know today. In this opinion there is no material world, for only the process of change is real and that does not stop long enough for it to be recognized, let alone given a name. The words seem obscure, but the idea becomes perfectly clear when you picture the change of expression from joy to sorrow on a man’s face, first blotting out the joy, the sorrow, the face and the expression. Both these forms of the philosophic explanation called by the name of evolution are extended to include man, body and soul. Both deny the idea of a cause, or a starting point, outside the process of change. And both necessarily deny an intelligent finality to the whole affair.
Interrelation of creation and evolution
All three of these senses of evolution — the scientific, the pseudo-scientific and the philosophical — must be seen in relation to creation if there is to be any dissipation of the confusion that has come from using the one word in three distinctly different senses. Quite evidently there is no possibility of conflict between evolution as a scientific hypothesis and the fact of creation. Creation is explicitly a statement of the last cause, the ultimate explanation of the universe; and, just as explicitly, science is not interested in last cause or ultimate explanations but only in the uncovering of general laws. Science has no professional interest in the source of these laws or in the nature of the law-giver, or, indeed, in the very existence of such a legislator.
In the sense of a pseudo-scientific theory, there is no possibility of honest conflict between evolution and creation, or indeed between evolution and anything else, any more than there is a possibility of the babbling of a child clashing with some eternal truth. This theory is a positive insult to human intelligence; the audacity of its proposal assumes that we know nothing of the actual state of science, that we have heard nothing of the findings of science for the last twenty years.
In the sense of a philosophic explanation of the origin of the universe, evolution dashes head on with the act of creation — and it is just too bad for evolution if reason be the witness of the accident, or even the undertaker. In this sense, evolution is nothing more than the process of change on a grand scale, the change from potentiality to actuality, the realization of potentialities. To use some examples from an earlier chapter, it is the becoming of the statue from a marble block, the becoming of the surgeon from the butcher, the becoming of the masterpiece from the paints and canvas. To claim self-sufficiency for such a process, to posit it without explanation and blandly declare that it explains itself and everything else, is contrary to reason, unintelligible and so patently false.
Let us look at it a bit more closely. It is frankly a denial of the principle of causality and finality, that is, it makes the world a lustry brat that was unborn but is growing, a play unfolding without beginning or end, a book without starting point, plot or finish, a motion that not only did not start and is not going anywhere but which has absolutely nowhere to go. This denial is reducible to the contradiction which is an identification of opposites and it brings the mind up sharply against a dilemma. Either there is no difference between the potentiality and the actuality, between the canvas and the masterpiece, for the potentiality is the producer of the actuality by the mere process of change, by merely moving itself, of itself, to that perfection; and this amounts to a denial of evolution itself for it is a denial of change. Or, the other horn of the dilemma, this latest perfection produced by evolution is not the same as the potentiality from which it developed; in this case, it came from nothing of itself. This gives us something from nothing with no other cause adduced; more simply, it staggers the mind with the incredible contradiction that nothing is something.
This may seem much too brutal a simplification of evolution, since nothing has been said of the million of years involved, the power of the process of change, environment and chance. In a sense, the charge is just; this is a simplification of evolution. It has disregarded the table decorations, the hors d’oeuvres and the liqueurs to concentrate on the meat and potatoes of the meal. But, as a matter of fact, millions of years do not help or hinder the problem; time has nothing to do with the central difficulty, it is merely a measure of the method of development not the explanation of that development. The process of change is merely a statement of the method of development, of how the change was brought about: it is not an explanation, not a statement of cause, it does not tell us why there is a world at all.
But then look at the part environment plays in the scheme; and necessity; and chance! Well, look at them. What produced the environments? What is the source of the necessity? What is chance, in this case, but the mathematician’s “x”, a statement of a common factor. The whole thing has been succinctly put in these words: “When there is change, there is reason for change — and the reason for change can be found only in something not involved in that change. It follows that if there is such a thing as a process of change with a definite and discoverable law which embraces the whole of physical reality, the whole physical reality must have a non-physical environment.” For change and evolution presuppose the environment and the environed interacting on one another.
Unjust rejection of the account of distinction and adornment of the universe
The purpose of the account
The rejection of the fact of creation is a violation of the reason of man; it is unreasonable in the sense of being mad. The rejection, on scientific grounds, of the Scriptural account of the distinction and adornment of the world has a petty meanness about it for it is definitely unfair. The purpose of Moses in writing the account given in Genesis was to instruct an unlettered people in the fundamental truths of the religious and moral order. He wrote that they might know the obligation of adoration and gratitude to Jehovah, the author, governor and conserver of all things; that he might preserve his people from idolatry in recalling to them that every Creature has its reason of existence in a superior cause, that every creature is destined to serve man, the Crown and masterpiece of creation, and not to be served by man.
The language of it
Moses did his work in masterly fashion. His language is necessarily one of great simplicity; but its grand figures speak vividly to the imagination, it pictures the sweeping lines of the universe in terms that slam against the senses. In fact, the account often approaches the grandeur and rhythm of sublime poetry.
A hundred and fifty years ago men were smiling at the tale of Moses because it said nothing of the nebular theory of the generation of thee planets, the physics of Newton or the optical theories of Descartes. Today the smile comes again because there is nothing there of relativity, no statement of the principles of thermodynamics or of evolution. A hundred and fifty years from now another generation will continue to enjoy the huge joke of Moses not stating the scientific theories of that future time. In other words, the account is rejected primarily because Moses was not a bungler, because he did not fill a lesson in religious and moral truths with a scientific jargon that would meet the approval of all ages.
Of course it is vain to look for chemical formulas or mathematical statements in this account; there is no display of geological evidence and no anticipation of biological discoveries to be found in it. It was never intended as a scientific account; if it had been, it would have completely failed of its purpose, leaving the Hebrews of the desert glassy-eyed and slack-jawed in astonishment. It is unjust to look for contradictions to modern science in an account that was avowedly non-scientific. The very nature and language of the account made it so evidently elastic that the earliest Christian commentators could find hardly a word that was not open to widely different interpretations in the factual field: thus “day” might have meant twenty-four hours, many such days, an indefinite period of time or even a stage in knowledge; the creation of plants might have meant the instant establishment of perfect species or only the establishing of these species in germ for development; light, firmament, earth and many another word were seen, from the beginning, to be of this same indefinite character.
Injustice of its rejection
Briefly, the account of Moses is an account that admirably serves its purpose, and that does not serve a purpose foreign to it. It is unjust to tie it down to the science of any one time; and unjust to cite it as contradicting the science of any one time. It can and does oppose pseudo-scientific theories that are at bottom philosophical, for it is avowedly expository of the philosophical truths that are at the roots of all being.
Origin of the kingdom of man: Thomas’ approach to the question:
His three principles.
St. Thomas, approaching the account of creation from the vantage point of his faith, laid down some common sense principles. To him it was obvious that the truth of Holy Scripture must be held inviolate; after all, it is the inspired word of God and so there is nothing of truth which can be more sure. It also seemed clear to him that when it is possible to expose the Scriptures in many ways, no one position or interpretation should be 50 narrowly held to that, if it be certainly established that such a position be false, a man would nevertheless presume to maintain it. Such a man would justly be held in derision by the infidels and so block the infidels’ way to belief. Thomas saw the necessity of remembering that Moses spoke to an unlettered people; condescending to their ignorance (imbecillitas is the word Thomas uses) he proposed only those things that were manifestly apparent to the senses. After all, man did not lose the knowledge of natural things by his sin, nor that science by which the necessities of the flesh are provided. In Scripture, then, man is not taught these things, but rather the science of the soul, which science he had lost by his sin.
His chief interest
Thomas, in other words, makes it plain at the beginning that he is not approaching this account in search of scientific explanations. His interest, as a theologian, was centered on the metaphysical truths which that account avowedly advanced for the Hebrews: creation as a fact and as an act proper to God; the first cause of all things: and the final cause of the world. Thomas was not particularly interested, then, in this account as scientific; nevertheless, in exposing it, he was obliged to make use of contemporary science, as we are today. Thomas knew the science of his time well; in this treatment he did not try to investigate that science, to improve it or criticise it. He merely used it.
The science of his time
To understand his exposition of the account of Genesis, it will be necessary to have at least a nodding acquaintance with the physics of Aristotle which was the science of the thirteenth century. To the minds of the men of that time, the universe was made up of seven concentric planetary spheres contained within an eighths the sphere of the fixed stars, containing in their turn the earth as a center. Above the heaven of the fixed stars began the invisible world, that is, the crystalline heaven, or heaven of the waters, which was the source of rain and the Empyrean heaven, or the heaven of light, which was the abode of the angels. The matter of these celestial spheres was strictly incorruptible because their forms completely exhausted the potentialities of the matter. To each sphere a moving intelligence was assigned; its work being to direct the circular motion of the particular sphere, not to inform it or vivify it as a soul vivifies a body. Below the lowest sphere, that of the moon, are arranged the spheres of the four elements, namely, fire, air, water and earth. By rights, each of these should be gathered up in a natural site with a resultant perfect equilibrium; but, in fact, they are intermingled. Since their natural tendency is to strive for their natural site, there results the distinctive movements of the elements, thus fire goes up, earth goes down.
Causes of the kingdom of man
With these ideas in mind, we already have a fair notion of Thomas’ treatment of the account of creation. The first efficient cause was, of course, God, for Thomas had none of the modern madness about him. God is also the final cause or the end of the universe. The eternal ideas in the mind of God are the formal cause in the sense of exemplary cause. And, since all things come from God, both the matter of things and their intrinsic forms are from God, existing, of course, only in conjunction as composites.
The work of distinction — the first three days
The act of creation was an eternal act of God. As to the unfolding of that eternal act in time, these were two phases: one of distinction and one of adornment. The first three days of creation were occupied with the work of distinction, for obviously there can be no adornment until there is something to adorn. The first day saw the distinction of light and darkness; the second day brought the distinction of heaven and earth, the firmament dividing against the waters; on the third day the waters of the earth were gathered into seas, dividing seas from dry land. The land carried its quota of plants as a man wears his clothes, for the plants were not so much an ornament as an ordinary and decent covering for the bare earth.
The work of adornment — the last three days
The last three days were filled with the pleasantly creative labor of decoration, God appearing as the interior decorator of the universe facing a crucial test of His divine good taste. Thus, on the fourth day He concentrated on the heavens, adorning them with the sun, moon and stars; on the fifth day the waters received their bewilderingly various adornment of fishes, the air its fragmentary beauty of birds; the sixth day was dedicated to the adornment of the earth with its animals, among which was man. But he is so important that his production deserves, and gets, special treatment.
Throughout this exposition, Thomas is content to coast along, explaining the natures of the different products in terms of the science of his time, signalling the great differences in the interpretations of the Fathers, assigning reasons for the precise order in which these things were produced. Some of these reasons are penetrating and humanly interesting to an extreme, the reasons, for example, for the production of the stars. Every corporal creature has three ends: itself, a nature above it, and the universe. Moses, in accounting for the stars, considers only the second, the utility of man: the stars serve man by giving light for the direction of work and the acquisition of knowledge; by furnishing a change of seasons to destroy the ennui of an unchanging climate, to conserve health and to allow the necessary food to be raised — things that could not happen in an eternal winter or an eternal summer; by furnishing opportunities for business and work by allowing the forecasting of dry and rainy seasons.
The rest of God — the seventh day
By the end of the sixth day, creation was over and done with. Everything that was ever to exist was made by that time, either actually or virtually, that is, in its full perfection or potentially, in germ; as for human souls, they existed at least in their exemplar, in the mind of God. Creation was an accomplished fact; God then rested. But the rest of God by no means implies that God’s action in the world ceased on the sixth day, there was no question of a Florida trip or an ocean voyage on a divine scale to get away from it all. He operates unceasingly in conserving and governing the world. The seventh day, marking the repose of God in this sense, is fittingly kept holy; for the sanctification of everything consists precisely in its reposing in God as God did in Himself on the seventh day.
Origin of the lord of the world
To come to the creation of man, we find him destined to occupy a peculiar position linking the material and spiritual world in himself; consequently, it is necessary to consider the element of the spiritual and that of the material in him separately. Really, the spiritual offers no rational difficulty, though it has been the stumbling block of intellectuals for hundreds of years; but then what could be more fitting than that a professed intellectual should stumble over a block that was not there.
It is immediately evident, and also a doctrine of faith, that the soul of Adam was certainly not an emanation of the substance of God, an outpouring of the divine stuff. From what has already been said of the infinite perfection and ceaseless act of God and what is quite evident of the limitation and imperfection of our own souls, there can be no question of identity of the two. The soul of Adam must, then, have been produced; and there is only one way to produce a spiritual substance, that is, by creation It cannot be knitted, woven, grown or manufactured. It cannot be made from any material stuff; the attempt to maintain that it can promptly involves the contradiction that the soul is both spiritual and possessed of parts. Nor can it have been made from any preexisting spiritual substance; such a substance, precisely as spiritual, is devoid of parts and thus cannot have anything taken from it without being destroyed. The soul of man is created; and that means that it was produced immediately by God, for the utterly independent mode of action which is creation is proper to the only utterly independent agent. Even though the angels were willing to take on a little extra work, God Himself could give them no part in this labor which is possible only to omnipotent power. It is the common teaching of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church that the human soul was not produced before the human body, though philosophically there is no impossibility involved in such a previous production. But then, neither is there any reason to be found for such a previous existence. Certainly, if Augustine is right and the body was only virtually produced during the six days of creation, there is no reason why the soul must necessarily have come into actual existence in that period.
It is plain, then, that on the question of the soul of man both faith and reason stand diametrically opposed to the theories of complete evolution. Because the human soul is spiritual, it can come only from God and must come directly from Him. There can be no question of its slow development, or, indeed, of any development of it; not only because there is nothing from which a spiritual substance can be developed, but also because, being devoid of parts, the soul is had all at once or it is not had at all. In any question of the evolution of man, if we are to stand on reasonable grounds, his soul must be excluded from the discussion; otherwise we place him on the level of material creation in violation of the evident fact that his acts exceed the limits of the material.
In the production of the body of man, St. Thomas says no one element (fire, air, earth, or water) was exclusively used. As God had all things eminently in Himself, as the angels had all things intentionally (that is, by knowledge) in themselves, so man was a kind of microcosmos, having almost everything in his composition: spirituality in his soul, a likeness of the heavenly bodies in the stability of his make-up, and the earthly elements in his physical constitution. The question of the production of the body of man was really a question of disposing the material for the fit reception of the human soul.
Certainly that disposition could not have been accomplished by other human beings, as it is today; there were no others. Nor could it have been, naturally, the work of some other animals any more than a pair of tigers, let alone a pair of mountains, can dispose the material for the generation of a mouse. It was the work of God: perhaps immediately, by the direct divine formation of the body; perhaps mediately, that is, through lower animals to which such poster had been specially given or, as Augustine would have it, the body was only virtually produced in the work of creation.
Thomas, as opposed to Augustine, inclines towards the immediate production of the body of man by God because of the absence of any sufficient natural factors for such production. But he agrees that there is no philosophical reason militating against the gradual preparation of the material for such a body by other forces acting through powers given them by God. In any case, it is never a question of any other than God producing the final human composite made up of body and soul; the question is merely one of the preparation of the material for the infusion of the soul by God. In a word, as far as the body of man goes, there is no reason for serious opposition to the theory of evolution; on the other hand, there is no compelling reason for an enthusiastic embrace of every evolutionary theory advanced. A good many have gone by the board already; probably a good many more will follow. So far it is not at all proved that the body of man actually did develop from some lower form.
The actual design of the human body was an artistic triumph worthy of divine ingenuity. What defects there are in man’s constitution come from the nature of the material that had to be used if man were to be the link binding together the material and the spiritual worlds; no amount of skill on the part of the craftsman can make a sword durable if he is confined to tin as to his material, nor can divine ingenuity find any natural escape from the defects of matter when matter must enter into the essential composition of a creature. As we shall see later on in this book, and again in the second volume, these natural defects were remedied by the preternatural gifts given man for his life in the Garden of Eden.
It is true that some animals have keener smell than men, others keener sight, and so on. But this was because man’s senses were ordered to his higher knowledge so that a nice balance was struck lest any one of his senses interfere with his reason; not many human ears are so keen that a man cannot think because of the racket made by a cat tramping over a rug. In the fundamental sense of touch, and in those internal senses which so immediately serve reason — imagination, memory, appreciation — man far excels the animals.
We have no horns, claws or covering of hair and, normally, our hides are not too thick; in other words, man is shorn of the weapons and coverings naturally given to other animals. He does not have even a speck of fur or just a few of the porcupine’s spikes. In place of these natural protections, man has his reason and his hands: by these he can prepare weapons for himself, provide himself with covering and the other necessities of life in an infinite variety. It is only the human female that does not have to wear the same coat of fur for a lifetime.
Man stands erect while the other animals normally go about on all fours; and for very good reasons. His senses are ordered primarily to intellectual delights, not to the search for sensible delights; he should not have his face to the ground as though concentrating on sensible things but rather high up where he can get a broad view of the sensible world, seeing it from all angles. To give his interior powers full play, it is right that his brain be placed above all the other parts of his body, that nothing might weigh heavy upon it and interfere with its operation. If man did not stand erect, he would have to use his hands for front feet, thereby seriously interfering with their usefulness; if he went about on all fours, he would have to take his foods with his lips and mouth, dispensing with all books of etiquette but at the same time thickening his lips, hardening them and roughening the tongue to the impediment of his powers of speech. Moreover, as the superior part of a creature is that by which nourishment is taken, the stature of man accurately places him in the world of creation: the plants have their superior part (the roots) pointed toward earth; the animals occupy a neutral position; while man points towards heaven.
In the very beginning, God Himself noticed that man needed a helper; a fact that has been observed by, or called to the attention of, many a man since. It was fitting, then, that woman should have been created from the very beginning of things. However, the fact that Adam needed a helper did not imply that woman was created that she might crawl into overalls and go out into the fields; for such purposes Adam might better have been given a hired man. But obviously the human race would not have lasted very long if God had created only a man.
Time and manner of the production of women
According to the medicine of his century, which, of course, Thomas did not correct, woman was an incomplete man, a half-baked male, whose unfinished characteristics come about through some weakness in the parents, some disposition in the human material or some extrinsic cause such as, for example, a strong south wind at the time of conception. Nevertheless Thomas thinks it is unjust to consider woman a cosmic accident; she was not an accident, this creature was made on purpose, deliberately planned by God. Further, he insists that the notion of subjection of woman to man be properly understood. It by no means signifies that woman is the slave of man, subject to man for his utility; rather, the domestic subjection is an ordinary requisite for order; it is subjection, not inferiority. Of course, when more than one free individual are living together and working for a common end there must be someone in charge, one governor, one director. Certainly this subjection is not inferiority; above all, it is not inferiority in any subjective sense: woman is not less human than man, her soul cannot be denied equality with his, and so on. Rather, this subjection is a statement of difference, of unequal gifts that counter-balance each other, making of man and woman a balanced whole. Among the peculiar gifts of man Thomas mentions discretion of reason, which beyond doubt means excellence in speculative reasoning; leaving the obvious corollary to be drawn, namely, that woman excels in practical reasoning.
Her relation to man
There are many reasons why woman was fittingly formed from Adam himself. Among others might be mentioned the preservation of the dignity of the first man as head of the whole human race, by way of likeness to God Who is the head of the whole universe. Then, too, this served to augment and conserve the love of man for woman as for one who came from himself, giving it some what the note of the love of a parent for a child; this increase and protection of love was of great importance in the human species where the union of the two sexes was indissoluble. As in the domestic life man is the head of the woman, it was fitting that woman come from man as from her principle; into the union of the two there was introduced, from this moment of origin, a note of sanctity and consecration from the fact that woman, proceeding from the side of man, was the figure of the Church proceeding from the side of Christ.
It is to be particularly noted that woman came from the side of man, formed from his rib. she was not taken from his head, lest she get the notion of dominating man; nor from his feet, lest she be despised by man as subject to him by way of a slave. To Thomas it was obvious that woman’s body was immediately produced by God; for certainly no one else could produce such a masterpiece from such humble material.
Conclusion: Pertinence of the question of the origin of the world
To the mind of man
In concluding this chapter it is very much to the point to insist that this question of the origin of the world is not a purely speculative or academic affair the outcome of which makes no difference to individual men and women. The human mind is simply not made to shrug off a question as fundamental as this. That innate, driving insistence to know the why of things that gives the mind of man no rest is hardly likely to be content to know what this or that wheel is for while the meaning of the whole vast machine of the universe is hidden. The human mind has to have an answer to this question, however many others remain unanswered; and it will have an answer, though it concoct it from the monstrous materials of falsehood offered it by a world afraid of truth.
To the life of man
After all, a man has to live in this world, use it or be used by it year after year. Is it of no importance to him to discover that the whole is devoid of meaning and his puny life is a kind of vital insanity? Is it of no importance for him to be given a meaning that is totally false; that, for instance, reduces him to a part of a process, an accident in a biological experiment, a moment in the life of some organistic monster that uses him to his own destruction? Is it not important that he should find that the world he lives in is an intelligent product of a supreme intelligence, that he is its peak, that all beneath him is for the carving out of an eternally enduring personal life? It is hardly likely that men, embracing these different answers to the question of the origin of the universe, will live their lives with the same hope, the same intensity, the same courage, the same strong effort: for men, however ignorant they may be, are not universally fools.
Contrast of the answers: From the appraisal of reason
In our time, the answers to the question of the origin of the universe boil down to two, the answer of creation and the answer of evolution; that is to say, there is only one answer given, the answer of creation, for the other denies the necessity of an answer for a universe that is without cause or purpose. On the grounds of reason the modern man is hardly offered a choice, at least in this sense that there is little choice for the human mind between madness and sanity. The one, on the basis of a self-sufficient universe with no trace of its self-sufficiency, offers a man a process in place of an explanation, a contradiction in place of truth, fiction in face of facts, disorder as the explanation of order. The other, on the basis of a supreme cause whose existence can be demonstrably shown, faces the facts and bows to the inherent dependence of all that is not God; it gives man an explanation, challenges him with the truth, and commands his respect for the order he cannot hide from his eyes.
From the consequences of each
There is much more to the apparent choice than the intellectual aspect of truth or Falsehood; there is the difference between despair and hope, between a livable human life and a life that is completely shorn of livability. For if there be no personal end to human life, there is no point in personal concern with the means of living that life, means that can be means only in name. If there is nothing above that man, there is no ground for his hope, no sense to his sorrows, no excuse for his efforts, no reason to his courage; love, triumph, success, justice and all the rest are catchwords coined to lure man into a struggle where he loses even though he wins. But if he comes from the hand of God and goes his way to God, if every hair of his head is numbered, every moment of his life under his command, and ultimate success or failure not only a possibility but a certainty, then, indeed, man has something to live for. He can, and will, face the risks, take the blows, struggle to his feet after defeat, refuse to quit and scorn to bow his head to the things that are his servants. Yes, it does indeed make a difference what answer is given to the question of the origin of the world; the difference, in a word, between a human and an inhuman life.