Friday, October 31, 2014

Gandhi to E. Stanley Jones

     "My first contact with Mahatma Gandhi was the one which brought me the most unalloyed joy of all the contacts through the years.  It was soon after his return from South Africa when he was just beginning to take up the threads of his work in India.  There was no area of conflict such as developed between him and the missionaries in later years over mass conversions and the right and the propriety of conversion in general.  Our relations had not been clouded by that controversy in my first meeting with the Mahatma.  He was not on the defensive, and I was not on the offensive.  It was simple and natural and unstrained.
     "I was giving addresses in St. Stephen's College, Delhi, and Principal Rudra said rather casually:  'Mr. Gandhi [that was before he became Mahatma, 'The Great-souled'] is upstairs.  Would you like to see him?'  This was all in great contrast with later years; for in later years the house would have been surrounded night and day with a curious crowd, and to get an interview with him would not have been easy, for people from all over the world would have been pressing him for interviews.  But here I was being asked if I would like to see him!  He was seated on a bed surrounded by papers, and he greeted me with an engaging and contagious smile.  Without preliminaries I went straight to my question:  'How can we make Christianity naturalized in India, not a foreign thing, identified with a foreign government and a foreign people, but a part of the national life of India and contributing its power to India's uplift?  What would you, as one of the Hindu leaders of India, tell me, a Christian, to do in order to make this possible?'
     "He responded with great clarity and directness:  'First, I would suggest that all of you Christians, missionaries and all, must begin to live more like Jesus Christ.  Second, practice your religion without adulterating it or toning it down.  Third, emphasize love and make it your working force, for love is central to Christianity.  Fourth, study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically to find the good that is within them, in order to have a more sympathetic approach to the people.'"

     E. Stanley Jones, Mahatma Gandhi:  an interpretation (New York:  Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1948), chap. 5 ("Gandhi and the Christian faith"), pp. 51-52.

"The Socinians are the real forerunners of process theology, and indeed almost of process philosophy generally."

     Charles E. Hartshorne, Aquinas to Whitehead:  seven centuries of metaphysics of religion, Aquinas lecture 1976 (Milwaukee, WI:  Marquette University Publications, 1976), 14.  I was put onto this by Leo Scheffczyk, "Proze├čtheismus und christlicher Gottesglaube," M├╝nchener theologische Zeitschrift 35, no. 2 (1984):  100 (81-104).  I have not yet examined it in context, though the discussion of Socinianism begins on p. 13.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Aquinas on the eminently active or operational character of the contemplative life

Andrea di Cione (Orcagna),
Strozzi Altarpiece (1357, detail),
S. Maria Novella, Florence.
Source:  Wikimedia Commons.
"the good that is the activity [(operatio)] itself, in which the will rests, takes precedence over the will's resting [(quietatio voluntatis)]  in it."

"principalius bonum est ipsa operatio in qua quietatur voluntas, quam quietatio voluntatis in ipso."

     Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae I-II.4.2.Resp., trans. McInerny.  Recall that
  • the blessed God is a pure act of self-contemplation, and that therefore
  • "Each [created] thing is perfect insofar as it is actual" ("Unumquodque autem intantum perfectum est, inquantum est actu") (I-II.3.2.Resp.), and that therefore
  • "happiness must consist in man's ultimate act" ("Oportet ergo beatitudinem in ultimo actu hominis consistere"), and that
  • "activity is the ultimate [(or second)] act of the agent" ("operatio est ultimus actus operantis"), so that
  • "'happiness is an activity in accord with perfect virtue'" ("'felicitas est operatio secundum perfectam virtutem'") (I-II.3.6.arg. 1, quoting Aristotle).
Recall, further, that Aquinas links this up with a discussion of the active and contemplative lives in particular (to speak only of these few articles of the Summa ( 4), rather than the treatise on the active and contemplative life proper (II-II.179-182)):
"perfect happiness [(beatitudo perfecta)] is promised us by God, when we will be like the angels in heaven. . . . With respect to that perfect happiness, the object ceases, because by one and continuous and sempiternal activity [(una et continua et sempiterna operatione)] in that state of happiness [the mind of] man [(mens hominis)] is joined to God.  But in the present life, to the degree that we fall short of the unity and continuity of such an activity [(unitate et continuitate talis operationis)], to that degree we fall short of happiness.  But there is some participation of happiness, and so much the greater, insofar as the activity [(operatio)] can be more continuous and one [(magis continua et una)].  Therefore, in the active life [(activa vita)] which is concerned with many things, there is less of the notion of happiness than in the contemplative life [(vita contemplativa)], which turns on one thing, that is, the contemplation of truth [(veritatis contemplationem)].  And if at times man does not actually engage in this activity [(Et si aliquando homo actu non operetur huiusmodi operationem, And if at some time or other a man does not in fact engage in an operation of this kind)], he is always ready to do so, and because taking time out for sleep or some natural activity [(occupationis)] is ordered to it, it seems to be a continuous activity [(operatio continua)]."