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We do not get the scale until we come to the few men in history who can be his rivals.Thus, to begin with, we may compare him with the common life of his time; and tell the story of his adventures among his contemporaries.
A great gentleman could be decorously admitted into the now ancient routine of the Benedictines; like a squire’s younger son becoming a parson.
But the world had just been shaken by a religious revolution, and strange feet were on all the highways.
And when young Thomas insisted on becoming a Dominican – that is a wandering and begging friar – his brothers pursued him, kidnapped him and shut him up in a gaol.
It was as if the squire’s son had become a gipsy or a Communist.
Therefore, he made a cosmos of common sense; terra vientium; a land of the living.
His philosophy, like his theology, is that of common sense.
From this he passed to the great central controversy on Averroes and Aristotle; in effect to the great reconciliation of Christian faith and Pagan philosophy.
His external life was prodigiously preoccupied with these things.
That is where it anticipates and answers the anti-rational cry of Luther and the rest; as a highly Pagan poet said to me: “The Reformation happened because people hadn’t the brains to understand Aquinas.” The Church is more immortally important than the State; but the State has its rights, for all that.
This Christian duality had always been implicit, as in Christ’s distinction between God and Caesar, or the dogmatic distinction between the natures of Christ. Thomas has the glory of having seized this double thread as the clue to a thousand things; and thereby created the only creed in which the saints can be sane.