I came across a great point recently which spoke of the “heresy hunting” permeating some traditionalist Catholic circles. I often see it when I try to discuss more speculative or esoteric topics. It’s like running up against a wall, where if it was not uttered by St. Thomas Aquinas then it is heresy or error. And I believe this is completely unfair to the other orthodox theological stances within the Catholic Church.
There is an issue that many take within traditionalism with the study of comparative religions. Namely, the search for vestiges of Catholicity within the philosophies and theosophies of non-Christian religions. I think it stems from this misconception that acceptance of a truth in another belief system is an acceptance of their error as well. As soon as one brings up the Trinitarian images within Vedic tradition, then immediately the fingers go in the ears and the cries of error or heresy burst forth.
Yet how can an understanding of God develop if we do not take into account the vestiges of God in the man-made religions? How is the mystical interpretation of creation from a Lutheran, like Jacob Boehme, something that must be cast away whole? Did not St. Augustine draw upon neo-Platonism to develop his theology and metaphysics?
Even St. Thomas Aquinas had immense respect for Jewish theologian Maimonides, Islamic philosopher Avicenna, and of course the works of pagan Aristotle. The majority of the Church Fathers drew from the font of Greek wisdom and came out with an even better understanding of God, the Trinity, and Christ. How is it that looking into the perspective of another religion, philosophy, or even a material heretic something we must close ourselves to? Rather than seek out knowledge of God, these individuals instead proclaim “heresy!” at the first unorthodox idea before any discussion of its Catholicity can get off the ground.
I am not trying to rail on the dogmatic teachings of the Church. Obviously what Her Magisterium has defined over two millennia is Truth, and I can never deny that. But to say that the whole of the Truth has already been uncovered and we should not look any further into the matter is to shun Wisdom Itself. God is infinite, He is eternal, there is an everlasting font of Wisdom to draw upon which we will never empty. To drink from the chalice of Wisdom, expanding one’s understanding of the Nature of God is to draw nearer to That which one loves. If God invites me, then what harm can come from exploring avenues unseen? As long as I remain upon the narrow path, how can the forces of Hell prevail?
It’s funny, modern Catholics (not to say modernists), draw solely upon the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa as if it were the end-all of Theology. When in reality, it is simply the beginning. He wrote the Summa Theologica as an introduction to Theology, not the Alpha and the Omega of all understanding of God. From it, we can determine concrete beliefs of the Church about God, but we are also not limited to just one means of knowledge.
There are many other orthodox theological positions that one can adhere to without committing heresy. The theology of Augustine still stands as one of the monoliths of Catholic understanding, there’s that of the Franciscan tradition, the mystical tradition, even St. Thomas himself sought to destroy his work after receiving a vision of the infinitude of God. I believe it’s rash to simply cast off an idea because it doesn’t have Aquinas’s signature on it. There is only one road to God, but there’s an infinitude of understanding awaiting us if we do not simply put God in a Thomistic box.
That is not to say that I hate Thomism. I love the writings of Aquinas and the insights he provides are breathtaking. But I see his work as a springboard into the depths of the Trinity. A foundation that firmly establishes one in Catholicism, providing them ground to expand further their love and knowledge of God.