While searching for Truth, with a capital ‘T’, bringing three giants like St. Thomas Aquinas, Descartes and William Wordsworth, under a single roof, is a gigantic task that requires great care and attention. Aquinas can be said to be a man who is an open minded Catholic, very tolerant and humane thinker who is not only a philosopher but someone who is intellectually interested in the pursuit of truth. Descartes is the Greek philosopher, lived far before the age of reason, whose principles were revived after the success of Newtonian theories of science.
And finally, Wordsworth and Blake, the world renowned poetic geniuses of the Romantic era in England is to be studied as an example of the poetic presence of Truth. Faith The age of faith was the method that had come by through the ages. It is the method that had been conferred on us as heredity, rather than fixed by two markers through the centuries. Aquinas, the devout Catholic has tried to expound it according to the methods of rational philosophy of Aristotle. He has succeeded in the effort. Faith has been described by Aquinas as a beacon pointing to Truth.
Truth in the purest form is beyond definition and comprehension of human mind. The Church attributes it to the word of God. The scriptures say “Your word is the Truth”(John 17/17) to Pilates exclamation “What is Truth? ”. Thomas Aquinas would say that the approach to Truth is better based on faith rather than on the firmaments of reason. He says that if faith is the basis of understanding Truth, God has decreed it to be like that so that all of us may have access to the essential elements of Truth.
Even the innermost substance of the human intellect cannot completely comprehend the essence of God; there are some points of understanding in God which are accessible to man. There may be infinite other points in the essence of God which cannot be accessed by the human being on this earth to comprehend the essence of Truth (That the Truths which we confess concerning God fall under two Modes or Categories. ). Even when we perceive with our senses the reason that we attribute to it may be clouded and often cannot be explained with reason, with the limitation of the knowledge that we have.
Reason may be depended only as far as mundane things are concerned. There are certain that can be explained with reason which we perceive with the senses. Abstract realities like Truth or even Justice may not be comprehended and (weighed in kilograms, coming to think of it) interpreted using inadequate methods. It is according to Blake, like traveling over known lands to find out the unknown lands (Blake). Faith would be able to support as and nudge us forward in the direction of Truth, slowly unfolding itself in the form of life rather than in the form of words.
It is the method of the simple minded to achieve Truth of things in life. Another important approach to Truth is the approach of reason. This was awakened in the centuries after the Protestant revolution in Europe and the foundations of the era of faith were shaken by it. The Roman Catholic Church had suffered a lot at the hands of Calvin and Martin Luther King and the foundations of the belief in faith as a means of achieving Truth had come to be doubted (Meditation 1). And contrary to the teachings of the Church, many learned men like Descartes began to believe that earth was not the centre of the Universe.
The foundations of their beliefs were shaken and alternative methods other than just the ones taught by the Church had to be found. Thus, slowly, The age of Reason was slowly dawning upon the horizon of Europe. Descartes wished that he could arrive at the Truth by doubting whatever he was taught till then and the learned theories had to be unlearned to forget all the lies that they had accumulated. He was imitating the style of Ignatius of Loyola being brought up in Jesuit tradition.
He expected to earn the respect of the conservative thinkers of his times (Descartes. R 2010). Descartes claims that we are essentially thinking beings and our minds can be understood better than our bodies. And when he considers that even though he is capable of thinking he is able to do so only in a finite way. But God is infinite reality. He muses that God is infinite reality. He is “substance that is infinite, eternal, immutable, independent, supremely intelligent, supremely powerful, and which created both myself and everything else” (Meditation 3. . Thus Descartes advances far in the search of Truth and moves from the finite to the infinite.
It is his feeling that God is the infinite reality, the infinite Truth. Since he has a very clear idea of God’s existence, the idea has infinite objective reality, that is, it is of more substance than, that is more truth than any other reality Thus he is able to meditate and find truths which theologians have tried to explain(Descartes. R. 2010). On close analysis we find that Descartes has used a method, which moves in circular directions.
This reasoning is called the “Cartesian Circle The idea is arrived at with a lot of complicated assumptions and it is not easy for an average reader, and needs very hard work to attain (Introduction to Descartes. ). To come back to the present state of such an argument, we should know that there is no such hot topic today, as it is generally agreed that the existence of God could not be proved by a feat of the intellect. As Kierkegaard says, it needs “a leap of faith” rather than an act of the intelligence (Descartes. R. 2010).
Thus arriving at Truth, by the power of reasoning is a very toilsome job. Moreover, even if Truth comes within the grasp of the Meditator, he is at a greater task of making it clear to his opponents and sympathizers, which is not at all a simple job. Finally, after explaining and elaborating there is always the chance that the supposedly non-prejudiced, balanced state of mind may have been prejudiced after all. The third faculty of imagination, in search of Truth, in itself sounds like a contradiction.
But this has a valid background. The Notre Dame Cathedral stands with the terrible memoir of the reign of reason becoming the reign of terror, in which 20,000 Frenchmen were massacred. Rationalism was suffocating the arts to death, and during those times blind adherence to cumbersome rules was a stifling instrument to many. During these times philosophers like Voltaire started using poetry as a means to express truth. To these visionaries truth became the visible and tangible, which symbolized the intangible and the unseen.
Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” sang the poet John Keats, in his Ode to a Grecian Urn. He belonged to category of poets which belonged to the Romantic Tradition (Ode on a Grecian urn. 1997). Thus the idea of searching out God through the visible in the world also holds real substance. Blake as a precursor of the Romantic tradition tries to point out that reason is always limited to the mundane and earthly things whereas it is the poetic or philosophic faculty that makes man comprehend more than what he actually sees.
Thus everything that has a hint of the truth in it is an emanation from the poetic faculty. We also find Blake arguing that every religion is the same and the scriptures are the exercise of this self same poetic faculty (Introduction to imagination. ). This must be read together with the predictions of earlier poets and storytellers about the inventions of the flying machines and undersea traveling machine well ahead of the inventions of aero planes and submarines. We have the recent case of Friedrich August Kekule, discovered the molecular structure of benzene.
He had a dream of a snake chasing its tail. Rather than ignoring his dream, he applied it to his research and thereby achieved the breakthrough (Osborn. D. ). Now, while we deal with Truth, which of the methods is the best in the approaches, I would certainly prefer the method of faith, over the two others. The best arguments for this are given by St. Thomas Aquinas. He has argued that even though reason is able to come upon the Truth, it presupposes much knowledge and much labor.
The person who attempts to reach the Truth by reasoning must have a lot of patience and time at hand to understand all the basic assumptions and settle up a state of mind that is necessary to reach the mental state needed for slow calculations. “Only with great labor of study is it possible to arrive at the searching out of the aforesaid truth;” says the sage. And very few will have the time and labor needed to arrive on the assumptions. It would need a real genius to arrive on the Truth and if it was the only way to arrive on reality, mankind would long dwell in darkness.
Then, when we think about the effects of imagination, on the whole we would be disappointed with the number of formulas and equations derived at by the use of dreams and facts arrived upon by the spectacular power of poetry. This is because, all poets are not seers and often poetry can come out of drunken stupor or from fumes of opium. Finally, as the subjects of study have all found that there is good God who is benevolent driving this Universe, it would be too much for him to let the ordinary person go without access to the Truth other than the complex path of reason and the unsure path of imagination.
Thus he would reveal the Truth himself and expect his children to believe in it. This I think would be reason enough for us to depend more on faith, than on reasoning and imagination. Conclusion It is best to follow Truth with an eye of faith, which can be steered by reason and powered by imagination. The faculty of reason would be a good guide and imagination would surely serve as a peek into the future (That it is an advantage for the Truths of God).