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IN DEFENSE OF THE PLATONIC FORMS

And Superconsciousness As The Basis Of Philosophy

First Approach

as

Philosophical Reflections On

Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, and Aquinas

Jean-Marie de la Trinité

March 5, 2017

Sunday
My purpose in this essay is to set forth something of the philosophical discussion among

Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, and Aquinas concerning Forms and First Principles and to add to that

discussion which is continued in my own thought and, here, to the purpose of supplying supporting

argument in favor of the Platonic theory of Forms and against the refutations and attacks upon it

of Aristotle and my beloved brother, Saint Thomas Aquinas. To this end, what is required is a

sufficient theory of act and potency so as to apply, in a metaphysics of pure act esse, analogically

to both Uncreated Being and created being which is new ontology of universal pure act esse.

Now, the Being of God resolves all contraries, for in God Act and Potency are One and the

Same Pure Act Esse. Therefore, the Form of Motion is in God in Pure Act, and each particular in

existence is in God in its Pure Form in Pure Act, which Pure Act Form is God Himself, the Sea of

God in the Transinfinite Waves of Being which God Is, each Wave constituting the Form of some

particular or universal, some thing or species, some whole and all its individual parts and members,

each and every one of these accounted for in the Transinfinite Ocean of Being of Pure Act Esse,

the Oneness of the Forms of all things which is God, which is Seen both in the Perfect Mystical

Vision of Grace and most specifically in the Transient Beatific Vision of Subsistence.

Therefore, Plato is correct, but misunderstood by Aristotle and Aquinas.

Plato’s is a mind trying to work out rationally its supra-rational content, achieved in him it

would seem in his soul’s mystical rapture to God where he saw things of sublime ineffability. On

these proposed grounds, Plato is more a mystic than he is a philosopher, and that is one of the

reasons his dialectic is so often inconclusive, as in the Theaetetus. It cannot, and need not, reach a

conclusion upon the Reality which he has already Seen, and which Reality in the Seeing has

become decisive in him, and which his soul is later trying to put into words, in the effort, in its

ultimate tendency, of poetry and drama to express the inexpressible. What he saw in his mystical

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experience must be what he most insists upon in his philosophy, namely, the Forms of things

existent and Divine whose Supreme Reality so immensely struck him that their existence became

the crown jewel of his thought.

Aristotle, on the other hand, is an empiricist-rationalist, pure and simple; for his philosophy

develops out of reason examining empirical being and beings of reason based in empirical

experience. No one would ever accuse him of being a mystic, or a poet for that matter; and it is

precisely this lack of the mystical and poetic instincts which results in his rejection of the Platonic

Ideal Forms, which he yet must irresistibly retain in some respect and so recasts them in terms of

pure reason—intuition, ecstasy, rapture and poetry be damned.

Aristotle rejected and attacked the Platonic theory of forms, but his
Platonic training influenced him to the extent of his being led to say
that form, being of itself universal, requires individuation, and St.
Thomas followed him in this. … Aristotle substituted the notion of
immanent substantial form for that of the ‘transcendent’ exemplar
form, but it would not become an historian to turn a blind eye to the
Platonic legacy in Aristotle’s thought and consequently in that of St.
Thomas.1

The Platonic legacy is also prominently evident in Thomas in the profound influence upon him of

Augustine, Plotinus, and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite whose combined quotations in Thomas

well outnumber those of Aristotle.

Plotinus is the great interpreter of Plato and is a philosopher mystic in his own right. He

affirms the existence of the Platonic Forms in his philosophy but does not place them in the One.

Rather he places them in the first emanation from the One, the Nous, Logos, Divine Mind, in order

to preserve and protect the absolute simplicity and unicity of the One. These Transcendent

Realities of the One and the Nous, the Intellectual Principle, are affirmed after Plotinus’ mystical

experience of the World of the Really Real in Divine Rapture.

1
Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, Volume II, Medieval Philosophy, pp. 327-328.

2
All the need is met by a contact purely intellective. At the moment
of touch there is no power whatever to make any affirmation; there
is no leisure; reasoning upon the vision is for afterwards. We may
know that we have had the vision when the Soul has suddenly taken
light. This light is from the Supreme and is the Supreme … Thus,
the Soul unlit remains without that vision; lit, it possesses what it
sought … to see the Supreme by the Supreme and not by the light
of any other principle … But how is this accomplished? Cut away
everything.2

Here one sees the experiential basis upon which Plotinus affirms the reality of the source

of his philosophy of the One and of the Intellective Principle and the latter’s content of Divine

Forms, which personal mystical experience may have gone far in confirming him in his

commitment to Plato and the theory of the Divine Forms; and in reporting on this World of the

Really Real, he reinforces the teaching of the Master Philosopher Plato himself:

… the lover is turned to the great sea of beauty, and, gazing upon
this, he gives birth to many gloriously beautiful ideas and theories,
in unstinting love of wisdom, until, having grown and been
strengthened there, he catches sight of such knowledge, and it is the
knowledge of beauty …3

And:

So much at least I can affirm with confidence about any who have
written or propose to write on these questions, pretending to a
knowledge of the problems with which I am concerned, whether
they claim to have learned from me or from others or to have made
their discoveries for themselves: it is impossible, in my opinion, that
they can have learned anything at all about the subject. There is no
writing of mine about these matters, nor will there ever be one. For
this knowledge is not something that can be put into words like other
sciences; but after long-continued intercourse between teacher and
pupil, in joint pursuit of the subject, suddenly, like light flashing
forth when a fire is kindled, it is born in the soul and straightway
nourishes itself.4 [It is ineffable mystical consciousness, JMT.]

2
Plotinus, The Enneads, V. 3, Translated by Stephen MacKenna, pp. 385-386.
3
Plato, Complete Works, Symposium, 210e, p. 493.
4
Ibid., Letter VII, 341cd, p. 1659.

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In the line of Aristotle proper, we come to the great Thomas Aquinas who did not take

Aristotle’s philosophy whole cloth, but certainly made use of it as the guiding light of his

application of reason in the consideration of the things of God in his theology. On balance, Thomas

made great use of Augustine and most charitably employs his sometimes less than philosophical

explications, canonizing them, so to speak, in assuming them into the fabric of his more strictly

orthodox reasoning and philosophic argumentation.

Thomas finds the first principles of this theological thought, those irreducible propositions

and assumptions which have no antecedents but which are utterly necessary to any science, in the

Creed; and so, in this respect, he parts with Augustine whose first principles of theology are signs

and things resulting in the allegorical exegesis of scripture as the technique of thought employed

in explicating Divine Truth. Thomas determines to place his theology on the closest grounds to

God Himself, the Only True First Principle of Truth containing all Principles of Truth as the sole

Subject of Theology, but which is not visible to him except in the faith of the Catholic Church as

revealed to him in the Creed. (Here I closely follow Jean-Pierre Torrell’s incisive thoughts on Saint

Thomas).5

Thomas’ project might have been the questions: What Defines A Science? Whether

Theology is a Divine Science in every way?

Now, a science is defined from three points of view, the term wherefrom, the mode or form

whereby to its conclusions, and the term whereto. Thus a science is defined by (a) its principles,

indeed, its first principles, which are its basic, self-evident propositions or assumptions that cannot

be deduced from any prior assumptions, (b) its mode of operation or the form of its operation, and

(c) its goal or the body of its conclusions.

5
Jean-Pierre Torrell, O.P., Saint Thomas Aquinas, Volume II, Spiritual Master, pp. 13-16.

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According to these criteria, theology is a divine science in every way: for (a) its principles

are faith in God Himself and all that is in God, which is, again, God Himself, but considered under

various modalities of intellective apprehension; (b) its mode of operation is the modality of love

since God, who is its only Subject, is Love, and so it must proceed in the examination of its proper

Subject according to the mode of Existence of that Subject, such that the form of its operation is

most perfectly love and, indeed, love most perfect, which is under the form and in the mode of

Grace in its operation which constitute mystical consciousness and intellection; and (c) its Goal

which is the Beatific Vision is achieved in hope.

Therefore, the science of Theology proceeds from Faith by means of Love to its end in

Hope in which theological virtues it is wholly contained and defined, but these theological virtues

are the divine virtues in man, in Soul, of the knowledge of God.

For these reasons, Theology is a Divine Science in every way.

The complete divinity of the science of theology would have satisfied Thomas immensely

and certainly did so, for the pursuit of its discoveries occupied his entire life, from adolescence

until his death in the creating of his huge synthesis elucidating theology in teaching, writing, and

preaching, if less effectively in preaching.

Yet, what might that synthesis have been, what might it have achieved of towering insights,

if he had allowed himself to soar with the eagles, but for fear perhaps of unorthodoxy in finding

divine inspiration in philosophy, even if merely found in it alongside that inspiration which he

found in sacred scripture and which was the bedrock of this thought in commentaries and in

contemplation?

But his first principles are not so much scripture, as they are for Augustine, but rather the

proclamations of the Creed. These are the first principles of the science of philosophical theology

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for him which replace the unapproachable First Principles proper of Being which God In Himself

constitutes in the Face of His Divine Existence, His Eternity. The Creed replaces the Divine

Substance as the source of Thomas’ philosophical theology.

Thomas was a mystic and certainly a profound one, but it scarcely shows in his writing and

can only be unearthed by the most determined exegesis of his thought and inspiration in their root

realities which is in Divine Grace, in the truth of the scriptures and the church which he most

lovingly examines and explicates for the faithful and the ignorant. It is this heart of charity in him

which most tellingly reveals his mystical nature, his consciousness which is completely imbued

with the Living Light of Wisdom and Love, the Grace of the Spirit of Truth, the Person of Love

of the Godhead Triunity, the Holy Ghost who guides Soul to the Reality of all realities, if you will,

in the realm of philosophy, to Plato’s World of the Really Real, the World of Ideal Forms.

The Argument: That There Is Formal Specificity In God Of All That Exists

Therefore, in defense of the Platonic Idea-Forms, Thomas might have considered that the

more perfect has greater specificity than the less perfect, from which it follows that the most perfect

of all has the greatest specificity of all. Now God is the greatest of all existents and so has greatest

specificity and is Existence As All-Specific. But particularity specifies being, esse-essence, whose

particularity exists in God as in its cause, and not as amorphous being but precisely as Potency of

Divine Particularity in Pure Act Esse which is God in whom the particularity of things, and in all

their specificity, exists as Waves of Divine Potentiality in Pure Act Esse as the Idea-Waves of all

and each and everything that exists, and in all macro-micro specificity in every respect of being;

for the Face of God, God’s Divine Sea of Being, is the Subsistent Esse of all possibility, all possible

particularity, in Pure Act Esse. This knowledge, while most pertinent in the Beatific, is certainly

available to the Mystic, which Thomas emphatically was, in his close examination of being as his

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own interior Superconsciousness of Grace indwelling the Soul, the Soul which has become

Supernatural Existence as Grace Itself which is under the scrutiny of Soul’s own contemplation.

Thus, he might have seen that everything that exists, and in all of its being, is a reflection

of the Uncreated Divine Pure Act Esse as created pure act esse since God’s Existence is not in vain

and so creates a likeness of Itself in all respects; and not from necessity but from Love.

This means that created being is created pure act esse reflecting Uncreated Pure Act Esse

as discernible to the contemplative gaze of the mystic and seen in its pure act esse as that of his

own Soul. Seeing this within himself, the mystic then sees the same reality in everything that exists

for apprehending all existents in the Now of their pure act esse, which is reflective of the Subsistent

Uncreated Pure Act Esse who is God.

Now this pure act esse is seen in all the individual, particular moments of its existence both

in the Uncreated and in the created as the Forms of the things which are, these Formal Existents in

God As God in that they are the Transinfinite Innumerable Waves of the One Ocean of the

Divinity, each Wave of which is a participable, a potential being, in singularity and in universality,

and in every aspect of any existent whatsoever down to the least component and up to the maximal

in reality. The Forms of all that exists, and in all its particularity, constitutes the Ocean of Being

of the Uncreated, the One Ocean of the Countless Waves of Beauty, the Forms and Ideas of God.

As regards the argument here given, it goes without saying that not everything pertaining

to God can be proven or even sufficiently developed as argument. Therefore, some things must be

simply attributed to God as not opposed to the Divine Nature and as arguably contained in It as

intelligible and non-contradictory attribution in being, and especially if such reality is Seen in God

and in creation, in both Uncreated Being and created being.

Thus I defend Plato’s Divine Forms and Philosophy based on Superconsciousness.

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Translation by Robert T. Miller © 1997.

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