Or I could describe it in the following way: Every act of knowledge – about animals, plants, bodies, astronomy, mathematics – is implicitly religious. A mathematical proposition as well as a medical discovery is implicitly religious because it is possible only. in the power of these ultimate principles which are the uncreated Divine light in the human soul. This is the famous doctrine of the inner light, which was also used by the sectarian movements and by all mystics during the Middle Ages and the Reformation period, and which finally underlies even the rationalism of the period of the Enlightenment. They all are philosophers of the inner light, even if this Divine light later on became cut off from its Divine ground.
We can also call this attitude. That is what the Franciscans tried to maintain in spite of the fact that they also had to use Aristotelian concepts such as form and matter, and potentiality and actuality. So we have here in the Augustinian-Franciscan development, from Augustine to Bonaventura, a philosophy which is implicitly religionist or theonomous, in which the Divine is not a matter of conclusions but is a matter of preceding every conclusion, making conclusions possible. It is the philosophy of religion – perhaps some of you have seen in the Union Review a few years ago, when I wrote an article about “The Two Types of Philosophy of Religion” – this is the one type I called it at that time the ontological type; I can also call it the mystical type, or the type of immediacy. I would also like to call it the theonomous type, in which the Divine precedes the secular.
The opposite type is the Thomistic. Thomas Aquinas cuts the immediate presence of God in the act of knowing. He denies it. He also says of course, that God is the first in Himself, but he says God is not the first for us. Our knowledge cannot start with God – although everything starts with Him – but our knowledge must reach Him by starting with His effects: the finite world. So we must start with the Divine effects and conclude from there to the cause. In other words, man is separated from being itse1f, from truth itse1f, and from the good itse1f. Of course Thomas could not deny that these principles are in the structure of man’s intellect, but he calls them created light and not uncreated light. They are not the Divine presence in us, so to speak, but they are works of God in us; they are finite. In other words, in having an act of knowledge, we do not have God, but with these principles we can find God. It is not that we start with the Divine principles in us and then discover the finite world, as in the Franciscans; but it is that we start with the finite world and then perhaps are able to find God, in acts of cognition, of knowledge.
Now against this Thomistic theory the Franciscans said that this method, which of course must start in a good Aristotelian way – with sense experience – is good for scientia (for “science” in the largest sense of the word) but that this method destroys sapientia, wisdom. Sapientia means the knowledge of the ultimate principles; this means the knowledge of God. One of Bonaventura’s followers made this prophetic statement, that in the moment in which you follow the Aristotelian- Thomistic method and start with the external world, then you will lose the principles. You will win the external world – he agreed with that; he knew empirical know ledge can be won only in this way – but something is lost: sapientia , the wisdom which is able to grasp intuitively, within oneself, the ultimate principles. Thomas answered that the knowledge of God, as every knowledge, must start with sense experience and must reach God on this basis in terms of rational conclusions, which are derived from the sense experience.