A Thomistic articulus submitted for today’s Theology assignment by our very own Everett Polinski . We found his conclusions interesting, and we’re sure you will to.
Obj. 1 It seems that man is of a higher nature than a mountain. For man is said to have dominion over the world at the time of his creation by God. That which has dominion is superior to that over which the dominion is held. Thus, as man holds dominion over the world and a mountain is part of the world, man is superior by nature to the mountain.
Obj. 2. Further, mountains are not said to be present in heaven in any revelation, general or private. What is in heaven is perfective of its nature because of heaven being that place of union with God. Humans are in heaven and thus have their nature perfected in union with God there, but as mountains do not, they have no nature which can be perfected in such a way and are thus lower than man because they have no potential as to such a perfection of final end.
Obj. 3. Furthermore, at the end of time, as demonstrated in the book of the Apocalypse of John, a mountain is said to be thrown into the sea. Were a mountain something of a higher nature than man we would expect it instead to outlast man rather than being denigrated by admixture with a lower nature and likely destruction.
Obj. 4. Man is superior to all other created beings but angels by fact of his intellectual faculties as part of his nature. Therefore, as mountains do not seem to possess such faculties, they must be less than man in the order of created beings.
On the contrary stands the authority of Dr. Grove: “I am closest to God when I am closest to rocks [mountains].”
I answer that: a mountain is a place closer to God than any other on earth both literally, with regards to association, and in the order of being
For heaven is up above the earth, its edge defined by that of the dodecahedron beyond the moon that encloses and separates the mortal realm from that of the immortal. Mountains, as sitting upon the rock of the earth, are more “up”, closer in positioning than the rest of the earth to the immortal heavenly realm, and thus the closet literally to God.
Furthermore, Christ said in the Gospel: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock [mountain], I will build my Church.” Peter was the first prelate, the first Pope, in the persona of Christ, and as his commissioning for the task of becoming the earthly head of Christ’s church consisted in him becoming metaphorically a rock, a mountain, a mountain is that associated most closely to the divine with respect to the taking on of Divine mission. As he started out as a normal man and took on a higher divine calling, that of becoming a mountain, Peter underwent an ascent by God’s help in his nature, taking on in some way the essence of mountainous.
As Aquinas defines in Chapter 75 of the Compendium, intelligible substances in act are the same as intellectual substances Now mountains are certainly in act. Feel the sharp edges of one, fall off a cliff of one and this is immediately and experientially evident. A mountain is also obviously intelligible to the extent that humans are able to see a mountain at a distance much better than seemingly higher substances like other people. By nature then, as this is apparent at equal distances, a mountain, as it is more intelligible, is also more intellectual than a man. By Chapter 76 of the same Compendium, we also know that there is a continuum of beings from God who is pure being to prime matter which is all but non-being, only equivocally existing as part of a material being. Those that are highest in this order are the intellectual, amongst which beings are ranked by their degree of intelligibility. From this it is immediately apparent then that mountains are higher than man and closer by nature to the divine essence in their mode of existence, existing each as a fully intellectual substance as regards the essence of each.
Reply to Obj. 1: While man was given dominion over the world, this dominion extends only to those flat parts of the world and not to those vertical parts. For it belongs to God to create beings perfect in their nature. The earth, by its nature, is a sphere, and as mountains do not appear to contribute to the sphericalness of the earth it is in fact because they are of a separate nature within their own realm, one albeit sitting on top of the “flat” surface of the sphere and are in their own realm, one above ours both literally and metaphorically. God’s giving man dominion over the earth does not extend to them in the same way as we might give a dog dominion over a yard, but we still retain higher dominion. Here the mountains, as the higher creatures, work upon us in the plan and counsel of the Divine government by God’s power, related to us as act to potency, but we are yet given power and dominion in rank below theirs in order and literal elevation.
Reply to Obj. 2: Mountains are not yet present in heaven because they have not yet fulfilled the true purpose of their nature here on earth. Within Dante’s Divine Comedy it is a mountain, Mount Purgatorio, which is the way to heaven, and so it is with all mountains to the human race in a lesser but still substantive way.
Reply to Obj. 3: A mountain being thrown into the sea serves a liturgical purpose, signifying Baptism and a cleansing from Original Sin. What is capable of sin must have a rational nature capable of sin, and not merely of the privations that are classified as faults. Therefore, as mountains can sin, they must be capable of defect incurring blame (CT.I.120) which implies the existence in them of a rational nature and does not necessitate them being lower than man even if their physical “bodies” are destroyed by being thrown into the sea. As the Sick and Savage explained, “such may in fact be an absolutely massive form of baptism, modified to their manner of existence.”
Furthermore, if the purpose in this case was not liturgical but rather of punishment, as Rubigo as proposed, this particular mountain may have committed actions of peccatum with blame for which it is was punished, but the nature of mountains as a whole is not in anyway decreased by the sins of one individual and mountains yet can be greater in nature than man.
Reply to Obj. 4: Mountains merely seem not to have such faculties. Since of they are of far-higher nature in comparison with us as has been established above, they may simply deem it unimportant or unnecessary to the fulfillment of their nature to communicate in a way expressive of their intellectual faculties to humans as for example, one would not communicate to an ant. Similarly, mountains may seem to most people to be uncommunicative, but here the objection is answered by the Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati who said: “The higher we go the better we shall hear the voice of Christ.” Amidst mountains, God is more present than in the level areas and man should thus go to the mountains to be perfected in his nature.