It's not like trying to find the world's strongest man, where you can gather enormous barbells, boulders, trucks, and the like to see who can lift, heave, and pull them the best. And besides, I don't just mean the smartest man alive today, but the smartest person of all time.
How about Albert Einstein? Many say Einstein did Sir Isaac Newton the father of the three Laws of Motion one better when it came to grasping the mysteries of the physical universe. Then there's Aristotle, "the Father of Logic. In addition, Murray ranks Aristotle second only to Charles Darwin in the field of biology. Indeed, when Darwin read Aristotle for the first time, he wrote that, although Linnaeus and Cuvier had been his "gods," he found they were "mere schoolboys to old Aristotle.
There's another candidate all lovers of science should know. He was one of the most prolific writers of all time, the most famous German professor of his day — a veritable oneman walking encyclopedia who wrote on every topic from A as in anatomy, anthropology, and astronomy to Z zoology.
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He was such a towering mind that he was called Magnus "the Great" while he still lived. He is the patron saint of scientists and scholars — St. Albert the Great — But Albert the Great had a hero he considered much greater than himself. That hero was so brilliant that when Albert read the man's crowning masterpiece, he ceased writing himself, explaining that his hero's work could not be equaled or surpassed. Who was the hero? Albert's own former student, St. Thomas Aquinas — When Thomas died at the age of forty-nine, St. Albert bemoaned the loss of "the flower and glory of the world.
It's St. Thomas Aquinas who I and many others believe is the smartest human being God ever graced to walk upon the earth. Not that St. Thomas himself claimed to be a genius. In the first book of his masterful Summa Contra Gentiles , he apologized to his readers that in attempting the work, he might be exceeding his "limited powers," but he embarked nonetheless with confidence "in the name of divine Mercy. But since St.
Thomas's passing on March 7, , more than seven hundred years of popes, scholars, and saints have agreed that his wisdom and powers, rather than being "limited," were so extraordinary that he is called the Angelic Doctor. Atheistic philosophers, including the Objectivist followers of Ayn Rand, acknowledge St.
Thomas's towering achievements in the field of reason and in reviving and disseminating the works of Aristotle. Charles Murray, an agnostic, lists St. Thomas among the "giants" of western philosophy, ranking him the sixth most influential of all time — above Socrates and St. Note that philosophy was not Thomas's specialty, but merely a tool — a "handmaiden" to theology, the highest of all branches of learning. Thomas makes this crystal clear: "To use the words of [St. When groups of modern psychologists have been polled on the most defining characteristic of superior human intelligence, time and again the winner is the capacity for abstract reasoning.
That's the ability to see the concrete things and events in the world and to grasp their underlying causes and principles; and also to go the other way: to grasp the fundamental, universal principles of reality and apply them to particular things and events.
That gift was St. Thomas's strong suit and was crucial to his massive contribution to civilization — which was to teach us how to reason in God's world and find our way to real wisdom. As Thomas himself put it: "Experience shows that some understand more profoundly than do others; as one who carries a conclusion to its first principles and ultimate causes understands it better than one who reduces it to its proximate causes. Thomas even explains for us just how abstract reasoning works. He devoted the full power of his intellect, throughout his whole life, to the highest, most important, and fundamental cause.
But note well, Thomas was anything but an "egghead" or a modern academic with his head in the clouds, writing only for other professors and university students. As a spiritual son of St.
Dominic and member of his Order of Friars Preachers, Thomas used also his great intellectual gifts to explain Christ's gospel message to the minds and hearts of ordinary lay folk. As a young man, after receiving Holy Orders in Cologne, his sermons in the German vernacular rather than in Latin drew enormous crowds.
In the last year of his life, he preached a series of sermons in the Neapolitan dialect at the church of San Domenico in Naples that, according to early biographers, drew "almost the whole population of Naples," and indeed, "he was heard by the people with such reverence that it was as if his preaching came forth from God. Thomas, then, was a man of thought, a man of God, and a man of the common people.
There's no point in being smart unless you're wise.
Matthew 25:14-30 (AMP)
As "old Aristotle" said: "It is better to know a little about sublime things than a lot about mean things. Thomas did like few who lived before him or since. What matters most to you? Chances are I don't know you, but because you are reading this book, I know you are a human person created in the image and likeness of God Gen.
Of all of the species of creatures on earth, I am confident that no other, not even your pet chimpanzee or dolphin, is reading this to you. I know that you have an intellect and a will. I also know what matters most to you. The most important thing that you seek is happiness. If you are a Christian, then, you also realize that while some happiness can come upon earth, our ultimate happiness comes in an eternal life with God, the origin and end of all that is good and which makes us happy.
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I'm willing to wager as well that you'd very much like for your family and friends to share in this bliss with you. And if you've taken the message of God's Son to heart, you desire the same for your neighbor — that is, for all of mankind.
Well then, it stands to reason that nothing matters more than our relationship with God, and no subject could be more important than learning just how to improve it — how to, in the words of the prayer of St. Richard of Chichester, "know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly. Thomas are so important to us: He so fully submitted his unusual human powers to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit.
There is no greater guide on earth, to knowing, loving, and following God while we are viators "travelers" here, on our way to seeing God in the eternal beatific vision. Thomas provides sublimely profound answers to the questions that matter the most — and yet he does not complicate things.
He teaches us about our everyday lives:. What brings us happiness? What does it mean to be a human being? Why are we here? In what ways are we higher than the animals and lower than the angels? In what way are we made in the image and likeness of God? How can we achieve our utmost potential? How can we become brave, wise, and loving?
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How can we become better friends? Can we know if God really exists? Can we understand God? How can God be both One and Three? Why did God become man? What does Christ expect of members of his Church? How can we obtain eternal bliss? Thomas's philosophia perennis , his timeless pearls of wisdom, are as relevant to us today as they were in the thirteenth century.
Indeed, in some ways they are more relevant today, because we hear so many attempts to answer such all-important questions by relativistic, secular, and pseudoscientific systems of thought that are so influential now — and also are shallow, contradictory, and wrong! Where have I come from, and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life? Thomas Aquinas. John Paul says, "The Church has been justified in consistently proposing Saint Thomas as a master of thought and a model of the right way to do theology.
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Thomas Aquinas lived from approximately to March 7, The privileged seventh child of an Italian lord and a relative of the imperial family, Thomas nonetheless sought the robe of a poor Dominican friar to live his life as a preacher and teacher. He bore the gift of a marvelously powerful intellect and exercised it to the fullest. In early childhood, his most burning, repeated question to all was "What is God?
As a young man, he would study under the incomparably learned St. Albert the Great. He would spend the years of his mature adulthood as a teacher of theology, most notably at the University of Paris. Thomas lived his life humbly and gently, absorbed in the contemplation of God and in sharing with others the fruits of his contemplation. He was perhaps the greatest integrator and synthesizer of truths in human history.
He is the man who "baptized" Aristotle, the greatest of pagan philosophers, harnessing the truths Aristotle taught for the service of the Church.