And it is through the intellect and its basic makeup and structure by which we ultimately arrive at a realization or understanding of man’s relation to God, which in turn is the first cause or telos of all things. As Rumi said: “I searched for God and found only myself. I searched for myself and found only God.” The “chief aim” of the thinker or philosopher, then, is “to consider all things in order to arrive at knowledge of first causes.” Hence, knowledge and philosophy are essentially a process which covers many issues and subjects until finally, one arrives at the issue of first causes, namely, man’s relation to God. 

Knowing first causes is essential given that “the cause is in its nature more intelligible than the effect, although sometimes effects are more known to us than causes because we acquire knowledge of universal and intelligible causes from particulars that fall under the senses” as Saint Thomas Aquinas argued. It follows that “it is necessary that the ultimate happiness of man which is attainable in this life consist in the consideration of the first causes, because the little that can be known of them is more desirable and noble than all that can be known of lesser things” as Thomas Aquinas suggested. 

Becoming “perfectly happy” is directly connected and intertwined with the perfection of the knowledge of first causes. And it is only through the intellect by which we ascertain first causes, given that both the intellect and first causes are the sources of manifestation for everything and are virtually identical with one another. As Saint Thomas Aquinas argued: “Our intellect relates to [first causes] as the eye of a nightbird to the light of the sun which because of its exceeding brightness it cannot perfectly perceive.” And as Saint Augustine wrote, much pain and suffering is endured until perfection of such knowledge and thus happiness is attained. Such pain and suffering and such perfection of knowledge and the attainment of a rare but enduring form of happiness must amount to sainthood.

In turn, any imperfections in collective and individual life have to be viewed through the prism or lens of what is essentially a denial of first causes, the first and foremost of which is man’s relation to God. When it is realized that what is required for the happiness of an individual is actually an imperfect work in progress, everything else, even the most dangerous and threatening of external factors, will seem futile and shallow in the face of what is most important and urgent. As Saint Augustine wrote: “When it is considered how short is the span of human life, does it really matter to a man whose days are numbered what government he must obey, so long as he is not compelled to act against God or his conscience?”

As Arnold Toynbee wrote, the concern with first causes has been replaced with three major “idols” – namely, nationalism, ecumenicalism, and technocracy. Much of this has to do with the fact that given that there is so little known about man’s relationship to God and thus so little is known about first causes, man is then prompted to search for an alternative focus. Toynbee wrote: 

“Different people’s convictions will differ, because Absolute Reality is a mystery of which no more than a fraction has ever yet been penetrated by – or been revealed to – any human mind. ‘The heart of so great a mystery cannot ever be reached by following one road only.’” 

Nevertheless, and as Toynbee rightly argued: 

“All human beings who are seeking to approach the mystery in order to direct their lives in accordance with the nature and spirit of Absolute Reality or, in theistic terms, with the will of God – all these fellow-seekers are engaged in an identical quest. They should recognize that they are spiritually brethren and should feel towards one another, and treat one another as such. Toleration does not become perfect until it has been transfigured into love.” 

And as we will see later on, it is through the replacement or denial of first causes which leads to the breakdown, decline, and disintegration of civilization itself, even though the root cause of such outward phenomena are then concealed or shrouded by contingent or secondary conditions and factors from an anthropological standpoint. 

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