Sunday, April 26, 2009

Silence of the Lambs analysis - part 29: Aquinas on creation


Saint Thomas Aquinas - An altarpiece in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, by Carlo Crivelli (15th century). [Image from the Wikipedia 'Thomas Aquinas' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.]

In part 21 of the analysis, it was stated that one of the underlying themes of The Silence of the Lambs is that Jame Gumb, in attempting to make himself into a woman by assembling pieces of women's skin to make a 'suit' of skin that he can wear, represents Lecter's/Satan's (evil hermaphroditic Jews') pupil (evil Freemasons) attempting to 'usurp' God's power of creation. One thing we want to do, is to explore into whether what Gumb is doing, can be considered to be an act of creation.

Recall that part of Lecter's clue to Starling ("First principles...Simplicity") is a reference to Thomas Aquina's Summa Theologica. Part of the Summa is devoted to creation: the "Treatise on Creation" (Questions 44-49). As was mentioned in part 22 of this analysis, Question 45 is titled "The Mode Of Emanation Of Things From The First Principle."

A good place to start an investigation into whether Gumb is creating, is at Question 45, First Article: "Whether To Create Is To Make Something From Nothing?" In a series of three objections put forth by an imaginary opponent, and replies by Aquinas to each of these objections, Aquinas confirms that to create is to make something from nothing. For example, Objection 1 is,

"It would seem that to create is not to make anything from nothing. For Augustine says (Contra Adv. Leg. et Proph. i): To make concerns what did not exist at all; but to create is to make something by bringing forth something from what was already." (emphasis in original).

Aquinas 'general' answer to all three objections is,

"[W]e must consider not only the emanation of a particular being from a particular agent, but also the emanation of all being from the universal cause, which is God; and this emanation we designate by the name of creation. Now what proceeds by particular emanation, is not presupposed to that emanation; as when a man is generated, he was not before, but man is made from not-man, and white from not-white. Hence if the emanation of the whole universal being from the first principle be considered, it is impossible that any being should be presupposed before this emanation. For nothing is the same as no being. Therefore as the generation of a man is from the not-being which is not-man, so creation, which is the emanation of all being, is from the not-being which is nothing." (emphasis in original).

Aquinas's specific reply to Objection 1 is,

"Augustine uses the word creation in an equivocal sense, according as to be created signifies improvement in things; as when we say that a bishop is created. We do not, however, speak of creation in that way here, but as it is described above."

Aquinas would, in accordance with the above, not view what Gumb is doing as creating, since Gumb is using pre-existing material (various pieces of women's skins) to build his 'suit'.

St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica on Logos Virtual Library


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