Contingency, Entelechy and Teleology

Dr. Patrick J. DiVietri, Ph.D., MA, CPC, OCDS[1]

Just prior to the life of Teresa of Avila (March 28, 1515 to October 15, 1581), according to R. S. Peters, the success of the sciences led to an overemphasis on mathematics and a rejection[2] of the Aristotelian system of entelechy.[3] Aristotle held that within the nature of being all human action moves towards an end. The final end is union with God which brings happiness after death. Another Aristotelian principle which was brought into peril was with the contingency of all creation. F. J. Sheed explains contingency when he discusses how everything exists because of something else which preceded it. The child exists because the parents married. The parents married because they met. They met because he got off the bus at the wrong stop and bumped into her, etc. Everything therefore existed because of God and only God exists independent of any other being, for He is the source of all being, the Prime Mover as the Pre-Renaissance Man would say. “Therefore the reason for His existence must be in Himself…there is something in His nature that demands existence…God must exist. This, then is the primary Truth about God. It was the crowning achievement of Greek philosophy in the fifth century before Christ.”[4] The conclusions that all things are contingent upon God for existence and all human actions are predicated upon man’s essential nature moving to a specific end or good which ultimately is life in God provides the greatest insights of natural reason.

By the 16th century, however, although God remained as philosophically tenable, the principle of all things moving towards Him did not. We will find that this is the essential goal of Teresa of Avila. She sought nothing else but union with God at all costs to herself. It was a movement of her total person from the core of her soul.[5] She also saw that all things were dependent upon His grace. In the mansions of the mystical life this contingency is absolute. For Teresa the discernment, guidance and protection of these movements toward God and all human activity were dependent upon the Church.

[1] DiVietri, Patrick J. Ph.d., A COMMENTARY ON THE CANTATA CARMELITUM, Dissertation presented to the Graduate School of the Humanities, American Commonwealth University, San Diego, 1997, Pp. 25-26.

[2] R. S. Peters, Ed. C. A. Mace, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co. & the Free Press, 1972), Vol. 7 p. 6.

[3] Entelechy is “the internal specifying principle that actively directs a nature to its specific good or end; hence, substantial form.” Bernard Wuellner, S.J., Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1956), p. 41.

[4]Frank J. Sheed, Theology and Sanity (Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 1978), pp. 23-25.

[5] It is interesting to note that Antonio Moreno, in his critique of Freud points out that his psychic dynamism lacks finality for only efficient forces are accepted by Freud. The dynamic theory of psychoanalysis, however, demands teleology…since it cannot be explained without finality. Antonio Moreno, Lecture: Criticism of Freud, Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, 1987.