Ever wanted to get to know Thomas Aquinas? Maybe you cracked open the massive Summa Theologica and felt you energy dwindling. If you started to read the work of Aquinas, you probably quickly realized that the saint’s writing isn’t exactly beach reading material.
So, if you, like many, struggle with the density of Aquinas, how can we even start to think like the great doctor? In Kevin Vost’s latest book, How to Think Like Aquinas: The Sure Way to Perfect Your Mental Powers, he and Aquinas himself will teach you how to think logically about your faith.
You should pick up a copy of How to Think Like Aquinas but if you’re looking for a sneak peek, here are five of our favorite ways to start thinking like Aquinas today.
1. Set your mind free with authentic friendship
“Thomas warns particularly about getting entangled in the words, deeds, and conversations of worldly people who are not focused on the highest things of God,” Vost writes. Unfortunately, worldliness is something traps our minds easily these days.
How does Aquinas and Vost recommend setting your mind free from the snares of the world? Friendship.
“Virtuous friendships are to be formed not with the worldly (unless they are willing to strive towards higher things), but with those who set their sights on God,” Vost explains. “Both common sense and modern psychology tells us how susceptible we are to the influences of our environment. Those who strive to think like Aquinas would be wise to exercise their free will and to place themselves in the right environments.”
2. Imitate the imitators of Christ
Not only should we perfect our minds by pursuing Christ, but we should also imitate those who imitate the Lord. “What a great boon we have in our heavenly extended family, the glorious communion of saints God has given us, through through their willingness to devote themselves to Him,” Vost writes.
It goes without saying that Aquinas himself is someone we should imitate on our journey to Heaven, especially if we strive to think like the angelic doctor. “How are we going to follow St. Thomas’s advice if we have not immersed ourselves in the lives of our favorite saints? So I’m really saying that I hope you do have your favorite saints, while remaining always on the lookout for new, unfamiliar saints to inform and inspire you, perhaps towards a life of study, and surely towards a life of holiness,” Vost explains.
3. Perfect your memory
“Do not place value on who says what, but rather, commit to your memory what true things are said,” Aquinas advises. How do we commit our truths to memory, though? This task proves especially difficult in the age of technology we live in, where answers are at a fingers-length thanks to Google search engines.
In How to Think Like Aquinas, Vost shares Aquinas’ famous memory tricks, including the house of memory. You’ll have to pick up a copy to unlock the doctor’s secrets to committing truth to memory!
4. Build your knowledge base
Aquinas recommended acquiring what he called a thesauro scientia, a house or hoard of knowledge treasures. In his latest book, Vost compares the mind to a cup that should be filled to the brim with the fine wine of knowledge.
“Modern psychologists would call the process of filling the mental cupboards to the brim building a broad knowledge base,” Vost explains. “We learn new things by making connections with things we already knew, like the narrow streams that eventually lead to the broad seas of Thomas’s metaphors. . . the more things you know, the easier it is to make new connections and learn even more.”
So just how do you build up your knowledge base and fill your cup to the brim? Vost recommends reading and re-reading Scripture and worthwhile as a start to expanding our knowledge base.
5. Know your mental limits
“Seek not the things that are too high for thee,” warns Aquinas. Vost agrees with the angelic doctor on this point, and encourages his readers to know their mental limits.
“We are to seek the highest truths, but not in so great a hurry that we fail to build within ourselves the strength of mind to grasp and hold on to them. In the spirit of docility, we also heed our trainers’ guidance so that when those who have already attained heights reach down to offer us a hand, we will not fail to clasp it with gratitude,” Vost explains.
Vost and Aquinas both recommend taking a humble route to gaining knowledge. Vost recommends taking a few minutes to reflect on your knowledge and pray for the grace of humility to ground us.
Want to dissect logical fallacies, heresies, and half-truths that pollute the world and muddy our thinking? Find all of Vost’s recommendations for thinking like Aquinas (and fully illustrated sets of exercises to improve your intellect!) in How to Think Like Aquinas.
Pick up a copy at your local Catholic bookstore or shop online through Sophia Institute Press.