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No 55 Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program November 1994


by John F. McCarthy

        Bernhard Philberth is a priest-physicist born in Munich in 1927. He has an international reputation in theoretical and applied physics and has published a number of writings relating to physics and to theology. Revelation is the first and only work of his that I have read, and the evaluation which follows is based solely and entirely upon this book. 1 The book is translated from the German original; I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the translation.

        Philberth's book Revelation is constructed around the idea that the great possibilities of thought which have already been opened up in the field of physics have encouraged him "to dare the contemplation of higher planes of existence with more audacious insights, always remembering that all human thinking is allegorical projection" (Foreword). He contends that "the maturing science of physics - converging in its results - offers fascinating and magnificent analogies for the higher and highest orders of existence." These analogies "shed light on the truths of faith which have been taught by the Church from of old, but which were somehow buried by a theology caught up in formalism and fixations." He claims that "these insights are unreachable to classical modes of thought and can even with the more complex thinking of advanced physics hardly be grasped" (p. 39). 2

        PHILBERTH AGAINST "FIXATIONAL THEOLOGY."   Philberth avers that over the centuries the threat posed to the Church's teaching by restrictive theologians has been "more dangerous than that posed by false teachers." "Theology," he says, "when trying to interpret the Word of God, causes more confusion than certitude." By now, revolutionary breakthroughs in the natural sciences have "shattered beliefs and even `laws of thought´ previously considered to be simply self-evident." It is the author's judgment that "Theology - as long as it does not lean uncompromisingly on the Word of God - and philosophy are largely dependent on `flying blind,´ orientated by human fictitious axioms and premises, especially by the logical apparatus itself on which alone they depend; by logical thought systems which themselves are only human fictions borne out by the environment" (p. 110). "Paradoxically, he adds, "it was the physical sciences (cosmology, geology, quantum and relativity physics) which had to force theology to broaden its horizons." Severe derailments and false decisions arising from grave misunderstandings and crises in the history of faith were caused, he says, mainly by the following factors: a) a naive classification of the supra-temporal in terms of astronomic times; b) a too narrow interpretation of the biblical texts; c) the tendency to make absolute statements relating only to certain aspects; d) the use of words in a double sense to signify supernatural as well as natural things and relations; e) and the failure to appreciate the difference in meaning of words in Eastern language structures from their meaning in Western languages (pp. 115-118).

        As an instance of "making partly correct statements absolute," he says: "The correct formulation, `Mary, Mother of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ,´ leads to the fallacious logical conclusion: Christ is God, Mary is His mother, therefore Mary is the `Mother of God.´ Why not take the next logical step: God is one only God in the three persons Father-Son-Spirit? Therefore the Mother of God is also mother of the One and Only God, the mother of God-Father and God-Spirit and God-Son" (p. 115).

        "The great crises in intellectual and ecclesiastical history," explains the author, were always caused by the tying of religious considerations to material facts, "and thus material aspects were made absolute." This tendency to absolutize derives from the worship of an "idol," from classical thinking with its worship of "proofs" by "the classical logical apparatus" (p. 146). "There is," he observes, "the Church's teaching of unalterable truth, and there are theological views and interpretations of this teaching. ... Every theologian is aware of this fundamental difference. But as aftermath of the original sin, every theologian - by nature - identifies his views with the absolute truth" (p. 190).

        To oppose this tendency, Philberth rules out most of the theology of the past twenty centuries in favor of the insight that he has gained from natural science, and especially from quantum dynamics. While he believes that all human statements are relative, he is also confident that the new theology proposed in his book must supersede all former views based upon the use of logic and the "laws of thought" (p. 110).

        There is no doubt that magnificent discoveries have been made in the natural sciences, and in particular in the field of physics, over the past several centuries - discoveries which challenge sacred theology with new data and new problems. The needed work of synthesizing the data of modern physics with the field of sacred theology would require the activity of a mind greatly versed in both physical science and theological science, but Bernhard Philberth seems not to be the man to do it, because he has brought to the task a mind very incompletely developed in the science of theology. What has, therefore, resulted in his book is a set of false statements based upon errors of fact and of method. As an ordained priest, the author has certainly been exposed to the study of sacred theology, but his writing shows a remarkable deficiency in its mental structures. Could he, in taking up the study of theology, already have rejected a forma mentis that he has never really made the effort to survey? Much of what he rejects in his book Revelation as mere "formalism and fixations" is integrally related to the intellectual medium of theological science as such. In assuming this destructive position he ignores or overlooks distinctions that are vital to the understanding of Christian faith. What the author calls a "fallacious logical conclusion," namely, that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the "Mother of God," is the conclusion that was solemnly drawn at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. These are the words of the Council: "Thus [the holy Fathers] did not hesitate to call the sacred Virgin the Mother of God (Theotókos), not because the nature of the Word and His divinity took its beginning from the holy Virgin, but because He drew that intellectually living sacred body from her, and also the Word of God, joined to it according to the hypostasis, is said to have been born according to the flesh" (DS, 251). 3 The logic of the definition is this: A woman is said to be the mother not just of the body of her child, but of the whole child, the person of the child. The Blessed Virgin, in giving birth to the body of Jesus, gave birth also to the Person of Jesus, not in His divinity, but in His being united in person to a human body and soul, while His divine and human natures remained entirely separate. As the mother of the Person of the Word, she is correctly called the Mother of God. But, contrary to the suppositions of Philberth, this does not lead logically to the conclusion that she could also be called the mother of the Person of God the Father or of the Person of God the Holy Spirit. The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses this truth in the following words: "In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father's eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly `Mother of God´ (Theotókos)" (CCC, no. 495). 4

        To the point, the problem is that much of what Philberth rejects as "formalism and fixations" has to do with defined and unalterable dogmas of the Church. Thus, there appears throughout the author's book a running contradiction between elements of Catholic teaching which he affirms on the level of catechesis and the same elements of Catholic teaching which he contradicts on the level of theology.

        A second area of confusion regards the definition of "person." On the level of catechesis, Philberth correctly refers to the teaching of the Church where he says: "God is one only God in three persons Father-Son-Spirit" (p. 115). But on the level of theology he confuses this where he speaks of "the likeness of God who is as God-Father and God-Spirit." He says: "God-Father creates in the fire of God-Spirit, and God-Spirit rests in God-Father in eternity" (p. 119). What about God the Son and His role in the creation of the universe? Compare this deficiency with the treatment of Ephesians 1:4 to 5:9 ("to be conformed to the image of his Son") in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 257), where the reference is to the divine Person of the Son "stemming immediately from Trinitarian love." 5 Philberth, at the conclusion of his book (p. 203), quotes the opening words of John ("all things were made through Him," etc.), but he does not bring out in his theology how all created things, and especially man and the angels, are made in the likeness of God the Son. He combines this omission with an even greater error where he says: "In heaven there is the eternal life of the Divine Trinity: God-Father and God-Spirit are face to face with the Communion of saints, which is the third person of God, as His children in Christ, His Son" (p. 106). Christ is a divine Person incarnate in a human nature, but the saints will always be their own created persons; never will they become, singly or as a class, a Person of the Blessed Trinity. Also, the divine Word is the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and the Holy Spirit is the third (CCC, no. 264).

        THE "SPIRIT OF THIS WORLD."   Philberth utilizes several confused ideas about the notion of the created person, emboldened by the feeling that "consciousness and personality cannot be fully understood in terms of classical thinking." Actually, consciousness and personality cannot be understood at all in terms of Philberth's thinking. He feels the inadequacy of his understanding, but he awaits "higher thought operations, analogous to quantum dynamics and quantum philosophy," which have not yet been found (p. 154). In the meanwhile, he thinks he has figured out that "this universe is an all-embracing matter/spirit-complementarity" (p. 155). For him the universe is both "a collective of matter as general field with energetic individualizations coming from it and returning to it" and "a collective of spirit as general field with individualizations of consciousness coming from it and returning to it." This entire universe is conscious as the "spirit of this world" (p. 160). Each of the infinite number of universes coming and going has a similar gigantic field of consciousness as the spirit of its world (p. 166). The "spirit of this world" is the "field of spiritual potentiality," which actualizes, not only as human individuals, e.g., but also as the "spirit" of families, peoples, cultures, industries, etc. (p. 167). Each universe is a quantum - an existence in itself - while an existence beyond this world consists in "the perpetual coming and going of universes in the power of creation, in the dynamics of divine life" (p. 166).

        The author's notion of this universe as an "all-embracing matter/spirit-complementarity," conceived as both a general field of matter with emerging/receding "energetic individualizations" and a complementary "general field" of spirit with emerging/receding "individualizations of consciousness" does not meet the requirements of faith or reason. The Fourth Lateran and the First Vatican Ecumenical Councils teach that God "by His omnipotent power created at once from the beginning of time both of the two kinds of creatures, spiritual and corporeal, namely, the angelic and the mundane, and then the human (creature), common as it were, composed of both spirit and body" (DS, 800 and 3002; cf. Deferrari, nos. 428 and 1783). 6 Thus, it is contrary to the teaching of the Church to envision the universe as "a quantum - an existence in itself" so as not to distinguish individual substances from one another and angelic spirits as totally independent of both the material energy and the substantial forms of material things. Thus, Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical letter Humani generis, takes issue with those who question "whether angels are personal creatures and whether matter differs essentially from spirit" (DS, 3891; cf. Deferrari, no. 2318). Philberth distinguishes between matter and spirit, but he errs in combining them into an "all-embracing matter/spirit-complementarity." And his idea of spirit as a general field with fluctuating "individualizations of consciousness" is a poetic fantasy.

        The author imagines that beneath what he sees as the spirit of the entire universe and what he calls "the spirit of this world" there are descending levels of other "spirits:" angels and demons, human beings, animals, microbes, plants, minerals, down to elementary particles (p. 160). Thus, the spirit of this world "actualizes dynamically in sub-powers" and these in turn "form a sub-field for further actualizations in sub-sub-powers" down to the lowest orders of existence. The author claims that "each power is a consciousness which can be addressed," and the sub-powers "are actualizations of the entire cosmic consciousness, but they are also individual personalities" (p. 166). All of these "entities of consciousness," powers, "persons," are in the process of actualizing and deactualizing (p. 160).

        How should one characterize this vision of the world? If "animism" is "the old hypothesis of a force (Anima mundi, soul of the world) immaterial but inseparable from matter, and giving to matter its form and movements," or if "animism" is "the attribution of spirit or soul to inanimate things" (two definitions from Webster's Dictionary), then Bernhard Philberth is an animist. As distinguished from "vitalism" (the belief that there is a principle of life in living things), animism maintains that there is no clear-cut distinction between the living and the non-living, because all things are in some sense living. Hence, the author's idea of the "spirit of this world" and of "entities of consciousness" is not new and is not derived from the findings of modern physics. In fact, it can easily be traced back to earlier writers, especially to Giordano Bruno. Thus, Bruno taught that God and the world are one, that matter and spirit, body and soul, are two phases of the same substance; that the universe is infinite and that there is an infinity of worlds; that each and every object on the earth, including every mineral part, is animated. 7 Bruno himself derived his idea of the infinity of the universe and the coincidence of contraries in the universe from Nicholas of Cusa, while on his own he developed doubts about the personhood of God the Son and saw the Holy Spirit as the loving soul of the universe. 8 Philberth vaguely endorses the world-view of Giordano Bruno (p. 115) and he makes no effort to distinguish his system from that of his mentor. Even Philberth's repeated refusal to distinguish between substance and accident seems to have its origin in Bruno's hostility to Thomistic hylemorphism.

        The author's "dynamic spirit/matter-complementarity" is not, as he claims "in full accord with the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament" (p. 167). In his exegesis he contradicts the Inspired Word in some places and in others he fails to distinguish one sense of the text from another. Thus, the "spirit of this world," which is mentioned in 1 Cor 2:12, does not refer to an alleged consciousness of the entire universe, but rather to "the wisdom of this world and the love for the world by which a man is impelled to do those things which are of the world." 9

        For Philberth the Absolute Sovereign is "an unobjectified, almighty power; immutable in the unceasing dynamic creation of evolving and vanishing universes. Never exhausting Himself He generates all that IS in eternal unchangeability. In Him, united with Him, there is an inconceivable multitude of heavenly universes, mirrored by the inexhaustible central charge energy." Towards the "outside" of this central charge of energy Philberth sees universes ceaselessly drifting away from Him and from one another. An "unsettling thought" springs to the author's mind: "Is the infinite number of drifting-off and vanishing universes, is hell the `outer region´ of God?" (p. 55). Apart from the shock of this last conjecture, a different troubling question arises in my mind: Is the author preaching Christianity or pantheism? How can a Christian dare or desire to describe God as follows: "The world is a field of spiritual potentiality in which there is a perpetual `quantum-like´ actualization of entities of consciousness. ... The entities of consciousness are of the most varied kind and power, ... but always as one characteristic entity. ... The Absolute Sovereign has absolute consciousness. This actualizes in the unceasing coming and going of whole universes as His creations" (pp. 165-166). So the "consciousness" of God "actualizes" in the "coming and going of universes"! How can this conjecture escape the pitfall of pantheism so clearly opposed to Christian faith? (Cf. DS, 2901, 3001, 3023.)

        ANIMAL MAN.   What, then, for the author, is a human person? He says: "The soul of natural man is a nature-soul, in particular an animal sensitivity with which all `living creatures´ filled the sea and the land (5th epoch, Gen I). And the spirit of natural man is a nature-spirit, in particular an intelligent activity, with which he was asked to rule the rest of creation (6th epoch, Gen I). The human spirit - complementarity in consciousness and personality - does not exist statically; cannot be owned like property; does not live in the body" (p. 163), and "mankind is the perpetual coming and going of man in the succession of generations throughout history: something dynamic rather than static" (p. 165). Here the author has atomized and materialized the correct notions of soul and spirit. Having rejected the theory of material forms as constituents of material things, he goes on to reject the idea of the soul as the uniting and unifying principle of life in each living thing, including man. For him, the natural soul of a man is a bodily mechanism divorced from his spirit, which in turn does not exist statically, and, therefore, is not anything in itself but is just a flow of energy; nor can one say that a man "has" a spirit or that his spirit lives in his body. In order to maintain this, the author rejects, not only the reasoning of great theologians, but also the teaching of Jesus (which he claims to represent), the teaching of the Church, and the common experience of the human race that human persons are something in themselves. Philberth, whether he is aware of this or not, is presenting the mechanist philosophy of living things and the materialistic view of consciousness fostered by writers like William James and Jean Piaget. He thinks (p. 156) that no classical thinker has ever been able to explain the coming and going of consciousness (being conscious or being unconscious), but actually classical theologians have easily explained it as a function of the soul, which does not come and go. A human being is human by reason of his having an intellectual soul; he does not become human each time he becomes conscious. 10

        According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church the human soul is the "form" of the living human body (no. 365), created directly by God, and is "immortal," that is, it does not perish when it is separated from the body at death (no. 366). Regarding the soul as the natural form of the natural body, Pope Clement V, in the Apostolic Constitution Fidei catholicae of 1312 A.D., in conjunction with the Ecumenical Council of Vienne, decreed: "Furthermore, with the approval of the above-mentioned sacred council, we reprove as erroneous and inimical to the Catholic faith every doctrine or position rashly asserting or turning to doubt that the substance of the rational or intellective soul truly and in itself is not the form of the human body, defining, so that the truth of sincere faith may be known to all and the approach to all errors may be cut off, lest they steal in upon us, that whoever shall obstinately presume in turn to assert, define or hold that the rational or intellective soul is not the form of the human body in itself and essentially must be regarded as a heretic" (DS, 902; Deferrari, no. 481).

        Again, that the human soul is in its nature immortal was decreed in 1513 A.D. by the Fifth Lateran Ecumenical Council in the following words: "Since in our days (and we painfully bring this up) the sower of cockle, ancient enemy of the human race, has dared to disseminate and advance in the field of the Lord a number of pernicious errors, always rejected by the faithful, especially concerning the nature of the rational soul, namely, that it is mortal, or one in all men, and some rashly philosophizing affirm that this is true at least according to philosophy, in our desire to offer suitable remedies against a plague of this kind, with the approval of this holy Council, we condemn and reject all who assert that the intellectual soul is mortal, or is one in all men, and those who cast doubt on these truths, since it [the intellectual soul] is not only truly, per se, and essentially the form of the human body, as was defined in the canon of Pope Clement V, our predecessor of happy memory, published in the Council of Vienne, but it is also immortal and multiple according to the multitude of bodies into which it is infused, multiplied, and to be multiplied. ... And since truth never contradicts truth, we declare every assertion contrary to the truth of illumined faith to be altogether false; and, that it may not be permitted to dogmatize otherwise, we strictly forbid it, and we decree that all who adhere to affirmations of this kind of error are to be shunned and punished as detestable and abominable heretics and infidels who disseminate everywhere most damnable heresies and who weaken the Catholic faith" (Denzinger-Rahner, 738; cf. DS, 1440).

        The unity of the human soul and of the human spirit was declared as follows by Pope Pius IX on 30 April 1860 in a letter to the Bishop of Wroclaw: "The opinion which places in man one principle of life, namely, the rational soul, from which the body also receives movement, and all life and sense, is the most common in the Church of God, and to many highly approved doctors it seems to be so intimately joined with the dogma of the Church that this is the sole legitimate, true interpretation of it, and hence not without error in faith could it be denied" (DS, 2833). This doctrine was declared by Pope Pius IX in direct opposition to the opinion of Johann Baltzer, who claimed that the rational soul is not the vital principle of the body.

        It is Philberth's contention that "theologians" should refrain from affirming the unity of the life-principle with the understanding-principle of man, while at the same time he himself does not hesitate to categorically deny it. Now, the persons who have affirmed this doctrine are not just "theologians;" they are the Hierarchy of the Church, speaking officially and solemnly. The author contends that science has exploded these classical views, and he, therefore, undertakes to offer a more scientific picture. But what he here proposes in place of the true doctrine of the Church is not based upon the findings of modern science; it arises rather from the biased conclusions of biological mechanists, Darwinian evolutionists, monistic cosmologists, and his own undisciplined imagination.

        The author maintains that the formulation, the "immortal soul of man" arose from a tendency within man "to make himself absolute and to secure himself against God." He labels "theological formalism" the notion that "Even if man turns away from God, even if he commits a deadly sin, he possesses, never to loose [lose], what belongs to God alone - eternal life. ... The assumption that already with his natural conception man has immortal life is irreconcilable with the Word of God" (p. 176). In contradicting here the solemn teaching of the Church (see just above), the author fails to make the needed distinction between the entire man (body and soul), who is not naturally immortal, and the intellectual soul of man, which is naturally immortal. That those who die in the state of mortal sin live on in their souls and will face eternal punishment is obvious from many passages in the New Testament, but an exposition of them is outside of the limits of this review. An important distinction not made by Philberth is between the term "eternal life," used qualitatively in the New Testament to signify a life of unending happiness, and the term "eternal damnation," used to signify unending misery. Theologians call "aeveternal" what begins and simply never ends, while, strictly speaking, the word "eternal" has the added feature of qualitative union with the eternity of God. In referring to the Scriptures, Philberth fails to distinguish between aeternitas and aevum. The human soul, as the principle of natural human life, is dynamic, yet as the ultimate constituent of an intellectual being, it has a static aspect: it abides even when its body dies. And, in the order of the universe established by God, the soul of a dead person awaits reunion with its body at the Last Judgment - for weal or for woe. What in the New Testament is promised to reprobates is an "aeveternal" life of punishment.

        THE WORLD IN EVOLUTION.   The author maintains that "the world is in its nature an evolutionary system," whether it be considered from the aspect of ontogenesis (the development of individual beings) or of phylogenesis (the development of species), or as "the development of society, the economy, the sciences, and the entire history of the world" (p. 94). "Over millions of years of human history man shaped his environment" (p. 95). In fact, he says, "Man, by now, has been living for more than a million years and, ever since, has been in full possession of his material body, his animal soul, and his rational intelligence" (p. 119). But those natural men who are "called by God in the breathing in of His Spirit undergo a transformation of their essence, a "transformation of substance," a "transubstantiation," (p. 175) and thus become children of God to whom heaven is promised as an inheritance. The first human being who underwent this transformation was Adam - some thousands of years ago. "Adam and Eve were the first couple of the biblical man, the man of salvation history." The author maintains that "pre-Adamites have been living for millions of years on this Earth," and Christ (`the second Adam´) lived two thousand years ago, but He also lives today in each person born again in the Spirit of God: in His Church." The archetypal sin committed by our ancestral parents "is committed anew by each and every one of us" (pp. 122-123).

        In thus recapitulating "the entire history of the world," the author shows himself to be a naive historian. The science of history has its own approach, its own methodology, its own means of verification, and its own criteria of judgment, which include a refined ability to distinguish between what natural scientists have proved and what else they sometimes preach from the abundance of their personal prejudices. An objective study of the history of man, leaving aside the overstatement, special pleading, and occasionally even fraud of evolutionists, will show that the author's assertion - that man has been living "for more than a million years" on the face of the earth - is devoid of any historically valid evidence. Philberth's interpretation of Gen 2:7 is forced. The verse says: "And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul." Following this: "the Lord God took man and put him in the paradise of pleasure" (verse 15). According to the author, the account of Adam and Eve is legendary, of uncertain historical truth, and "of no importance for the scientific aspect" (p. 123). Since he believes that men had already been living on earth for a million years or so, he interprets the breathing of the breath of life into Adam as a transformation of natural man into a higher nature, as a "transformation of substance" by which he becomes a child of God to whom heaven is promised. This transformation he labels a "transubstantiation," not understanding the one and only true meaning of this term as defined by the Ecumenical Council of Trent (DS, 1642).

        In the Apostolic Constitution In agro dominico of Pope John XXII in 1329 A.D., the following error (taught and afterwards retracted by Meister Eckhart) was condemned: "We are transformed entirely into God and we are changed into Him. As in the Sacrament bread is changed into the body of Christ, so similarly am I changed into Him, because He makes me to be His one being, not similar. By the Living God it is true that no distinction is there" (DS, 960). While Philberth may not intend to affirm this error, his confused theology does not avoid it, especially inasmuch as he misapplies here the word "transubstantiation," he affirms that, in being called by God, the essence of a man is changed, he claims that the communion of saints is "the third person of God," and he denies that the principle of identity ("a thing is itself") can always be considered valid for theology. The author accepts on a catechetical level, or as a general idea, "the Church's teaching of unalterable truth" (p. 190), but he does not know very well what the Church's teaching is, and in his theology he contradicts it over and over again.

        Certainly "being fully human (naturally and spiritually) has its foundation in the relationship of man with God" (p. 148). This has been taught by the Church for two thousand years, but not in the author's sense that the soul of natural man perishes like that of any other animal. The teaching of the Church has always incorporated a proper distinction between the natural constitution of man and his supernatural vocation. The author, on the contrary, maintains that "theology can start with the premise that the `salvific homogenesis´ (i.e. being called by God for salvation) occurs only in the transformation of man's nature in receiving God's call, and not already in the natural homogenesis." Again, he says, "theology can start with the premise that man receives immortality only with his salvific homogenesis." And, to top it off, he concludes: "This reconciles, without any conflict, scientific facts with the teaching of Holy Scriptures and the Church" (p. 148).

        I think that I have already shown several places in which Philberth's approach contradicts the teaching of Sacred Scripture and of the Church. Here is another one. He says that there are pre-Adamites living on earth today, who have "not yet become `Adam,´ because they have not yet been called to make a decision." How many are there? "No one is entitled to say on his own authority whether only a few or almost all people are still pre-Adamites and who they are" (p. 189). But someone was entitled to say this on his own authority. In 1950 Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical Humani generis said: "For the faithful in Christ cannot accept this view which holds that either after Adam there existed men on this earth who did not receive their origin by natural generation from him, the first parent of all; or that Adam signifies some kind of multitude of first parents; for it is by no means apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with what the sources of revealed truth and the acts of the magisterium of the Church teach about Original Sin, which proceeds from a sin truly committed by one Adam, and which is transmitted to all by generation, and exists in each one as his own (cf. Rom 5:12-19 and the Council of Trent: DS, 1511-1514)."

        NEW DOCTRINES OF ORIGINAL SIN AND TRANSUBSTANTIATION.   Hence, Philberth has not correctly represented either Sacred Scripture or the teaching of the Church with his idea that even down to the present day human beings "appear and disappear [cease to exist] as long as they have not been called by God Himself and are able to decide" (p. 162). The author has a non-historical notion of Original Sin. He says: "It was not only a legendary violation in the dim and distant past of a scarcely understood prohibition by God ... which caused all of mankind to fall," but rather "it is the continued re-committing of the original sin by each and every person ..." (p. 196). The author's prime example of "original sin" is the "sin" of classical theology: "The original sin - namely, man's grab for self-determination and his attempt to make himself absolute - was not first committed by `Absolute Humanism,´ but long before by theology: by the fixation made absolute that ´man is created with an immortal soul´" (p. 179).

        I have already pointed out that the "fixation" that man is created with an immortal soul is actually a dogma of the Church, not a theological opinion. Humani generis, as quoted above, makes it clear that the historical event of the one act of Original Sin committed by one Adam and thereafter transmitted to all of his descendants is also a doctrine of the Church. To speak of the original sin of Adam as a "legendary violation" is not to accept it as the given historical reality which is an object of Catholic faith. To speak of the "re-committing of the original sin by each and every person" is to reduce the historical event narrated in Sacred Scripture to a pictorial expression of a certain psychological tendency in every man - a moral lesson conveying a perennial truth. But to do that is to substitute his own idea for what the sacred writer has said. The author thinks that eating the forbidden fruit in Gen 3:6 merely means every man "deciding for himself what is good and what is evil" (p. 195), but more realistically his interpretation means Bernhard Philberth deciding for himself which teachings of Sacred Scripture and of the Church he accepts and which he doubts or denies. Sin may, indeed, be involved in this choice, but it is not Original Sin. In all of his talk about "man's ... attempt to make himself absolute," and about fixational "theology" as the great on-going original sinner, the author does not seem able to comprehend that he is just giving expression to his own attempt to make his paltry "theology" absolute in contradiction to the teaching of the Church. The author obscures his teaching about Original Sin even more by confusing this term with the sin of the evil angels, where he says that "our world of decision" is in essence "a fallen world" - "fallen because of the original sin by Lucifer and his angels" (p. 192).

        The author claims that his idea of the transformation of the very nature and substance of a man (not his supernatural elevation, as the Church teaches) "through the filling with the Spirit" was passed over "because it is not objectifiable at all." It was not, he avers, until "hard facts" forced physicists to recognize that something really existing "can be, and is, non-objectifiable" that classical theology was pushed against a wall (p. 180). Here a word needs to be said about objectivity. In the first place, traditional theology has always maintained that the experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit and with love for God is not as such objectifiable. Conscious experience is, per se, only subjective, but it is also indirectly objectifiable as historical fact. The author claims that "the necessity for a transformation of man's nature through the filling with the Spirit" was not taken up by classical theology "because it is impossible to assign a time to it; because it is not objectifiable at all." On the contrary, the supernatural elevation of a man, the receiving of sanctifying grace, the conversion of his mind and heart is objectifiable wherever the historical data are available. We know when and how St. Paul the Apostle was "transformed" and when he was "filled with the Spirit of God." More fundamentally, we know that Jesus was as a man filled with the Holy Spirit at the first moment of His conception (Lk 1:35), and we know that He continued to have a human nature that was like the nature of all other men. The Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon declared in 451 A.D.: "Following the holy Fathers, we unanimously teach and confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, composed of rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father as to His divinity and consubstantial with us as to His humanity; `like us in all things but sin´" (DS, 301; cf. CCC, no. 467 and Heb 4:15).

        Philberth, therefore, errs in asserting that "When called by God, a person is transformed in the core of his being from natural man to the `newly created man,´ in a `transubstantiation´ of man" (p. 175). To be transformed in substance means to become something entirely different. Since the union of the human nature of Jesus with His divine Person and with His divine nature through the divine Person did not transform His human nature into some other nature, then how much more so in the case of His followers. Obviously there is a great accidental transformation that is well described in Catholic tradition, but Philberth does not use the correct theological terms to identify it. Not only does he fail to distinguish properly between substance and accident, but his denial of the principle of identity turns his whole reasoning into a meaningless discourse. What can it mean for one thing (natural man) to be transformed into another, if a thing is not itself to begin with?

        The author is contradicting historical science where he says that sanctification (what he mistakenly calls "salvific homogenesis"), as a supernatural event, "cannot be understood in terms of physical time." Every infusion of grace in this life comes at a particular moment of physical time. The author admits that sacramental life "does indeed appear in time," but he turns historical events into fantasy as he goes on to say that "occurring at a particular hour, the sacrament fills the whole life with the grace of God, from the zygote unto death, which then becomes the gateway to eternal life" (p. 184). From the viewpoint of historical realism, this poetic idea implicitly denies the reality of the infusion of sanctifying grace and the reality of its presence in the souls of men.

        THE ORIGIN OF THEOLOGY.   Theology does not start from a supposed "salvific homogenesis" (p. 148). It must start from two other sources: the revelation given to man by God and the principles of human understanding. Divine revelation is the remote object of sacred theology; human understanding provides the mental framework in which the Word of God comes to be understood. The Word of God is present in Sacred Scripture and in the authentic teaching of the Church. In her teaching, the Church has provided for us a correct interpretation of some important statements of Sacred Scripture. In contradicting openly and expressly both the teaching of the Church and the principles of human understanding, Philberth is presenting a false idea of theology.

        To take another example, the author says that the sciences "do not provide any certainty," and that theology, "when trying to interpret the word of God, causes more confusion than certitude" (p. 110). Thus, "Before the power of existence beneath and beyond this world," he says, "all `proofs´ against or for God fade into a nebulous delusion, arising from the ignorance about the sovereignty of God. ... Whoever tries to enforce the recognition of God with proofs will despair and fail. Yet an incomparable certainty springs from the true belief in and presence of God" (p. 112). Is the author's "true belief" an awareness of reality or just a sentiment that the believer may call "certitude" but which cannot be justified or related in any way to the real world? There is no need to "prove" the reality of what is, after all, only make-believe. We know that every man coming into this real world is in some way face to face with the reality of God. Who were these outdated "theologians" who spoke of "proofs" for the existence of God? More recently it was the First Vatican Ecumenical Council (1870 A.D.) that declared: "If anyone shall have said that the one true God, our Creator and our Lord, cannot be known with certitude through those things which have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema" (DS, 3026; cf. Deferrari, no. 1806; CCC, no. 286). The First Vatican Council was here giving an authentic interpretation of the inspired word of God: "The same Holy Mother the Church holds and teaches that God, the beginning and end of all things, can be known with certitude by the natural light of human reason from created things; `for the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made´ [Rom 1:20]" (DS, 3004; cf. Deferrari, no. 1785). Regarding the interpretation of Sacred Scripture the same Council decreed "that in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the building up of Christian Doctrine, that must be considered as the true sense of Sacred Scripture which Holy Mother the Church has held and holds, whose office it is to judge concerning the true meaning and interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures; and, therefore, that no one is permitted to interpret Sacred Scripture itself contrary to this meaning, or even contrary to the unanimous agreement of the Fathers" (DS, 3007; cf. Deferrari, no. 1788). This truth is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 100): "The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him."

        How, then, are we to understand Philberth's declaration that "theology" [read: the solemn Magisterium of the Church] "when trying to interpret the Word of God, causes more confusion than certitude" and is "flying blind," as long as it depends upon logical thought systems which themselves are only human fictions borne out by the environment" (p. 110). Philberth is confident that he can tell us what the words of Sacred Scripture really mean. And in this he reminds one of the well-known dissident of our time who used to tell his listeners: "It does not matter what the bishops say; it does not matter what the Pope says; what matters is what Christ says. Now, I will tell you what Christ says."

        Philberth traces magisterial statements like "Mary is the Mother of God" to "enemies of the Church" [read: the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church over the ages] who "push the teaching of the Church towards restrictive formulations" [read: dogmas, teachings, and solid theological conclusions] "regarding phylogenesis and ontogenesis" and "similar formulations," which are rooted, he says, "in the still prevailing ignorance in classical thinking of the complementarity of all existence" and in "ignorance of the intrinsically limited applicability of classical logical conclusions" (p. 116). Only by coming to understand "complementarity," he informs us, was physical science able to explain the phenomenon of light and matter "by demonstrating that there is no objective, no well-defined spacetime location of the quantum of light between emission and absorption," and he finds this to be a fact which "is unimaginable for those imprisoned by classical logic." With a similar knowledge of complementarity, he continues, theologians could have avoided confusing fixations regarding illusory problems such as "when in life a sacrament becomes effective" or "when ensoulment of man takes place" (p. 150). Again, existence on all planes "is quantum dynamic, being `this as well as that,´ of individual as well as collective powers," just as "the nucleon already exists with four different radii, which was classically unthinkable" (p. 166).

        Now, whether or not the nucleon of atomic physics already exists with four different radii is not of direct pertinence to the present review, but the author's application of this model to the meaning of divine revelation is of central concern. I think that on the level of historical fact it can be demonstrated that Catholic thinkers have understood and used the "principle of complementarity" for the past two thousand years, whereas physical science has broken out of the rigidity of Newtonian structures only during the past century. For instance, theologians have produced deep studies and recognitions of the revealed fact that the one true God is also Three Divine Persons, a fact that defies any human comprehension but which has been accepted in theology as two valid parts of a mystery. The author takes up other complementarities, such as freedom and order, tradition and progress, justice and mercy, matter and spirit, and presents a sophomoric overview like a beginner who isn't even aware of the extent to which these same "complementarities" have been better expounded by others.

        THE PERSONHOOD OF ALL BEING.   According to correct thinking, the lower science of physics should be fitted into the higher science of sacred theology, and not vice versa. But the author tries to compress theology into the framework of physics. He says, "This world is filled with many elements of consciousness. Analogous to energy, consciousness actualizes quantum-like. ... Existence has surprisingly many layers. ... But each existential component is an entity in itself, a quantum" (p. 96). Again he says: "All existence is in complementarity. ... Every material existence and structure has a complementary personal component. ... There is a spirit, an angel, for each and every landscape; every plant and animal species, every characteristic, science, culture, society, people, nation, race; simply for everything existing individually and collectively in the world." For instance, he explains, "the `spirit´ (angel)" of a marching column of rats "is an existential component of these rats," and the rats "are responsive in this spirit" (p. 97). Similarly, "everything that exists is structured, is complementary in a material, a spiritual, and a personal component" (p. 98). Coarse matter has only "traces of consciousness," while higher existences have more. There are the "supernatural angels" who stand face to face with God, and there are "angels" in the quite different sense of "personal, conscious components of worldly existences." Thus, there is "the `angel forever beholding God´ of a person, as this person himself having attained sanctity in the timelessness of the eternal." Then, just as there are hundreds of thousands of different kinds of animals from insects to mammals, so "there are a corresponding number of different kinds of such `angels´ pertaining to this world" (p. 99).

        Let us ponder this new doctrine for a moment. The author tells us that every material existing thing has a personal component, an angel of its own; he tells us (based seemingly upon his knowledge of physics) that every existing thing has a material, a spiritual, and a personal component; he says that every existing thing, from a molecule of gas through plants, insects, men, up to God Himself, is in some way "conscious." But, he adds, whether or not one attributes "consciousness" to a piece of matter "is in reality only a problem of language use" (p. 99). No, it is far more of a problem than that. The author has taken the precise concepts of person, of spirit, of body and soul, of consciousness that are used in Catholic theology and confused them with questionable wider notions. On the one hand, he erroneously faults traditional theology for "the use of words in a two-fold sense for supernatural as well as natural things and relations," while, on the other hand, he introduces his own meanings for already well-defined words, such as "person," "angel," "spirit," and "consciousness." The use in traditional theology of the same words for supernatural as for natural things and relations is based upon a correct understanding of the analogy of being, the analogy of faith, and the symbolism of Sacred Scripture. But the examples that the author gives of double meanings in traditional theology are derived from his own false ideas of a supernatural "body," "soul," "spirit," "man," etc. The examples he has chosen have no objective validity in themselves, and he contradicts the very basis of his objection to the use of double meanings by creating his own double meanings of words.

        Take the word `angel,´ for instance. The author has derived from catechesis the idea of good and evil angels, of angels who stand face to face with God and of angels who "can also be evil and demonic spiritual powers" (p. 99), of whom he mentions Lucifer in particular (p. 104). These he calls "supernatural" angels, although "praeternatural" is the more correct term. But in his theology he contradicts the catechesis, saying that Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel are "the personification of God's power," whereas the Church teaches that they are by nature spiritual and immortal persons in themselves (CCC, no. 330). Thus Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical letter Humani generis, lists among the "poisonous fruits" of new-breed theology the questioning of whether angels are personal creatures" (DS, 3891). For Philberth, "Everything that exists is structured, is complementary in a material, a spiritual and a personal component" (p. 98). But the Church teaches that the angels do not have a material component; they are "incorporeal, spiritual beings" (CCC, no. 328; basing its teaching upon the Fourth Lateran Ecumenical Council - DS, 800). Philberth speaks of "`pure spirits´ with very fine structures in `spiritual bodies,´ such as the body of the Resurrected Christ," but he does not indicate anywhere in his book that even God in His divinity is completely without a material component. He goes on to opine that many angels are components of the various species of plants and animals. What does this usage do to the meaning of the word `angel´?

        UNIVERSAL CONSCIOUSNESS.   The author takes the word "consciousness," which in traditional theology means the self-awareness of an intellectual being, and spreads it over every level of existence, so that even a molecule of gas is "conscious." On the one side he destroys the meaning of the word, and on the other he attributes to extraneous entities a feature that they do not have. Similarly, by saying that "every material existence and structure has a complementary personal component" (p. 99), its "angel," which is "personal" in that sense, he destroys the meaning of the word "person," which in the solemn teaching of the Church means a "rational hypostasis," that is, an intellectual self-standing substance. He dissolves the correct concept of "person" on all levels from man up to the Trinity of divine Persons where he says: "Existence is quantum dynamic, being `this as well as that,´ of individual as well as collective powers, of all-embracing as well as participating personalities (or entities)" (p. 166).

        The author should have reflected more on the nature of intellectual consciousness in the human being, because this is the key to many insights that he has missed. The exact concept of intellectual consciousness sets up the framework of science, it makes self-evident the principle of identity, and it shows why this principle cannot be overruled in any case by any true scientific process. 11 This necessary reflection protects a thinker from the absurd belief that every existent thing on every level is "conscious," or is a "person," or has a "spirit." The most that non-living matter can have is a "form," but the author seems to know nothing about that.

        For the author, heaven is "the unlimited multitude of coming and going heavenly worlds." The saints "live in these heavenly worlds, coming and going in pulsating life, in everlasting union with the eternal God." Heaven is "a renewed immersion in the absolute, all-embracing, supra-personal consciousness of God above all heavenly worlds - and a renewed emergence from it for the individual, limited, intrinsically personal consciousness of the saint in one of the heavenly worlds" (p. 27). "Heavenly universes are creations unlimited in number and diversity; each one a new creation which eventually passes again" (p. 105). The author presents his notion of heavenly universes as though it is derived from his knowledge of physics. "Already in electro-dynamics with the electron, the smallest particle in the universe, an amazing picture of the highest order of existence becomes visible: of heavenly, earthly and hellish worlds facing the Absolute Sovereign...." Within the agglomeration of masses of the universe (the "singularity") "there is the continuous, inexhaustible appearing and disappearing of all kinds of matter quanta in mutual coupling," and thus "the agglomeration presents a picture of the multiplicity of appearing and disappearing heavenly worlds united with each other and in everlasting union with God, the One who lives eternally" (p. 81). The author carries his thought even further to affirm that our universe alone is able to generate, with perhaps a "milliard" collapses of the nuclei of giant spherical galaxies, "a new universe each, some similar to ours." He wonders: "Are perhaps only a few of these universes chosen to receive consciousness and to be populated with living creatures?" (p. 82).

        The fact is that there is no foundation whatsoever in Sacred Scripture, in historical experience or, for that matter, in physical science for the idea that there are millions or milliards of universes in addition to the one known to modern astronomy. The idea may tantalize the imagination of a theoretical physicist, but it is sheer fantasy to an historical scientist. The same is to be said for Philberth's idea of heaven as "the unlimited multitude of coming and going heavenly worlds." The idea of saints as quanta emerging and falling back into an ocean of energy or an ocean of "consciousness" does not preserve at all the concept of who they are or what heaven is. In this scenario, each time a saint emerged he would be someone else, and during any of his existences he would not be anyone, because the human spirit "does not exist statically," and "does not live in the body," but "shapes existence dynamically and takes possession of it, coming and going, continuously activating the body for varying durations and in varying intensities" (p. 163). On the contrary the Church teaches that the saints in heaven abide permanently in their own identity of consciousness (CCC, no. 1025); they do not dissolve in one lifetime or one universe and then reappear in another in unending succession. And the author's notion of the "supra-personal consciousness of God" is a scientific absurdity, as though anything could be "above" the Three Divine Persons.

        The author equally maintains that "hell is the unlimited multitude of hellish worlds;" it is "a separated world," and, as separated from God, "moves towards extinction after exhausting its allocated resources" (p. 33). He claims that what he has expressed in this book is "what has always been proclaimed in the divinely inspired scriptures" (p. 189), but here, as in several other places, he is preaching contrary to Sacred Scripture. Jesus says that the fire of hell will never become extinguished: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt 25:41). If God has decreed that this fire will last forever, then the resources necessary to sustain that fire will never run out (cf. Matt 5:22; 5:29; 10:28; 13:42; 13:50; Mk 9:43-48). The everlasting character of punishment in hell is solemnly taught in several Church documents, such as the Creed Quicumque (DS, 76), the Fourth Lateran Ecumenical Council (DS, 801), and the Ecumenical Council of Florence (DS, 1351). It is not pleasant to think of everlasting damnation; it is a terrifying alternative. The author tries to quote Jesus on his side of the argument: "Christ says that heaven and Earth will pass away. Should the hellish worlds be better than the heavenly worlds and not pass away?" But any skilled biblical interpreter can see that "heaven" in the expression "heaven and earth" (Mark 13:31, etc.) means literally the heaven of our physical universe.

        The author tells us also that he got his idea of the human being as "an individual manifestation from the spirit-filled `world,´" not from Sacred Scripture, not from the teaching of the Church, not from history or from sound philosophical science, but from the reflections of Gautama Buddha (p. 159). Also from Gautama Buddha seems to have come the author's idea that "The Saint also gains in God the consciousness of his manifold existences and of all existences" (p. 161). He asks: "Does God call man on the basis of previous lives? ... We can only assume and conjecture" (p. 173). But the inspired word of God tells us plainly that "it is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment" (Heb 9:27). Thus the Church teaches: "There is no `reincarnation´ after death" (CCC, no. 1013).

        THE SUBJECT-OBJECT RELATIONSHIP.   The author contends: "If already accurately measurable energies (in which any existence is founded) are non-objectifiable, how much less so are metaphysical occurrences, events, and relationships." And so he reasons: "If even the appearance of energy during the most frequent and important processes and relationships is not objectifiable, then the manifestation of consciousness in an organism must be even less objectifiable, and even less so the transformation of man's nature in the new birth from the Spirit of God" (pp. 180-181). Whether or not the accurately measurable energies of galaxies are "non-objectifiable" on the mental grid of modern physics is not of direct interest in this theological evaluation. What is more pertinent to our discussion is the narrow and inadequate comprehension that Philberth shows of the subject-object relationship. Looking at the wider spectrum of science in general, it is important to realize that the subject-object relationship is essential to any act of human understanding, and, for this reason, anything that is known is in some way objectified. Thus the author, in speaking of "metaphysical occurrences, events, and relationships," as being "non-objectifiable" is placing the problem in a false perspective. Moreover, since the primary scientific medium of philosophy and that of theology is not mathematics, to tie what is "objectifiable" on the spiritual level in any way to what is "measurable" is an error of method.

        HUMAN LIFE.   Philberth rejects as a "philosophical / theological fixation" the idea that "only God could create something living," and he professes that there is no real qualitative difference between what is ultimately living and what is non-living. He claims that the difference between organic and inorganic is purely chemical and that metabolism is just a chemical process (p. 124). He expects that "by the end of this century it will be possible to completely structure and master the human genome," to produce a "synthetic zygote" - so that "the creation of any human organism according to program becomes possible." Not only this, but "exciting results in research" are threatening to pull the rug out from under the fixed idea "that human beings are the sole [biological] carriers of intellectual/mental faculties" (p. 125). What is decisive for intelligence, he says, is the number and structure of the neurons and synapses of the brain, and, in this regard, the humpback whale rates "far above humans." In `fact,´ he points out, "As regards brain performance, the ratio of humpback whale to humans is about that of humans to orangutan" (p. 120).

        Is the author narrating fact or fiction? No living thing has ever been produced in a laboratory from non-living matter. Human genes have been manipulated, but no gene has ever been constructed in a laboratory. What are these "exciting results in research"? The author tells us that humpback whales `converse´ within their communities "in languages of unprecedented richness of information" and reformulate these `languages´ every five to ten years - "probably in a playful utilization of their intellectual capability" (p. 120). I don't know on what tenuous shreds of `evidence´ the author bases this observation, but, if he doesn't think he is writing science-fiction, let him persuade just one humpback whale to learn German the next time around, and he or she will doubtless provide solutions in a matter of hours to many of the hard problems still vexing contemporary physicists.

        The author doesn't seem to understand what life is and how it depends upon a living soul. He recognizes that consciousness is "a power which guides the brain and the body to suit itself," but he cannot see that consciousness springs from a soul which is the life-principle of the body. He thinks that an entity of consciousness depends entirely upon the "probability of occurrence," and he does not exclude that technicians may succeed in constructing a computer "with its own intelligence," which might even become "the carrier of consciousness" (p. 164).

        The author believes that the human species "evolved from the lowest organisms to mammals" (p. 128). He finds "abundant evidence" for a "creation through development, an evolutionary creation, an ascending creation." While, on the one hand, he admits that "the theories of evolution are not secured" (p. 85), nevertheless, he claims that "all scientific research and everyday experience make evolution overwhelmingly obvious" and that "almost everything in the world is evolutionary." It is his opinion that "the possibility of full self-organization of the universe constitutes a most exciting aspect of `creation and evolution´" (p. 86). But the author's impression that "all scientific research" and "everyday experience" make evolution "overwhelmingly obvious" is extremely naive and ill-informed. The idea that "God creates in a guided evolution" would seem in a general way to fit the Augustinian model, but this is ruined by the author's vaguely animistic and pantheistic belief that "In the complementarity of matter and spirit the world is shaped in a guided evolution by the spirits within it, true to their kind" (p. 101).

        The author puts down as "blatant materialism" the idea that the zygote - the fertilized human cell - has human life in its full sense (p. 47). In his view even to hold that the zygote is alive is an unfortunate "fixation" (p. 124), and for theologians to declare that the zygote is "human from the moment of conception" not only is "the most extreme materialism" but "utterly devalues the mission God has given to the Church" (p. 145). The author's vacuous notion of the Church and its mission should be obvious from what I have quoted above. What is most striking in these last citations is his upside-down idea of materialism. The materialist sees only the material aspect of the zygote and denies the presence of the soul and of life itself as anything distinct from mere matter. When the author avers that "the genes determine all factors of a human being, physical as well as psychological" that "the zygote is a building plan for a human being written merely in chemical combinations" (p. 131) that ensoulment "is not objectifiable at all" (p. 181) he becomes the materialist. And adding to his materialism a religious dreamworld of "salvific homogenesis," in which the zygote and afterwards the entire natural man must become something of a totally different nature, does not make him less of a materialist; it simply makes him a romantic materialist.

        "SALVIFIC HOMOGENESIS."   Philberth tells us that, "for those who call on Him" (the capital letter is the style of the translator), "God intervenes in this world with His guiding influence" (p. 105). But "salvific homogenesis" [the creation by "transubstantiation" of an entirely new and different man called to eternal life with God] is projected as a "supernatural, transcendent event," which is "supra-temporal" and "cannot be understood in terms of physical time" (p. 184). Truth to tell, the author's "salvific homogenesis" cannot be understood in any real terms. If Robert undergoes a "transformation of substance" (p. 122), Robert is no longer there at all. And when Philberth, to defend his process of "transubstantiation," resorts to a denial of the principle of identity, thus implying that Robert was not exactly Robert to begin with, he is contradicting human intelligence - the same human intelligence upon which the science of physics rests. To compare "transubstantiation" to the change in the nature of a sheet of paper from an unsigned contract to a signed contract (pp. 122 and 182) is to ignore the fact that a contract as such is not a substance. The relational change in that sheet of paper is not a substantial change, and the author falsely explains the real transubstantiation of the Holy Eucharist with this comparison. He claims that the transformed man has been changed into something else, yet he continues to call the new individual a man, and the process he calls "homogenesis," that is, "the generation of man." He cannot even propose a new word for the creature of his "new creation."

        The author very naively believes that men have populated this earth for more than a million years. To oppose the argument that the "missing links" in the supposed evolutionary process have never been found, he declares: "only one link fossil among hundreds of thousands of species fossils could be expected." What kind of science is this? In the scenario of a very gradual upward transformation of species - in which every organ is formed bit-by-bit over an enormously long series of generations - it is clear that the final product (which is never a final product, if all living things in the world are evolving) will be greatly outnumbered by the intermediate individuals. Yet, no such individuals at all have been found among the fossils - not only not for man, but not for any other biological species. The handful of animal fossils that have been proposed as transitional are all questionable, and the alleged million-year-old human fossils are equally questionable.

        To say that "obviously Cain had descendants with a pre-Adamite" shows little ability to visualize possible alternatives. To say that the "mighty men of old, men of renown" of Gen 6:4 were "certainly" pre-Adamites (p. 123) does not indicate much mental resourcefulness. Cain could have had descendants with a daughter of Adam and Eve. The "mighty men of old" could well have resulted from the union of Adam's descendants of a holy tradition ("sons of God") with Adam's descendants of an unholy tradition ("daughters of men"). The clash of these two traditions is, in fact, a theme of the first eleven chapters of Genesis.

        The author questions the universal call to eternal life (Gal 4:5; 1 Jn 2:2; DS, 623-624; DS, 1522) where he says: "It may be assumed that especially our earliest ancestors and our unbaptized children belonged and still belong to the natural human beings who are not yet called by God" (p. 192). No Catholic may assume such a thing, and there is nothing in divine revelation or in human historical experience which could reasonably enable the author to conjecture that God "can let a natural human being come and go as often as he wills it," that is, let him repeatedly come into existence and be absorbed back into the general field of matter and consciousness. Nor does it add any cogency to the author's speculation to add "perhaps - comprehensible to no created being - to sometime, somehow, call him" (p. 193). God has already told us otherwise.

        A "WORLD OF DECISION."   Philberth maintains that "salvific homogenesis" is the "ensoulment of man." He says that this "salvific homogenesis" is objective reality "as an eternally decisive fact," but "in the entire natural development of a person eternal life is not objectified," although, in God's call, in the filling with God's Spirit, "eternal life is objectified above and beyond all universes." Again, he says, "this world as path and coming worlds as existence are objectified by the decision of man" (p. 48). In these words the author is affirming that man does not have a human soul qualitatively different from a brute animal soul until he becomes a new creation through being called to salvation by God. He is affirming also that what happens through this call, which cannot be ascribed to any particular point in time, is not objectified as anything in the continuum of worldly reality, but is "objectified by the decision of man." The author's salvific world is a "world of decision" (p. 19). While this idea of a world of decision sounds like a response to divine grace, it is actually, in the author's context, denying the objective reality of grace as anything that really changes the ontological makeup of a human person. The author does not in any discernible way distance his idea from the "call to decision" elaborated by Martin Heidegger, Rudolf Bultmann, and many other modern existentialists. Again, on this level, the encounter with God becomes a state of make-believe. It is true that the author attempts to face this problem where he says: "In the Judgement of the Absolute Sovereign this world as world of decision, and coming worlds as heaven or hell, become - forever irrevocably - harsh and everlasting objectivity" (p. 48). But his mode of expressing this does not come up to the standards of historical description. The "coming worlds" of heaven and hell already exist as everlasting objectivity, while the Judgment and power of God thrust or admit the human individual into one or the other of these realities at the end of his terrestrial life. Decisions made by human individuals during their earthly lives and the freely-given grace of God that antecedes and follows upon these decisions dispose the persons concerned for the one objective reality or the other, but human decisions do not create the two realities. This real world is not a "world of decision." Only imaginary worlds are such. This world is a world populated by human beings who can manipulate certain objective realities by their decisions, but they cannot create any objective reality by mere decision, by an act of will alone. Yet dreamers can create fantasies at will.

        Historical science distinguishes two kinds of objectivity: real things, which are its remote object; and valid concepts, which are its proximate object as a science. Referring back, then, to the last quotation, it needs to be specified that, through the particular judgment of God upon every human being, heaven or hell becomes an "everlasting objectivity," not as a remote object in itself, but as a respective proximate object in the mind and consciousness of the human soul that has been judged. This important distinction does not come through in the author's exposition. A big source of confusion in his thinking stems from his inadequate notion of science. It is true that, as its principal medium of thought, physics uses "mathematics, which is the sharpest and most precise instrument of human logic" (p. 37). But mathematics is only one way of approaching reality. It is true also that physics is "supported and substantiated" by empirical data (p. 38). But not all empirical data fall within the field of physics. The author decries the use by traditional theology of what he calls "the airy postulate of `direct insight,´" but he does not understand the role that insight plays in sacred theology. The thinking of worthy theologians is based upon objective realities to which it must conform. The author's dictum that "all human thought is allegorical projection" is false for the whole realm of scientific thinking, and it misses the point in a particular way for the field of sacred theology. Allegory is "a figurative discourse in which the principal subject is depicted by another subject resembling it in its properties and circumstances" (Webster's Dictionary). In order to create allegory, the composer has to distinguish between the real subject and its fictional representative, while a writer of science, in order to write science, must remain consciously within the realm of the real and must avoid digressions into the realm of the fanciful. In the case of the science of sacred theology, the theologian does also take into account the allegories contained in the spiritual sense of Sacred Scripture, but he never considers these allegories to be the real objects of his science. By fuzzing up the distinction between reality-thinking and fantasy, the author opens the door into a wonderland of his own creation.

        CONCLUSION.   The physical data presented in Bernhard Philberth's book Revelation are in some ways impressive, but they do not suggest the theological conclusions that he draws from them. To set the record straight, the "thought fixations" of traditional Catholic philosophy and theology are nothing else but the scientific framework in which this thought is cast. Philberth seems to have exchanged this framework (which he may never have comprehended) for a vague and amorphous mysticism having some of its roots in the pantheism of Gautama Buddha and Giordano Bruno. The author claims to be invoking modern physics as a reason for his attack against "systematizing" or "formalizing" the data of revelation, but physics would be no science at all if it did not formalize and systematize the data that it has uncovered. He has put the problem in a false perspective. What he attacks again and again under the name of "thought fixations" is the reasoned acceptance of spiritual realities. Catholic theology has never maintained that the invisible can be visualized or the infinite be comprehended, but it has integrated the real objects of faith within the one concept of reality. "Transformation" in the sense of supernatural elevation of an abiding human nature, the presence of sanctifying grace, passage from this world into purgatory, heaven, or hell is real; it is another dimension of the one continuum of reality, and it is objective in that sense as well. The author's idea of the transubstantiation of man's nature, of personhood on every level, of universal consciousness, of an infinite number of emerging and disappearing heavenly and hellish universes, all "non-objectifiable" to human understanding, is a construct of fantasy not entirely his own. His proposal of a "new teaching" about divine revelation, presenting an animistic and vaguely pantheistic view of the world, together with the idea of an infinite number of universes coming and going, seems to spring from the feverish imaginings of Giordano Bruno, who advocated all of these things, and from the dreamy speculation of Gautama Buddha. It does remain a fact that "ever new contemplation of the old truths is necessary" (p. 191), but only a realistic contemplation of old truths that survive the process of thought. The divine revelation promised by the title of Philberth's book does not emerge unscathed from the "allegorical projections" of his theological thinking.


1. Bernhard Philberth, Revelation (BAC Australia, 193 Power Street, Plumpton NSW 2761, Australia: 1994), 203 pp., PB.

2. In the text of this review, the simple page references indicate the places in Philberth's book; the acronym DS refers to Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion Symbolorum (plus paragraph number); the word Deferrari refers to Roy J. Deferrari, The Sources of Catholic Dogma (a translation of Denzinger-Rahner); and the acronym CCC refers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I have used Deferrari as a basis of the translations from Denzinger, but with corrections of its not infrequent translational errors.

3. See the key to abbreviations in endnote 2.

4. See the key to abbreviations in endnote 2.

5. The reference in the CCC is to 2 Tim 1:9-10. Cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 34, art. 3.

6. See the key to abbreviations in endnote 2.

7. See William Turner, in the Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. III, p. 17.

8. See Armando Carlini in the Enciclopedia cattolica, vol. III, pp. 150-154.

9. Aquinas, commentary on 1 Cor 2:12. Cf. CCC, no. 2727.

10. See J.F. McCarthy, The Science of Historical Theology (Rockford: TAN reprinting, 1991), pp. 18-22.

11. See J.F. McCarthy, The Science of Historical Theology, no. 2.3, "Self-Evident Truth," (pp. 25-34).

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