From where do our thoughts originate?
My first answer: where does mathematical truth (or error) come from?
- a man and a calculus will both tell that two plus two equal four
- the calculus will do it because when you push two calculi and then two more you end up with four calculi
- a man will tell you because he knows (or at least because he believes*)
- a man and a calculus might both tell you correctly that 13*13=169
- but on a calculus it is more likely to give an error like 168 or 170 (the man using it accidentally pushing a caclulus too many or to few as compared with intention) or even making it 13*12 or 13*14 (making the additions one time too many or too few)
- in the mind it is more likely to be an error of 163, because that looks closer to 13
which is a clear indication that mind is something other than matter, it is something that can experience (if not itself at least) mathematics, as calculi cannot: such a difference has to be ontological
Then I checked what Fr Curtis was talking about and added:
"the Fathers of the Church talk a lot about the suggestion of demons but this implies a loss of freedom with respect to our thoughts."
No more than suggestions from mortal friends or foes.
A suggestion of the demon can be accepted or rejected. St Ignatius of Loyola set up a few rules for discerning whether an "inspiration" (idea that strikes you) comes from the Good Spirit or the Bad one.
Looking eagerly for approval or disapproval in contemporary "conscience" was not one of his criteria.
And he was a hesychast before being anything like a scholastic, never ceased to be.
Before answering, FrCurtis had also another answer from FrDeacon Christopher Neill:
Father is there a problem with the idea that ideas can be received in the mind without them passing through the eyes and ears? I thought the fathers were talking about rather than thought being done for you. If you can be aware of God that way I do not see a troblems with other ideas coming in the same manner.
It is what you do with the ideas that matters.
Fr Timothy Curtis (adressing himself to the deacon, but answering me too):
@Fr Christopher, I have no problem about the means by which the idea is received- either directly to the mind or via the senses. Nor do I have a problem about the freedom we have to acceptor reject the thought, baring in mind our state of sin which makes that very difficult!! But the question comes from the interplay between psychology and theology, in the former the thought coms from one's deepest inner self, whereas in the latter it seems that th thought is external in origin. If it is external in origin, we have the option of 'blaming' external conditions for thoughts that occur to us, whereas if we have internally originating thoughts we can't make that claim. It does touch on the intersubjective nature of 'self' versus 'other'.
Since I am a Christian I believe there are angels and devils. And that I have the option of blaming external conditions. Including for thoughts occurring to me.
Especially I do so, when one seems to be very much what person X or movement Y or Church Z has more materially said or implied to me, but where I have equal materially verified knowledge that it is false.
Which is why I was indulging in "polemics" (was that your word? no, diatribe) a few weeks ago.
Which is also why I took care to say today "one of these half heterodox neohimerites with which I FORMERLY used to be in communion".
It is also why I back when communicating with them asked one priest more than once what he was praying aboutwhen praying for me. I got no answer.
"But the question comes from the interplay between psychology and theology, in the former the thought coms from one's deepest inner self, whereas in the latter it seems that the thought is external in origin."
The "psychological" idea is atheism in the study of the human psyche.
No one has ever claimed - except perhaps Calvin - that man is incapable of originating thoughts from himself. That is indeed a lack of freedom, but does not follow from existence f angels or devils or their power to originate thoughts in each other and in us (from greater to lesser, according to St Thomas Aquinas).
Oh, there are others who do claim incapability of generating thought, those who claim it does not exist. Like materialist atheists.
Even if a good and true thought originates in self, it also originates from God, and it behoves a Christian to give thanks for it, as long as he regards it as such.
*Knowing two and two are four implies either - which none has except God - an exhaustive induction, or, which is much simpler and accessible to us too, a valid deduction, like this one:
more than is said so that if a thing is more than another and that other than a third, it is also more than that third, ipso facto and one can define by how much or - as here - by how many something is more than something else
two · is · one more than one (definition)
three · is · one than two (definition)
so: one more than three · is · one more than one more than two
four · is · one more than three (definition)
one more than three · is · one more than one more than two
so: four · is · one more than one more than two
one more than one more than two · is · two more than two (from definition)
four one more than one more than two
so: four · is · two more than two
Believing it includes believing it because of an incomplete induction and a math teacher who tells it always holds true, but even here one can talk about knowledge as soon as one has a true intuition why even an incomplete induction should be "as on all other occasions".