Church of the Ever Greater God
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In Church of the Ever Greater God, Aaron Pidel offers the first major English-language study of the ecclesiology of Erich Przywara, S.J., one of the most important Catholic theologians of the twentieth century. As Pidel shows, Przywara’s idea of analogia entis, or analogy of being, shaped his view of ecclesiology. According to this theory, every creature is made of various tensions or polarities in its being. Creatures flourish when these tensions are in equilibrium but transgress their creaturely limits when they absolutize one polarity over the other. Pidel demonstrates how Przywara used the concept of analogia entis to describe the structure and rhythm of the Catholic Church. In Przywara’s view, the Church, too, is essentially constituted by her tensions or polarities, and the members of the Church conform to that analogical tension to varying degrees of fidelity. Przywara claims that analogia entis not only describes the Church as she is but also can be used as a criterion for discerning the spiritual health of the Church by helping her to see where her equilibrium has become imbalanced. Pidel maintains that Przywara thought that the biggest risk to the Church’s analogical equilibrium in the last century was a de-emphasis of the typically Ignatian ideas of reverence for the Divine Majesty and missionary extraversion. Przywara’s vision of the Church is presented as a corrective to this one-sided imbalance. In drawing attention to Przywara’s metaphysically informed and deeply Ignatian ecclesiology, Pidel’s study will appeal not only to scholars of Przywara but also to all those who study ecclesiology and Catholic theology more broadly.



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Date de parution 31 mai 2020
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Church of the Ever Greater God

The Ecclesiology of Erich Przywara
University of Notre Dame Press
Notre Dame, Indiana
University of Notre Dame Press
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
Copyright © 2020 by the University of Notre Dame
All Rights Reserved
Published in the United States of America
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ISBN:978-0-268-10777-2 (Hardback)
ISBN: 978-0-268-10780-2 (WebPDF)
ISBN: 978-0-268-10779-6 (Epub)
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To my father, Jeff, and my mother, Mary, who taught me both how to love and to fear the Lord
Introduction to Erich Przywara
Analogia Entis as Creaturely Metaphysics: Structure, Rhythm, Middle
Analogia Entis and the Problem of Religion
The Ignatian “Type”
Ecclesial Discretion
Apocalyptic Ressourcement and Nuptial Ecclesiology
Przywara’s Kirche in Gegensätzen Today
This book would naturally have been impossible without the help and mentorship of many people, at least some of whom should be named here. The first debt of gratitude goes to John Betz, whose interest in Przywara sparked my own and who directed my dissertation on Przywara’s ecclesiology. Likewise serving on the board of my dissertation and providing invaluable encouragement and insight were Mary Catherine Hilkert, O.P., Peter Casarella, and Cyril O’Regan. I should also thank friends of mine from the University of Notre Dame—especially Michael Rubbelke and Mike Altenburger—who read individual chapters and provided constructive criticism and encouragement. For the way all the aforementioned assisted me in refining my thought, I am most grateful.
I would be equally remiss, however, if I neglected to thank the Society of Jesus both corporately and individually. The fact that Erich Przywara was a fellow Jesuit and an unabashed lover of the Ignatian charism was among the principal factors that drew me to study him. My Jesuit superiors over the years, moreover, have given me leisure to do the studies without which this project would have been impossible. I thank them for their confidence in me, which, from time to time, I have been tempted to think misplaced. I would like to thank the many individual Jesuits with whom I lived at Henri de Lubac House, who, more than any others, endured my obsessive tendency to “talk through” the difficulties and intricacies of Przywara’s analogia entis : Brian Dunkle, Brian Daley, Phil Ganir, Stephanus Hendrianto, Michael Magree, John Peck, and Joseph Riordan.
Finally, I would like to thank all those who helped me render this manuscript into a book. This includes the team at the University of Notre Dame, especially the anonymous reviewers and Stephen Little, who did much to “demystify” my first experience of book-length publication. It also includes my colleagues at Marquette University, especially Kenny Hoyt and Cecille Medina-Maldonado.
All the aforementioned deserve a great deal of praise for what is good in Church of the Ever Greater God . The only thing for which I can accept entire credit is the book’s remaining infelicities.
This work has used standard abbreviations for frequently cited authors or frequently abbreviated titles. For economy, it has included separate sections on Augustinian, Dionysian, and Jesuit sources.
All works of Augustine have been cited according to the Latin text and abbreviation system employed by the Corpus Augustinianum Gissense ( CAG ). Electronic edition. Edited by Cornelius Mayer.
Ciu. De civitate Dei
Conf. Confessiones
En. Ps. Enarrationes in Psalmos
Gn. litt. De Genesi ad litteram
Io. eu. tract. In Johannis evangelium tractatus
Perseu. De dono perseuerantiae
S. Sermones
Sol. Soliloquiorum libri duo
Vera rel. De vera religione
The Greek text and English translation of the writings of Dionysius have been taken from the following:
Corpus Dionysiacum , vol. 1: Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita. De divinis nominibus . Edited by B. R. Suchla. Patristische Texte und Studien 33. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1990.

Corpus Dionysiacum , vol. 2: De coelesti hierarchia . De ecclesiastica hierarchia. De mystica theologia. Epistulae. Edited by Günter Heil and Adolf Martin Ritter. Patristische Texte und Studien 36. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1991.
Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works . Translated by Colm Lubheid. Foreword, notes, and translation collaboration by Paul Rorem. Preface by René Roques. Introduction by Jaroslav Pelikan, Jean Leclercq, and Karlfried Froehlich. Classics of Western Spirituality. New York: Paulist, 1987.
The individual works are cited, whether in Greek or English, by the abbreviations employed in Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works .
CH The Celestial Hierarchy
DN The Divine Names
EH The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy
MT The Mystical Theology
Because Przywara often cites his Jesuit sources according to the pagination of the Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu but not according to the titles of Ignatius’s writings or the referencing conventions standard for each work, this work cites according to both.
Cons . Constitutions of the Society of Jesus . Spanish text in MI III, 2. English translation with paragraph numbers: The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus and Their Complementary Norms . Translated by George Ganss, S. J., et al. St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996.
MI I Monumenta Ignatiana: Epistolae et Instructiones S. Ignatii . 12 vols. Madrid, 1903–11.
MI III Monumenta Ignatiana : Sancti Ignatii Constitutiones Societatis Iesu . 4 vols. Rome, 1934–38, 1948.
MI IV Monumenta Ignatiana : Scripta de Sancto Ignatio. 2 vols. Madrid: 1904, 1918.

Sp. Diary Spanish text from MI III, 1. Paragraph numbers from Diario Espiritual , in Obras completas de San Ignacio de Loyola , transcription, introduction, and notes by Ignacio Iparraguirre, S. J., 318–86. Madrid: B. A. C., 1963.
Sp. Ex. Spiritual Exercises English: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Preface by Avery Dulles, S. J. Translated by Louis J. Puhl, S. J. New York: Vintage, 2000. Spanish: Candido de Dalmases, S. J., ed., Ejercicios espirituales , in Obras completas de San Ignacio de Loyola , transcription, introduction, and notes by Ignacio Iparraguirre, S. J., 196–285. Madrid: B. A. C., 1963.
AA Apostolicam Actuositatem: Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (1965). .
AAS Acta Apostolicae Sedis
ADPSJ Archiv der Deutschen Provinz der Gesellschaft Jesu, Munich.
ARSI GS Archivum Romanum Societatis Jesus, Germania Superior, Rome.
DEC Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils . 2 vols. Edited by Giuseppe Alberigo, translated by Norman Tanner, S. J. New York: Sheed & Ward and Georgetown University Press, 1990.
DH Denzinger, Heinrich. Compendium of Creeds, Definitions and Declarations on Matters of Faith and Morals . 43rd ed. Revised, enlarged, and in collaboration with Helmut Holping. Edited by Peter Hünnerman for the original bilingual edition; edited by Robert Fastiggi and Anne Englund Nash for the English edition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012.

DSp Dictionnaire de Spiritualité . 16 vols. Paris: Beauchesne, 1937–94.
DTC Dictionnaire de la Théologie Catholique . 33 vols. Edited by A. Vacant and E. Mangenot. Paris: Letouzey et Ane, 1909–72.
EG Evangelii Gaudium : Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World . .
GS Gaudium et Spes : Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (1965). .
LG Lumen Gentium : Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (1965). .
LThK 2 Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche . 2nd ed. 10 vols. Edited by Josef Höfer and Karl Rahner. Freiburg: Herder, 1957–67.
LThK 3 Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche . 3rd ed. 11 vols. Edited by Walter Kasper. Freiburg: Herder, 1993–2001.
Mansi Sacrorum Concilorum nova et amplissima collectio. 53 vols. Edited by L. Petit and J.-B. Martin. Arnhem-Leipzig: Hubert Welter, 1901–27.
MC Mystici Corporis Christi (1943). Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius XII on the Mystical Body of Christ. .
MD Mediator Dei (1947). Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius XII on the Liturgy. .
Met. Aristotle, Metaphysics. In The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited with introduction by Richard McKeon, translated by W. D. Ross, 682–926. New York: Random House, 1941.
NRSV Bible, New Revised Standard Version
Pascendi Pascendi dominici gregis (1907): Encyclical Letter of Pope Pius X on the Doctrines of the Modernists . .

PL Patrologia Latina . Edited by J. P. Migne. Paris, 1844–55.
RGG 2 Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart . 2nd ed. 6 vols. Edited by Hermann Gunkel. Tübingen: Mohr-Siehbeck, 1927–31.
SA Sacrorum antistitum (1910). Motu proprio Pii PP. X quo quaedam statuuntur leges ad modernismi periculum propulsandum . Available at the Vatican website.
ST Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologiae (“Blackfriars” ed.). 61 vols. Various translators. London and New York: Eyre and Spottiswoode and McGraw-Hill, 1963–80.
StZ Stimmen der Zeit
UUS Ut unum sint (1995). Encyclical Letter of Pope John Paul II on Commitment to Ecumenism . .
WA Luther, Martin. Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe (Weimarer Ausgabe) . 63 vols. Weimar: Böhlau, 1883–87.
ZAM Zeitschrift für Aszese und Mystik
Introduction to Erich Przywara
The present work on the ecclesiology of Erich Przywara, S. J. (1889–1972), is a project of retrieval. Like all retrievals, it draws attention to a figure significant for both the past and the present. Of Przywara’s stature in the Zwischenkriegszeit in Germany there can be little doubt. Some of the most influential theological and philosophical minds of Przywara’s generation regarded him with frank reverence and gratitude. His protégé Hans Urs von Balthasar describes his own programmatic work of ecclesial reform, Razing the Bastions , as an application of what he learned from him. 1 Balthasar never ceased to address Przywara in correspondence as “dear master and friend” 2 and went so far as to identify him as the “greatest spirit [ Geist ] he was ever permitted to meet.” 3 Given the intellectual endowments of the source, this is indeed high praise.
But Balthasar was far from Przywara’s only admirer. Karl Rahner too acknowledged his intellectual indebtedness to Przywara, singling out his writings on the Ignatian charism. 4 He predicted, moreover, a future rediscovery of the value of his thought: “Without being a Prophet, I feel compelled to say that we, the generation after him, as well as future generations, still have critical things to learn from him.” 5 Even such a towering figure as Karl Barth showed Przywara a respect that transcended their important confessional differences. After his first meeting with Przywara in 1929, Barth wrote to a friend that he had just sparred with the intellectual “giant Goliath incarnate.” 6 Less than three years later, he would famously refer to the idea for which Przywara is best known, the analogy of being, as the “invention of anti-Christ” and the definitive reason for not becoming Catholic. 7 Hence, even though Barth ultimately remained unpersuaded that Przywara’s analogia entis did justice to the biblical vision of God and creation, he nevertheless considered it the most sophisticated and intellectually compelling alternative to his own vision.
In between such fervent admiration and vehement rejection, of course, there stand the testimonies of many other figures for whom Przywara was an important—albeit less decisive—influence. To name one example among many, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, née Edith Stein, would speak of the late 1920s and early 1930s as a time of “lively intellectual exchange” with Przywara. 8 He introduced her to the thought of Aquinas and Newman, and she introduced him to the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl. Stein’s obvious appreciation for Przywara corroborates the overall impression of Przywara as a mind—and even a mentor—of the first rank.
Despite the impressive body of testimony to Przywara’s past stature, the evidence for his ongoing relevance may seem at first glance rather thin. He is seldom the subject of scholarly debate among English-language theologians. This is perhaps because when Przywara wrote about the Church he wrote comparatively little about the questions that have come to preoccupy ecclesiologists in the years following Vatican II. He shows little interest in the historical variations within the Church’s authority structures, for instance, and seldom descends to the brass tacks of pastoral policy or liturgical ars celebrandi . Notwithstanding Przywara’s understandable tendency to speak to the issues of his own day rather than to those of ours, it would be shortsighted, I think, to presume he has nothing to teach us.
Przywara’s thought has a timeless dimension as well. The key to Przywara’s ongoing contemporaneity, I argue, lies in the method by which he undertook the “task of differentiation and discernment” entrusted to him as a Jesuit intellectual. 9 To my knowledge, he gives the fullest account of his strategy for intellectual discernment in In und Gegen (1955).
Acknowledging his indebtedness to the Jesuit philosopher and psychologist Josef Fröbes, Przywara describes his way of thinking as an ongoing rhythm between two moments: “in” and “against” ( gegen ). “In” refers to the moment of intellectual sympathy: “‘to want to understand’ every author (however un-Christian or antireligious he may be) in pure objectivity (without pastoral or apologetic ulterior motives), ‘better than he understood himself.’” “Against” refers to the moment of “critical distance” ( Auseinandersetzung ) from this same author. Przywara typically undertakes this second moment by profiling an author’s positions against a universal horizon, that is, against the “ultimate form” of reality that he calls the analogia entis . 10
It is this methodical rhythm of immersion and distanciation that gives Przywara’s thought the oft-noted qualities of timeliness and timelessness. Reinhold Schneider dubbed him the “most modern theologian, both before and after the war.” 11 The American philosopher James Collins likewise described Przywara’s work in philosophy of religion both as an indication of the role of Catholic thinkers in the general cultural movement and as a speculative achievement in its own right: “His works taken in chronological order represent the organic growth of the author’s position as it evolved naturally and gradually through successive contact with past and contemporary currents of thought. His theoretical development is indissociable from these other philosophical movements and is to be understood in light of a fruitful examination of them.” 12
In Collins’s commentary especially, the “in” and “against” moments are both visible. Przywara plays a role within a “general cultural movement.” But his contact with “past and contemporary currents of thought” spurs a process of “organic growth” terminating in an original “speculative achievement.” Collins would concur, then, with the phenomenologist Peter Wust’s characterization of Przywara as “the man who watches over the times, and who keeps watch above the times.” 13
These descriptions of Przywara as both in and above the currents of his times could apply mutatis mutandis to Przywara’s work as an ecclesiologist. On the one hand, Przywara’s thought unfolds “in” each ecclesiological current from the modernist crisis down to the preparatory phase of Vatican II. As Karl Neufeld would say of him, Przywara “was always witnessing to a situation.” 14 In short, Przywara was, like Newman and Augustine, an “occasional” thinker. On the other hand, Przywara examines each newly formulated vision of Catholicism in light of its compatibility with the analogia entis , which he understands to be the most basic and comprehensive structure of creaturely existence. The conceptuality of the analogia entis gradually assumes new layers and complexity as Przywara encounters each new movement.
What we find at the end of this organic development, however, is not just a summary of positions, but Przywara’s own synthetic vision of the Church. Indeed, as I argue at length, Przywara’s analogy of being serves ultimately as the framework for an Ignatian ecclesiology.
This basic intuition that Przywara is in fact forging an ecclesiology both analogical and Ignatian structures this book at the level of each chapter and with respect to the sequence of chapters. Each chapter begins with a theological movement or event that furnishes the relevant interpretive background to a range of Przywara’s writings, then proceeds to show how Przywara brings his analogical sensibility—the analogia entis —to bear on the issue at hand. Finally, in order to show how Przywara both maintains and varies his theme, the exposition of each chapter (except the second) is ordered around three key dimensions of the analogy of being: “structure,” “rhythm,” and “middle.”
The sequence of chapters is both thematic and chronological. The first chapter treats chiefly Przywara’s writings on “creaturely metaphysics” up to and including his Analogia Entis (1932). Setting these writings against the backdrop of the condemnation of pantheism at Vatican I, I argue that the analogia entis represents a philosophical theology—that is, an account of the relationship of similarity-dissimilarity between Creator and creature—in the nonpartisan mode of an ecumenical council. In other words, just as ecumenical councils formulate their decisions in such a way as to avoid identifying the whole Church with any individual theologian or speculative school, so Przywara formulates the Creator relationship of the analogia entis in such a way as to prescind from the speculative differences separating theological personalities such as Dionysius the Areopagite, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas. At the same time, just as ecumenical councils formulate their decisions concretely enough to exclude certain errors, so also the analogia entis articulates a creaturely metaphysics definite enough to exclude various shades of pantheism—especially the pantheism of German idealism. Formally, therefore, all authentically Catholic theologies evince an irreducible “structure” of similarity and dissimilarity between Creator and creature, as well as a “rhythm” of energetic exchange between God and creation. For only such a creaturely structure and rhythm maintains the “middle,” that is, the essentially unbridgeable interval between Creator and creature. Pantheistic thought, however much it may avail itself of Christian language, can be recognized by its transgression of this deeper structure and rhythm of creaturely existence.
The second chapter advances the argument by showing how the analogia entis provides a Catholic account not only of metaphysics but also of religious experience, both natural and supernatural. While drawing on more or less the same range of writings as the first chapter, it profiles them against a different background and exposits them from a different angle. In this case the relevant historical context becomes the era of antimodernist magisterium, beginning with the rejection of “semirationalism” at Vatican I and culminating in Pius X’s criticism of “vital immanence,” that is, the identification of God with the apex of the human spirit. Przywara develops from the analogia entis a philosophy of religion that is specific enough, on the one hand, to respect the teachings of Vatican I and the antimodernist magisterium, yet broad enough, on the other, to include such nonscholastic thinkers as J. H. Newman and Max Scheler—often suspected at that time of religious “intuitionism.” Przywara mounts his case by arguing that one best understands the distinction between two widely acknowledged polarities—religionmetaphysics and nature-grace—according to the model of “relations of prevalence” ( Prävalenzverhältnisse ). In other words, religion and metaphysics both track the same phenomenon, namely, God as refracted through creation. Religion, however, responds in a predominantly (but not exclusively) practical way, whereas metaphysics responds in a predominantly (but not exclusively) speculative way. Since religion remains at least implicitly cognitive, appeal to religious experience counts as something more than irrational emotivism.
Natural religion and supernatural religion are likewise, at least in the actual economy of salvation, joined according to a relationship of prevalence. On the one hand, since God has chosen not to limit grace to the precincts of the Catholic Church, there can be in fact no religious practice entirely untouched by grace. On the other hand, since God has chosen to redeem humanity as humans, the Catholic Church will include the dispositions of even natural religion in a healed and elevated mode. The all-important consequence is that speculative thought and religious practice, though always distinct, nevertheless compenetrate so thoroughly that one can see intelligible connections between religious traditions and the metaphysical systems they generate. The Catholic religion, which represents for Przywara the maximal supernatural elevation of natural religious traditions, generates the metaphysics of the analogia entis .
The third chapter applies Przywara’s prevalence model of religious practice and speculative thought to one regional variant within the Catholic religion: Przywara’s own Jesuit order, founded by St. Ignatius Loyola (1491–1556). Set against the backdrop of post–World War I controversies regarding the place of mysticism (as opposed to asceticism) in Jesuit life, this chapter shows how in the 1930s Przywara uses the analogy of being both to explain the irreducible pluralism of religious “types” and to evoke the distinctiveness of the Ignatian type. As Przywara sees it, genuinely Catholic religious types are united in their basic respect for analogical balance but are distinguished by their relative emphases on one or another pole of the certain perennial tensions. Though all Catholic religious currents will respect creation’s similarity and dissimilarity to God, for instance, the Ignatian type accentuates dissimilarity, contemplating God preferentially under the aspect of Divine Majesty. This emphasis with respect to the vertical axis of the analogia entis gives rise to a series of horizontal, apostolic preferences: active service in imitation of the self-emptying Christ, personalized governance according to the model of discretio caritatis , and attunement to the directives of the hierarchical Church. These distinctive Jesuit emphases effectively balance other charisms and paths within the Church, making the Church a field of irreducible tensions whose pluriformity points beyond itself to the inexhaustible riches of God. Making the Church transparent to the majesty of God is for Przywara the perennially Ignatian ecclesiological project.

The fourth and fifth chapters then work out in more detail Przywara’s Ignatian vision of the Church, distinguishing two stages of Przywara’s thought. The fourth chapter explores the principle of “ecclesial discretion” developed by Przywara in the early 1940s, showing how Przywara models the function of ecclesial authority on the function of an ideal Jesuit superior. Przywara argues that hierarchical authority, the Church of representative office, actually serves as the condition for the possibility of ordered pluralism, missionary outreach to the “uncovenanted,” and an enterprising laity. According to this model, the more the Church’s authority is seen to “descend” from God rather than to “ascend” from human ingenuity or majority consensus, the less various charisms and apostolates in the Church are seen to compete with each other. The Church “from above,” in other words, best accommodates pluralism—and even requires it. Przywara develops this Ignatian ecclesiology against the backdrop of the two models governing much of early twentieth-century ecclesiology: the so-called perfect-society ecclesiology descending from Vatican I and the so-called mystical-body ecclesiology popularized by the German Liturgical Movement. Przywara’s Jesuit ecclesiology of “discretion” aims to overcome the onesidedness of each position, reconciling their legitimate insights in a single, Ignatian and analogical model.
The fifth chapter observes something of a caesura in Przywara’s thought. In the closing years of World War II, the German Jesuit selfconsciously changes his approach to theology, undertaking what I call an apocalyptic ressourcement . Personal and national tragedy lead Przywara to conclude that God is permitting the collapse of the post-Tridentine “Western” Church in order to inaugurate a global and, indeed, cosmic Church. Aiming to cooperate with this divine initiative, Przywara adopts what he considers the more globally accessible medium of the nouvelle théologie : the primordial symbols of scripture, liturgy, and patristic preaching.
Ecclesiologically, the most significant consequence of this methodological shift is Przywara’s decision to recast his analogical vision of the Church in the biblical-symbolic categories of nuptiality and Marian typology. Despite this change in method and categories, I argue, Przywara continues to uphold the values that he formerly identified as distinctively Ignatian: reverence for the “ever greater God,” missionary outreach, and responsiveness to the unique pastoral needs of each age. Though the theme of the hierarchical Church is less prominent in Przywara’s writings from this period, the shift is best explained not as a repudiation of former positions but as a response to a new historical “occasion.”
With this later turn to a biblical and nuptial ecclesiology, we arrive at the end of Przywara’s original ecclesiological developments. After World War II, Przywara’s fragile mental health imposes on him a life of nearly eremitic seclusion, including separation from the normal community life of the Jesuit order. After many false starts, Przywara settles in the early 1950s at Murnau in the Bavarian countryside, where he resumes his intellectual vocation with the help of a caretaker named Sigrid Müller. During this period he also published many of the writings originally composed toward the end of World War II. The only major writing on the Church conceived after World War II, Kirche in Gegensätzen (1962), offers not so much new speculations as a prophetic synthesis of his ecclesiologies of discretion and nuptiality. Though written in anticipation of Vatican II, it nevertheless offers a nuanced answer to the question, often mooted in retrospect, What happened at Vatican II? With a view to sharpening the council’s discernment, Przywara outlines several perennial tensions in the Catholic Church whose competing values may vary in ascendancy from era to era. Przywara thus foresees in Vatican II not the birth of a new Church but the emergence of a new set of accents, or a new ecclesial “type.” Given the intellectual and spiritual currents clamoring for the council, however, Przywara suspects that the emergent ecclesial “type” will further suppress Ignatian emphases and, in turn, cloud the Church’s transparency to the Divine Majesty. Przywara thus combines Joseph Ratzinger’s insistence on the basic continuity of the Church’s identity across Vatican II with John O’Malley’s sensitivity to the significance of change in ecclesial “style.” Intriguingly, though Przywara clearly offers his work as an instrument for ecclesial “discernment,” his reclusive circumstances lead him to name not Ignatius but St. Anthony of the Desert as his spiritual forebear. 15
This later identification with the tradition of desert monasticism should not obscure, however, the fil conducteur that connects the whole course of Przywara’s reflections on the Church: the analogia entis in its distinctively Ignatian configuration. Przywara’s assessments of currents within the Church always represent an attempt to help the Church maintain her analogical equilibrium and thus her attitude of Marian humility. Because Przywara saw the ecclesial currents of his age as hostile to Ignatius’s values, his attempts to restore analogical balance to the Church often involved a vindication of the Jesuit way of proceeding. In this way, the analogy of being serves as a framework for articulating an Ignatian ecclesiology.
At the same time, Przywara’s analogical and Ignatian ecclesiology clearly has a broader, apologetic aim. The analogy of being, it will be remembered, designates the “middle” differentiating God and creation: only when we perceive the unbridgeable interval between Creator and creature do we come to serve the God of majesty rather than our own idolatrous projections. Essentially, Przywara’s religious apologetic boils down to a dilemma: either idolatrous pantheism or the analogia entis . And because it is the Catholic Church who renders the analogia entis historically concrete, instantiating its structure and rhythm in her form of life, the dilemma is patient of a still more pointed formulation: either idolatrous pantheism or participation (whether explicitly or implicitly) in the Catholic Church. There is no third option.
Most provocative in Przywara’s either/or apologetic is its ability to advance a robust apologetic for the “absoluteness” of the Catholic Church without indulging in triumphalism. The Church remains “absolute” in the sense that she remains the only site positively willed by God for the gathering of all humanity in Christ. Yet God has established this site, Przywara would hasten to add, not as a repository of timeless formulas and rituals or as an uninterrupted parade of edifying saints and wise pastors, all of which might only serve to inflate the egos of the Church’s members. God has instead established the Church as a field of rippling tensions. One enters the Church, accordingly, to be stretched on the rack of her unmasterable polarities, to experience her permanence and her change, to wonder at her holiness in her Head and her sinfulness in her members. To persevere in such a “Church in antitheses,” in short, requires confronting and embracing one’s own relativity. If the Catholic Church is thus the “Church of the ever greater God,” she is so because she is a school of ever more abject creatureliness.

It is to this almost painful sensitivity to the majesty of God and to the Church’s role in conveying this majesty that Przywara’s admirers attribute his relevance for the present. In his “ Laudatio auf Erich Przywara,” Karl Rahner, reflecting on the state of theology after Vatican II, predicts, “Future theology will still have much to learn from Przywara. Precisely his later writings have not been widely received. The average theology of today too, which thinks—often being altogether too quickly persuaded—that it has dedicated itself to the spirit of the Council, could benefit today and tomorrow from letting itself be terrified by the dark fire of Przywara’s theology.” 16 Balthasar too foresees that Przywara’s thought, after having served to stimulate the council, might now provide the key to its proper interpretation.
[Przywara] had long anticipated the opening of the Church to the world that came with the [Second Vatican] Council, but he also possessed the corrective that has not been applied in the way that the Council’s [teachings] have been inflected and broadly put into practice: namely, the elemental, downright Old Testament sense for the divinity of God, who is a consuming fire, a death-bringing sword, and a transporting love. Indeed, he alone possessed the language in which the word God could be heard without that touch of faint-heartedness that has led to the luke-warm chatter of the average theology of today. He lives like the mythical salamander in the fire: there, at the point where finite, creaturely being arises out of the infinite, where that indissoluble mystery holds sway that he baptized with the name analogia entis. 17
Both Rahner and Balthasar, then, find in Przywara a stimulus to the Church of their own day and a corrective to the “average” theology of ours. Both identify Przywara’s thought as a remedy for the postconciliar obtuseness to the majesty of the “ever greater God.” But both ultimately omit to develop this line of thinking in detail, especially as it pertains to Przywara’s ecclesiology.
This book intends to develop precisely this line of thinking, showing how Przywara develops and deploys his analogia entis to help the Church become more fully what she can never altogether cease to be: the Church of the ever greater God.
Analogia Entis as Creaturely Metaphysics
Structure, Rhythm, Middle
“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” 1 Isaiah Berlin once made this dark fragment from the Greek poet Archilochus the basis for a twofold division of human thought styles. The fox represents those thinkers “who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, only in some de facto way,” whereas the hedgehog represents those “who relate everything to a single central vision, one system, less or more coherent or articulate, in terms of which they understand, think and feel—a single, universal, organising principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance.” 2 Had Berlin been familiar with the thought of Erich Przywara, he would undoubtedly have numbered him among the hedgehogs. The analogia entis , Przywara’s signature idea, is in one sense a theory of everything, a flexible category whose structure and rhythm informs the whole of reality. Przywara’s method of demonstrating the analogia entis , moreover, corresponds to the universality of its subject matter. Przywara proceeds by highlighting the operation of analogy across the various levels and registers of creation, letting the case for the analogia entis rest more on its cumulative explanatory force than on a single, syllogistic demonstration. The comprehensiveness of the analogia entis poses a challenge in turn to the expositor, who often feels obliged to say everything in order to do justice to any aspect of Przywara’s thought yet knows that saying everything is saying nothing incisive.
For the sake of clarity, then, we do better to begin cutting a selective path through Przywara’s texts, interlocutors, and themes. With respect to texts, the present chapter draws primarily from Przywara’s writings up to and including his Analogia Entis I (1932), the magnum opus crowning the first decade of his reflection on the philosophy of religion. The texts in question are no small corpus. By the time Przywara published Analogia Entis I , he had already completed sixteen other monographs and more than three hundred articles and reviews. And while much of what follows regarding the analogia entis can be found in the eponymous work, it is often expressed there with a prohibitive density and allusive erudition. 3 Elucidating Przywara’s thought therefore requires reference to his earlier works: Religionsbegründung (1923), a study of Scheler’s and Newman’s natural theology in light of scholastic principles; his writings on the philosophy of religion such as Gottgeheimnis der Welt (1923), Gott (1926), and Religionsphilosophie katholischer Theologie (1926); and his many philosophical essays published in Stimmen der Zeit . I will on occasion refer to even later writings—such as Mensch (1959) and “Theologumenon und Philosophumenon der Gesellschaft Jesu” (1964)—but only to the extent that they shed a backward light on these earlier ones.
The venerable pedagogical principle of explaining the unfamiliar from the familiar dictates in many ways the range of interlocutors engaged here. With Przywara being the unfamiliar party to most readers, it seems best to connect Przywara’s thought to “classic” points of reference. Happily, Przywara himself evokes the breadth of the analogia entis by noting its operation in canonical figures as diverse as Augustine, Dionysius the Areopagite, and Thomas Aquinas. In addition to the legacy of these individual geniuses, Przywara is grappling with the teaching of the First Vatican Council (1870) on pantheism and its neo-Thomist reception. At the dawn of Przywara’s career, we do well to recall, Vatican I was a more recent memory than Vatican II is to us. The reader attuned to this ecclesial background soon perceives that Przywara uses these conciliar definitions as a constellation by which to chart a course through modernity. One would not go far wrong, in fact, in thinking of Przywara’s analogia entis as what Augustine, Dionysius, Aquinas, and Vatican I hold in common on the doctrine of creation.
When mapping this area of intersection, Przywara returns habitually to three constitutive dimensions of the analogia entis : structure, rhythm, and middle. These furnish in turn the three organizing themes of this first chapter. Though Przywara thematizes the distinction between structure and rhythm more in his later writings, one familiar with his oeuvre soon discerns their implicit presence even in his earliest works. 4 The structural and rhythmic operation of the analogia entis defines in turn what Przywara’s calls the creaturely “middle” between the extremes of pantheism and theopanism. These three terms, structure, rhythm, and middle, offer a sort of aerial view on the analogia entis .
Our incremental ascent to this aerial view unfolds in five stages. First, I begin with Przywara’s interlocutors: the Church as she speaks at Vatican I and the premodern authorities of Aquinas, Augustine, Dionysius. Second, third, and fourth, I offer an interpretive exposition of the analogia entis under the images of structure, rhythm, and middle. Finally, I offer a brief reflection on how Przywara’s analogia entis represents a “creaturely metaphysics” consonant with the basic orientations of Vatican I.
In his “Votum” submitted as consultor to the theological-dogmatic commission for the First Vatican Council, the Jesuit theologian Giuseppe Pecci recommended a formal condemnation of pantheism, describing it as “the heresy of our age.” 5 Pecci’s opinion was by no means an outlier among nineteenth-century Catholic churchmen. Disturbed in particular by the influence that German idealists such as Schelling and Hegel were exercising over even Catholic theology, 6 the Catholic magisterium energetically opposed a variety of related opinions. Pius IX’s letter Eximiam tuam (1857) condemned the opinion, attributed to Anton Günther, that creation was necessary. 7 Four years later the Holy Office condemned ontologism for divinizing human consciousness, construing God as “that being which we know in all things and without which we know nothing.” 8 When the so-called Syllabus of Errors (1862) collected similar magisterial admonitions in a single teaching document, its first paragraph was devoted to the condemnation of pantheism. 9 The nineteenth century was, in short, on guard against philosophies that undermined the difference between God and the world.
Dei Filius , the Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith promulgated at Vatican I, both solemnizes and extends this whole line of antipantheist teaching. 10 Its general preamble laments that the “abandonment and rejection of the christian religion, and the denial of His Christ, has plunged the minds of many into the abyss of the pantheism, materialism and atheism.” 11 The canons appended to its first chapter, “On God the Creator of All Things,” go on to proscribe popular variants of these errors. 12 But the conciliar constitution does more than condemn. It also positively describes God’s act of creating in ways that foreshadow Przywara’s own articulation of a “creaturely metaphysics.” The chapter on creation teaches that God creates without necessity (“not with the intention of increasing his happiness, nor indeed of obtaining happiness”), “by an absolutely free plan” ( liberrimo consilio ), “from nothing,” according to a “twofold created order” of spiritual and material realities, and in such a way as providentially to govern even those things that “will be brought about by the free activity of creatures.” 13 Though the most immediate motive for affirming both spiritual realities and creaturely freedom is to rebuke materialism, this also echoes the magisterial view—found already in the Syllabus of Errors —that those who collapse God and world ultimately collapse distinctions within the world: “God is one and the same thing with the world, and, therefore, spirit with matter, necessity with liberty, good with evil, justice with injustice.” 14 All of these elements—creation from nothing, the association of pantheism with intracreaturely confusion, and affirmation of genuine creaturely freedom—become load-bearing pillars in Przywara’s own teaching on the analogy of being.
To the chapter’s positive characterization of the divine freedom and transcendence, the canons add a differentiated condemnation of pantheism. Relying heavily on the analysis of German idealism furnished by the German-speaking Jesuits J. Kleutgen and J.-B. Franzelin, the canons describe various material and formal permutations within the broader category of pantheism. Materially, the canons reject a variety of designations for the common “stuff” that God and creation are supposed to share: substantia , essentia , esse universale . 15 The latter term perhaps alludes to the condemnation of ontologism and comes closest to Przywara’s own descriptions of pantheism. 16 Formally, the canons reject a variety of processes by which “the divine essence . . . becomes all things”: emanatio, manifestatio , explicatio . 17 Referring especially to the word explicatio , Franzelin registers the council fathers’ awareness that God can “become” all things in two ways, as either the undifferentiated origin or as the realized term of world process: “Those who call that abstract esse or essence by the name God , without presuming evolution or emanation, say God becomes world. For those however who attribute the name God only to the already evolved essence, the world becomes God. Hence the rough distinction between theopanism [ theopantismi ] and pancosmism.” 18 Though his terminology varies, Franzelin clearly distinguishes ascending and descending pantheisms, 19 all the while identifying pantheism’s decisive marker as the necessitated (rather than gratuitous) implication of God in world process. Przywara will likewise depict pantheism as a dead end approachable by two paths, elaborating a typology of German already operative in the Jesuit peritus J.-B. Franzelin.
One other aspect of Jesuit involvement at Vatican I helps to round out Przywara’s intellectual context: the strategy of exorcising pantheism by promoting scholasticism. Pecci ascribed the rise of pantheism to the “loss of solid philosophy,” 20 proposing Thomist philosophy as the most suitable vehicle for the “restoration of natural truths.” 21 Though the other periti at Vatican I judged it inopportune to single out Aquinas for special mention at an ecumenical council, 22 Pecci’s motion gained traction through other channels. His brother Vicenzo Pecci, almost immediately upon becoming Pope Leo XIII, called for a return to the philosophy of the great doctors of the Church in Aeterni Patris (1879), the encyclical widely credited with having launched the neo-scholastic movement. Though Aeterni Patris praised as examples a variety of patristic and medieval doctors, it also showed a marked preference for formation ad mentem Sancti Thomae . This set in motion a process that ended in Thomism—as opposed to Augustinianism, Scotism, Molinism, and so on—becoming the nearly exceptionless norm for the philosophical and theological training of seminarians. With such magisterial approval and universal diffusion, it was inevitable that Aquinas, whose rejection of the Immaculate Conception had hurt his popularity in the early nineteenth century, would become by Przywara’s time the benchmark of Catholic orthodoxy. 23
This backdrop of magisterial and Jesuit responses to pantheism perhaps helps to illuminate both Przywara’s interest in developing a “creaturely metaphysics” and his selection of sources. Writing in the wake of an ecumenical council, Przywara models his analogia entis after something like a council’s low-resolution theological discourse. 24 By “lowresolution” discourse, I refer to the fact that councils, as a general rule, avoid giving such a high-resolution account of their decisions as to canonize or even inaugurate one theological “school.” When condemning pantheism, for instance, Vatican I did not offer a positive theory of creation along specifically Thomistic or Bonaventurian lines. Rather, it spoke at the lowest level of resolution sufficient to refute perceived errors. In much the same way, we will see, Przywara thinks of the analogia entis as an “ecumenical” metaphysics. He would not understand “ecumenical” to mean hospitable to a variety of Christian confessions, Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, and so on. Rather, he would consider his metaphysics “ecumenical” in the way that a Church council is ecumenical, that is, sufficiently low resolution to include every authentically Catholic school, such as Thomism or Augustinianism, yet high resolution enough to unmask pantheist deformations of Catholic teaching.
Przywara’s later writings on the Jesuit theological style cast a sort of backward light on this ecumenical intention, only implicitly present in his earliest writings. His essay “Theologumenon et Philosophumenon der Gesellschaft Jesu” (1964), for instance, suggests that the Jesuit charism, because of its ambition to serve the universal Church, gravitates not toward particular “systems” like “Thomism” or “Scotism” but toward an “analyzing and synthesizing attitude toward preexisting systems.” 25 For this reason Jesuit theology, not unlike ecumenical councils, “cannot be the site of ingenious theological or philosophical initiatives.” 26 Given Przywara’s deep identification with the Jesuit charism, we should hardly be surprised to discover that he offers the analogia entis as an attempt not to found a new school of “analogical” theology but rather to map those formal tensions operative in all authentically Catholic schools of thought and spirituality.
In light of these aims, Przywara’s predominant (but not exclusive) use of Thomas Aquinas can be seen as a matter of both conviction and strategy. Przywara, especially in the early stages of his thought, remains convinced that Thomas Aquinas offers the most exquisitely balanced expression of analogia entis . He notes in his introduction to Analogia Entis I , in fact, that the theory of the analogy of being first emerged in his early studies of Thomas’s Quaestiones disputatae and De ente et essentia in 1912–13. 27 But besides representing the most relatively adequate precision of the analogia entis , Thomistic thought offered strategic advantages. The Thomistic corpus was both familiar to Przywara’s contemporaries and esteemed by the Church, making it an ideal medium for both communicating Przywara’s ideas effectively and signaling his orthodoxy. At the same, Przywara, lest he be taken to be simply extending Thomist categories, occasionally shows how other “classic” thinkers of the Christian tradition conform in their own way to analogia entis . The two most prominent figures after Aquinas turn out to be Augustine and Dionysius the Areopagite, whom Przywara reports to have studied in depth from 1914 to 1918. 28 Though Przywara cites these patristic sources less often, their influence is palpable to anyone familiar with the basic shape of both their thought and Przywara’s. In fact, Przywara, in a late interview suggestive of his mature affinities, identified his intellectual next of kin not as Aquinas but as Nicholas of Cusa, the Renaissance reviver of Dionysius the Areopagite. 29
At all events, it is to this formal structure to which we now turn, expositing the analogia entis under the three great thematic words— structure , rhythm , and middle —and attending to Przywara’s acknowledged sources as circumstances allow.
Przywara’s analogy of being has the deceptive simplicity of all great ideas. Some general orientation to the idea can be gained by recalling both the origin of “analogy” in Greek mathematics and its modification according to the requirements of Christian creation metaphysics. In Greek mathematics, analogy designates the kind of meaningful and irreducible proportion between two quantities that we often represent in fractions, for example, ½, ¾. The mathematical concept of analogy proves fairly unproblematic so long as the quantities compared are finite. But mathematical analogy breaks down as soon one introduces an infinite quantity into the ratio. The proportion 1/∞ reduces to zero, for instance, while ∞/1 balloons to infinity. In either case, the result is no longer a ratio of two irreducible quantities but the fusion of two terms into a single undefined term.
It is here at the limit case of infinity that Przywara locates the signal difference between mathematical analogy and the analogia entis . For whereas mathematics cannot support a meaningful ratio between the finite and the infinite, Christian creation metaphysics can and must do so. If the ratio between finite creature and infinite Creator yielded an ontological zero, creaturely actions would be rendered empty theater. The only possible world in which creaturely activity differs from God’s own activity yet retains its own integrity is one where creatures enjoy an act of being proportionate to their Creator’s. 30 It is this proportion of creaturely similarity-dissimilarity that Przywara means by the term analogia entis . 31
In elaborating the common characteristics of all proportionate (or creaturely) existence, Przywara will eventually land on yet another mathematical figure. His late work Mensch (1959) likens the analogia entis to a “coordinate cross” ( Koordinaten-Kreuz ) defining the field of creaturely existence. 32 Taking advantage of the retrospective light that this figure sheds on Przywara’s formidably dense early writings, I present the analogia entis as an attempt to convey one simple idea: the creaturely as an intersection of two irresolvable and mutually conditioning polarities, the vertical and the horizontal. A “cross-structure” permeates and defines the creaturely domain.
Vertical Polarity
The vertical axis of the cross-structure refers for Przywara to the created realm’s simultaneous similarity-dissimilarity to its Creator. It is this vertical register of the analogy of being that classic philosophy of religion has in mind when it speaks of analogy. Aquinas, to take a particularly prominent example, teaches that our concepts apply to God only proportionately. He represents this ratio of similarity to dissimilarity as a synthesis of three “ways” of knowing: via positiva , via negativa , via eminentiae . The via positiva ascribes an attribute to God (“God is good”); the via negativa denies that the attribute applies to God like it does to creatures (“God is not good in the way creatures are good”); the via eminentiae combines the previous moments, ascribing the attribute to God but only in a supracreaturely mode (“God is good in a more excellent way than creatures are good”). 33 Since for Aquinas language tracks thought, it follows that we can assign attributes to God only proportionately. “Words like ‘good’ and ‘wise’ when used of God signify something that God really is,” Aquinas teaches, “but they signify it imperfectly because creatures represent God imperfectly.” 34 And because creatures are neither completely similar nor completely dissimilar to God, language derived from them applies to God not univocally or equivocally but “analogously” ( analogice ). 35 Analogy has, in short, long been used to designate the creaturely ratio of similarity to dissimilarity to the creator.
Przywara’s treatment of vertical analogy, though it largely follows this classical tradition, innovates in two respects. First, Przywara removes analogy from the narrower context in which Aquinas invoked it, namely, the problem of divine predication, and makes it a metaphysical structure. 36 He pays scant attention, in fact, to the problem of “Godtalk.” Taking for granted the analogy of words, he aims at the underlying “analogy of being ,” the ontological structure valid for every kind of creature.
Second, Przywara, attempts to forge a new language for analogy that evokes its ubiquity in the Christian metaphysical tradition. 37 He speaks of analogy not only in the Thomist idiom of similitude-dissimilitude, for instance, but also and especially through the spatial language of “in-above” ( in-über ). The use of “über” betrays the influence of Dionysius the Areopagite, who made habitual use of the Greek ὑπέρ(above), as both prefix and preposition, to designate the divine transcendence. 38 This same spatial language can also conjure up Augustine’s paradoxical formulations of God’s presence as both “inside every creature” ( interior omni re ) and “outside every creature” ( exterior omni re ). 39 “God in-above the creature” becomes, in short, one of Przywara’s earliest and most flexible formulations for vertical analogy. 40
Przywara’s choice of the capacious “in-above”—a language indeterminate enough to include thinkers as diverse as Aquinas, Augustine, and Dionysius—suggests yet again the “ecumenicity” of Przywara’s concept of analogy. The analogia entis manifests itself in the thought of every Catholic thinker and yet remains broader than the categories any individual uses to articulate it. It is perhaps for this reason that Przywara, starting with his book Religionsphilosophie katholischer Theologie (1926), identifies the words of an ecumenical council, Lateran IV (1215), as the most adequate formulation of analogia entis : “Between the Creator and the creature no similarity can be noted, however great, without compelling one to observe the greater dissimilarity between them.” 41 Though the formula uses the Thomist language of similaritydissimilarity rather than the Neoplatonic alternatives, its endorsement by a council elevates it above the sensibilities and conceptualities of any individual. It is performatively ecumenical.
Horizontal Polarity and the “Real Distinction”
Przywara works in roughly the same ecumenical register when he turns to the “horizontal” axis of analogia entis , privileging Thomist metaphysics without siding with him on mooted terminological or conceptual points. Przywara takes pains to show that any worldview affirming the proportion between Creator and creature will also affirm the tensive or polar character of creation. These irresolvable intracreaturely tensions both betray creation’s dependence on a simple Creator and constitute analogy’s “horizontal” axis.
The distinctively Thomist framing for horizontal analogy Przywara links to Aquinas’s doctrine of the “real distinction.” 42 According to Aquinas, what differentiates every creature from the utterly simple God is an internal distinction between essence ( essentia or Sosein ) and existence ( esse or Dasein ). The fact that we perceive finite things as contingent and unnecessary means that what they are does not entail the fact that they are. A creature’s essence, in other words, is in some way distinct from its existence. This distinction can be called “real” inasmuch as essence and existence in creatures do not differ merely from our point of view, as Goodness and Truth differ in God, but differ in the creature itself. 43 Though “really” distinct in this sense, essence and existence are never separable. 44 Przywara sees in the irreducibility and indivisibility of essence and existence a kind of horizontal polarity characterizing the whole creaturely realm.
This horizontal axis of analogy, as it turns out, is a necessary condition for maintaining the integrity of analogy’s vertical axis. If something genuinely exists other than God, as we have seen in the discussion of vertical analogy, it must exist in a ratio of similarity and dissimilarity to the divine being. And the “real distinction” is a way of articulating both the dissimilarity and the similarity of creation to God. As to the dissimilarity, we do well to recall that the divine being, according to classic Thomist metaphysics, is utterly simple, absolutely unrestricted in both essence and existence. It is God’s very nature to existence, since “his essence is his existence.” 45 Since God is by definition what is essentially and existentially unbounded, it follows that what is not God must be somehow bounded in essence and existence. And this is exactly what the “real distinction” means: essence and existence are “really distinct” enough in creatures to be mutually delimiting. Essence bounds the infinity of existence by channeling it into stable kinds (those of angels, animals, plants, etc.); existence bounds the eternity of essence by introducing temporality and contingency. 46 Being thus bounded, creaturely essence and existence cannot coincide with divine essence-existence.
The very same “real distinction” that grounds the dissimilarity between creature and Creator turns out to ground their similarity as well. The similarity follows from the fact that the principles each creature has , that is, essence and existence, point separately to what God simply and indivisibly is . Essence recalls that God is immutable and eternal. 47 Existence recalls that “God is pure act, pure reality, pure life.” 48 Though pure immutability and pure act coincide in God in a way they can never coincide in finite creatures, creatures nevertheless display these divine perfections in a certain proportion. Because union of essence and existence in creatures points to the identity of essence-existence in God, the real distinction provides an account of the creature’s similarity to the Creator as well.

The upshot is that the horizontal and vertical axes of analogia entis stand or fall together. 49 Any blurring of the “real distinction” between creaturely essence and existence leads to a blurring of the distinction between Creator and creature: “[Aquinas’s] last word is therefore also the famous and much misunderstood ‘analogia entis.’ That is, there is nothing simply common between God and creation. Rather, precisely where they agree, that is, in Being [ Sein ], they are abyssally divided from one another. God’s Being is essentially pure Being, creation’s being is essentially being stretched between essence and existence [ Sosein-Dasein-gespanntes Sein ].” 50 The insistence that there is “nothing simply common” between Creator and creature forecloses pantheism, of course, in all the ways that Vatican I defines it. Creatures share not a single principle in an unrestricted sense with God, whether substance, essence, or universal being. Neither is there, strictly speaking, anything “simply common” between horizontal polarities, as if Sosein and Dasein could fall under some generic Sein , which would in turn constitute the “stuff” of divinity. 51 Avoiding divine monism requires affirming that creaturely essence and existence are both irreducible and indivisible.
Though Przywara privileges the Thomistic language of the real distinction, he does not treat Aquinas as the only thinker in whom horizontal analogy is operative. He concedes for instance that Scotus and Suárez come closer to ascribing the difference between essence and existence to the peculiarities of human cognition, that is, to a “distinction of reason with a foundation in the thing” ( distinctio rationis cum fundamento in re ). Przywara nevertheless observes that even this “distinction of reason” is not merely perspectival. Having a “foundation in the thing,” it is objective enough to indicate the extra-mental operation of the analogia entis . 52
Though Przywara admits that “softer” distinctions than Aquinas’s may conform to the analogy of being, he seems to privilege the real distinction as a point of contact with the dialectical categories of German thought. This dialogical intention is evident in Przywara’s early efforts to correlate the Thomist essence-existence distinction with the Romantic polarity of static structure and dynamic vitality. As variants of the essence-existence distinction, Przywara lists not only the Aristotelian distinctions of act-potency and form-matter 53 but also the tensions of being and becoming, 54 unity and multiplicity, 55 unity and “fullness” ( Fülle ), 56 delimited “content” ( Inhalt ) and unbounded “act.” 57 This early conviction perhaps colors Przywara’s reading of his philosophical sources. 58 The Aristotelian passage that Przywara privileges above all others, for instance, is the Stagirite’s description of analogy as the relationship of “one thing to another thing,” 59 a formula that Przywara takes to mean a “relationship of mutual alterity” ( Beziehung gegenseitigen Andersseins ). 60 However tenuous this may be as an exegesis of Aristotle, 61 it reveals Przywara’s inclination toward what Hans Urs von Balthasar calls a “dialectical interpretation of the real distinction.” 62
Given the range of intracreaturely differences that Przywara aims to accommodate under the category of horizontal analogy, it makes sense that Przywara returns to the same low-resolution language that he used for vertical analogy. Playing on the polysemy of the German preposition über , which may indicate not only vertical difference (“above”) but the horizontal difference (“beyond”), Przywara can also describe horizontal polarity as a relationship of “in-beyond” ( in-über ). The summative formula for horizontal analogy thus becomes “essence in-beyond existence.” 63 Though it uses Thomist categories, it again signifies in an “ecumenical” register. The integrity of the vertical “in-above” depends, at all events, on the integrity of the horizontal “in-beyond.”
Further Implications of Horizontal Polarity
Besides making the real distinction more elastic, Przywara extrapolates from it into the domains of epistemology and anthropology, presenting the polarities of creaturely knowing and human existence as “crossstructural.” When transposed from metaphysics into epistemology, for instance, the essence-existence tension becomes the subject-object tension. In his Religionsphilosophie , Przywara refers to this cross-structural analysis of knowledge as the “problem of religion from the standpoint of the general consciousness of the ego.” 64 Accordingly, just as God reposes in an ontic simplicity beyond the tensions of essence and existence, so God enjoys a noetic simplicity beyond the tensions of subject and object. God does not learn new things by gazing at external objects; rather, God, the active sustainer of all things, knows by introspective intuition. In God, in other words, the subject and object of knowing perfectly coincide. 65
All creaturely knowledge, by contrast, unfolds in a “back-and-forth tension between the ego-independent object of knowing and the egodependent subject of knowing.” 66 Przywara presents as paradigmatic of this creaturely mode of knowing the “object-bound and object-oriented activity of abstraction.” 67 Favored by the Aristotelian-Thomist tradition, abstraction has the intellect projecting itself into the external, sensible world in order to “abstract” from individual things the universal forms that make for true knowledge. By joining the universal form to the sensible particular, the mind can make judgments of the kind, “Socrates is a man.” The human intellect is thus not “absolute in itself” but grows in the ceaseless cycling of the ego’s exitus into objects and reditus into itself. 68 This unmasterable “tension of antitheses” becomes the “experience of the ultimate essence of the creature as ‘question.’” 69 Przywara thematizes this epistemological polarity throughout his works on the philosophy of religion, 70 eventually coming to formulate it in Analogia Entis as the “neutral duality between the act of cognition, which questions, and the object of cognition, at which its question is directed.” 71 As Philip Gonzalez rightly concludes, Przywara remains a resolute “non-foundationalist.” 72 For he sees any attempt to resolve this subject-object polarity as a pretension to divinity, whose knowledge alone is monopolar.
Przywara follows his treatment of “religion from the standpoint of the general consciousness of the ego” with a treatment of the problem of “religion from the standpoint of the concrete ego.” 73 This problem refers to a field of tensions “just as basic as the tension of subject-object” but operating within concrete human subjectivity: the polarities of body-spirit and individual-community. 74 Here again the divine way of knowing serves as a counterpoint to the human way. There being no genus of gods, the Creator knows perfectly not only without first consulting sense data, but without consulting a community of knowers. 75 Human knowers, by contrast, limited by embodiment and inscribed within communities, depend on the empirical and historical observations of others. “True metaphysics and true epistemology,” Przywara observes, “require ‘cooperative knowing,’ require the eyes of whole peoples and humanity proper to the ‘ philosophia perennis .’” 76 Any departure from these limitations on human knowledge, that is, from its mediation through the senses and communal tradition, represents a forgetfulness of one’s creaturely station.
These distinctively human tensions extend the basic pattern of essence in-beyond existence. As we have already seen, Przywara associates the essence and existence with the one and the many. 77 The human spirit and the organic community, symbols of overarching oneness, correspond to essential unity. The human body and the individual member, by contrast, symbols of irreducible multiplicity, correspond to the existential many. 78 Structurally, moreover, these anthropological polarities hang together not as a “mere juxtaposition” ( einfaches Nebeneinander ) of each pole but as a kind of “coinherence” ( Ineinander ). 79 Przywara explains:
The sphere of body and the sphere of spirit, however much they may differ from one another, are yet a unity (‘ein Wesen,’ unum ens , as St. Thomas Aquinas says). Equally so is it with the sphere of the individual and that of the community; there is no absolute social sphere distinct from absolute individuality [ Einsamkeit ]; it is rather part of the indestructible essence of the individuality possessed by each concrete human ego that it furnishes him with no communal Erlebnis save that which comes through the solitude of the individual and is seen through the vision of the individual, and no separate experience which has not been born in the depths of communal experience and which has not revealed itself to the communal group. 80
Any tendency to collapse the in-and-beyond of body and soul, individual and community, represents at the same time a tendency to collapse the in-and-above of Creator and creature. The mutually conditioning cross-structure of analogy appears in these uniquely anthropological domains as well. 81
The upshot is that the analogia entis constitutes a universally pervasive structure, what Przywara calls a “cosmic law” ( Weltgesetz ). 82 It structures being considered objectively (essence-existence), the correlation between being and consciousness (subject-object), and the human person (body-spirit, individual-community). A review of these basic tensions allows us to see, at least in part, how Przywara could plausibly present the analogia entis as the answer to the question with which he introduces his Religionsphilosophie : “What is the fundamental metaphysical presupposition regarding subject and object, and their correlation, which brings together philosophy and theology in the eyes of the Catholic, and unites them as organically one?” 83 Understanding the analogia entis as a cross-structure of mutually conditioning polarities, one more easily sees both the power and the ambition of his claim. 84
Though analogy’s “structure” is in one sense inflexible, that is, permitting no blurring of the distinctions between Creator-creature or essence-existence, Przywara does not envision it as static. He instead describes the vertical and horizontal beams of the analogia entis as channels through which divine energy courses and flows in a rhythm of exchange. The analogia entis constitutes not only a primordial structure, in other words, but also a “universal rhythm.” One can think of Przywara’s attention to rhythm as an extension of the scholastic maxim agere sequitur esse —“acting follows upon being.” 85 While typically used to express the principle that only certain kinds of beings can produce certain kinds acts—for example, only humans and angels (but not plants) can reason—it also implies that everything, to the degree that it exists, exercises some kind of agency. One of Aquinas’s alternative expressions for existence is simply the actus essendi , “act of being.” 86 In examining this universal rhythm, in other words, we revisit the essenceexistence distinction from the angle of act and potency. We find that the cross-structure implies a cross-rhythm, in short, and that the possibility of proportionate being implies the possibility of proportionate causality and creaturely freedom.
Creation as Cross-Rhythm
When Przywara brings to the fore the “rhythmic” dimension of the analogia entis , the static positions of “in-above” yield to the dynamic vectors of “upward-downward” or “outward-inward.” Drawing again on the Thomistic idiom, Przywara speaks of the divine act of creatio ex nihilo in terms of two movements: on the one hand, a “movement-of-God-outwards” ( processio Dei ad extra ); on the other, a “growing streaming-in again of creation into God.” 87 Respecting the simplicity of God, defined at Vatican I, almost requires one to contemplate the act of creation as a rhythm of opposing movements and perspectives. For creation implies the establishment of a domain “outside” of God, such that God’s activity terminates ad extra . Yet, because no domain can truly lie “outside” divine omnipresence, creation must involve a simultaneous intussusception of creation “into” God. Divine descent into nothing and creaturely ascent from nothing are thus the same reality, viewed from irreducible and complementary angles. 88
Though Przywara often invokes the authority of Aquinas when he speaks of creation as a processio Dei ad extra , he is far from thinking the Angelic Doctor the only advocate of this exitus-reditus scheme. “The thought of ‘out-going’ and ‘return,’ and so of ‘rotation,’” observes Przywara, “is for both Eastern and Western philosophies the last word of wisdom.” 89 Przywara doubtlessly has in mind here the Neoplatonic visions of Augustine and Dionysius. Przywara sees Augustine’s attempt to do justice to both the descending and ascending perspectives in the latter’s description of creaturely agency as what “is and is not” ( est et non est ). By this he seems to mean that each creature ever bears the trace of its origin “from above,” and thus truly “is,” but also bears the trace of its origin “from nothing,” and thus very nearly “is not.” Neither nothing nor everything, the creature cannot but seek to return to “that simple ‘Is’” ( est illud simplex ) whence it derived. 90 Dionysius’s view of the cosmos is no less “rotational” in this sense. He describes the cosmos as a hierarchical array, whose various layers God suffuses with life and goodness “according to their proportionate participation” (κατὰ μέθεξιν ἀνάλογον). 91 Divine light and energy descend pyramidally into a multiplicity of creatures and having reached the remote extremes of the cosmos, ascend convergently toward the divine simplicity. 92 René Roques nicely captures Dionysius’s bidirectional emphasis when he calls his theological vision one of “anagogical condescension.” 93 It is with the tradition of Aquinas, Augustine, and Dionysius—the tradition regarding creation not as a discarded clockwork but as a circulatory system—that Przywara aligns himself in describing the analogy of being as a rhythmic exchange.
The energetic commerce across the Creator-creature boundary entails in turn a sort of energetic commerce within the creaturely ream. Viewed from the angle of rhythm, the essential difference between Creator and creature appears not so much as simplicity and compositeness, but as immutability and mutability. God is beyond change, whereas creatures are either changing or changeable in principle. Yet, besides marking the boundary between God and creatures, creaturely mutability establishes the conditions for traffic between them. Creatures require ongoing maintenance “from above” only if they are changeable and thus tend of themselves toward nothing. And creatures are genuinely changeable only if they subsist in an ever-shifting balance of “selfmaintenance amid self-evolution.” 94 It is primarily this intracreaturely equilibrium of actuality and unrealized possibility that Przywara means by rhythm in its horizontal register.
In his mature thought on this horizontal rhythm, represented by Analogia Entis I , Przywara appeals above all to the Aristotelian analysis of change in terms of act-potency and the principle of non-contradiction. Przywara begins by noting how Aristotle himself conceives the relation between act and potency as a kind of analogy: “In their inner relation to one another . . . actuality (ἐνέργεια, actus ) and possibility (δύναμις, potentia ) bear witness to an oscillating rhythm, back and forth, which Aristotle directly designates as analogy (λέγεται δὲ ἐνεργείᾳ . . . τὸ ἀνάλογον).” 95 The very possibility of “change,” in other words, presupposes a kind of “exchange” between the interrelated yet distinct planes of actuality and potentiality, such that creaturely determinations somehow trade places. When the sick man, for instance, recovers his health, the attribute of sickness shifts from the actual to the potential plane. At the same time, the attribute of health necessarily shifts from potential to actual. Only this kind of internal rhythm can explain how Socrates can transition from state to state without thereby becoming a different person at each transition. Socrates, once restored to health, does not experience a complete discontinuity of identity, since health was always in the sick Socrates at least potentially. The ob served phenomenon of change thus presupposes an energetic rhythm between the distinct yet correlative principles of act and potency.
Following Aristotle, Przywara proceeds to connect this “oscillating rhythm” to the very foundation of thought: the principle of noncontradiction. The principle of non-contradiction holds, he argues, only if some metaphysical wedge drives contrary properties apart, forcing one to occupy the plane of potentiality as long as the other occupies the plane of actuality. If a fence is actually white, in other words, it can be only potentially nonwhite, and vice versa. If a fence could be either actually white and nonwhite, or potentially white and nonwhite, the principle of non-contradiction could no longer find traction. If contraries could coincide on the plane of possibility, on the one hand, we could not in the final analysis negate any given predicate, for example, “X is not white.” For a being of pure possibility is just as open to whiteness as to nonwhiteness, and is just as truly called “white” as “nonwhite.” 96 The coincidence of contraries on the plane of actuality, on the other hand, would fuse creatures into a kind of perfect self-identity subject to no further determinations. Such unalloyed actualism would thus require us to take observed changes as illusory, that is, “to take truth and falsity, being and non-being as the same [ταὐτὸν], and thus, noetically and ontically, to eliminate the principle of non-contradiction.” 97 The principle of non-contradiction supposes, in short, a kind of principle of conservation of contraries, such that creaturely traits do not perish in change but shift between potential and actual registers within the creaturely realm.
Przywara concludes from these reflections, as Aristotle did before him, that the principle of non-contradiction can gain a foothold in reality only if actuality and possibility can flow into each other rhythmically and without confusion.
If (creaturely) actuality, then, constitutes the actual formal plane of the principle of non-contradiction, then the latter is situated most formally within the energetic transitoriness of this plane: between the abyss of the principle’s negation (in the ταὐτὸν τἀναντία of possibility) and its superelevation into the most definite possible “is” (wherein the principle of identity is fulfilled). The principle of non-contradiction is comprehensible only as the energy of this movement between the limit concepts of “pure contradiction” (in δύναμις) and “pure identity” (in an ἐνέργεια brought to completion). . . . For the rhythm of analogy is grounded in the “middle.” 98
I shall say more about the “middle” later. For now it suffices to note that the pendular rhythm of act and potency permeates all creatures and does so with respect to both being and knowing. 99 It is this ongoing and all-pervasive exchange of knowledge and energy across vertical and horizontal boundaries that Przywara evokes under the musical figure “rhythm.”
Secondary Causality and Freedom
Because every creature subsists in a fluctuating ratio of actuality and potentiality, every creature enjoys not only an existence but also an agency proportionate to the divine. This proportionality means in turn that the relationship between divine and human agency is ultimately noncompetitive, hospitable to a cosmos of secondary causes and creaturely freedom. “Because the whole of creation is wholly ‘out of’ God, there is originally, therefore, no dilemma between Divine Act and creaturely act, as between two equally authorized and independent entities standing over against each other, but all true independence in the creature is ‘from God hitherward,’ so that the apparent dilemma is the mystery of God the Creator Himself.” 100 In short, God does not so much constrain as sustain creaturely agency.
Though Przywara finds this “nondilemmatic” model of divine and creaturely agency affirmed in various ways throughout the Christian tradition, he considers its high-water mark the Thomist “doctrine of secondary causes ( causae secundae ).” 101 For Aquinas makes divine omnipotence and creaturely agency not only non-competitive but directly proportional. He construes God’s surpassing transcendence, in other words, not as a negative infinity, annihilating the efforts of finite creatures by its majesty, but as a “positive distance” permitting creatures to operate in their own right. 102 In Analogia Entis , Przywara cites approvingly Aquinas’s concise formulation: “Out of the eminence of its goodness, the first cause gives to other things not only their existence but the power also to be causes themselves.” 103 God not only sustains lions in existence, for instance, but endows them with the causal powers proper to lions. When a gazelle falls prey to a lion, therefore, there is a valid sense in which one can say that the lion—not God—killed the gazelle. To deny secondary causality, conversely, is to make God the only eligible gazelle slayer.
Przywara takes pains to present the doctrine of secondary causes as a transposition of Aquinas’s predicative scheme— via positiva , via negativa , via eminentiae —into a causal key. 104 According to the Analogia Entis I , the via positiva corresponds to the creature’s causal efficacy, which is seen as participation in the divine ground and thus the consequence of a “positive relationship” to God. The via negativa corresponds to the “negative alterity” of creature and Creator, by virtue of which the creature’s power appears almost as nothing beside the “ever new above-and-beyond of God, beyond even the greatest possible similarity to him.” The via eminentiae corresponds to the coincidence of the positive and negative moments, wherein “what is peculiar to the creature stands out positively, against the background of Deus semper maior , in its relatively distinct autonomy and proper agency ( causae secundae ).” As a secondary cause, the creature represents a synthesis of both positive similarity to God (as secondary cause ) and negative alterity from God (as secondary cause). Secondary causality thus turns out to be the rhythmic counterpart to the structure of the triplex via . 105
If the analogia entis finds its most poignant expression in the principle of secondary causality, secondary causality finds its most poignant expression in turn in the principle of personal freedom. 106 Augustine speaks famously of the “restless heart” ( cor inquietum ) that seeks in freedom ever to transcend itself. 107 Aquinas describes God’s energy as accommodating itself to creatures to such a degree as to “cause freedom precisely ‘as’ freedom.” 108 This freedom has, of course, positive and negative aspects. For the rhythm of the divine energy leaves creaturely alterity intact to such an extent that the creature seems “almost to assume the features of God: appearing as an original ground in and of itself . . . and as providence for others . . . even to the point that the creature is permitted to contradict God.” 109 God respects creaturely freedom so much, in other words, that God underwrites creaturely rebellion.

This divinely bestowed freedom brings us to the threshold of the ecclesial. For each creature, by virtue of the fact that it is not only causally dependent on God but also causally efficacious with respect to its fellow creatures, receives a place in the cosmic order. For Aquinas, Przywara notes, this “permeation, containment, and activation, one by another, of the levels of being” comes about in such a way that “everything particular exists to serve the universe and its meaning.” 110 Aquinas’s notion of a universal order, observes Przywara, provides a philosophical preamble to the “sacral” universes of Dionysius, Augustine, and Paul. It lays the foundation for the Dionysian notion of “hierarchy,” the idea that the convection of divine love descends from one creature to another before returning again to its source. 111 It undergirds Augustine’s doctrine of the universe as the embodied extension of Christ, a vision that Przywara calls the principle of “Head and Body One Christ.” Finally, this sense of the universal order functions as a “patently . . . philosophical formula for the ‘one body of many and diverse parts’ of 1 Corinthians.” 112 An interconnected universe of secondary causes and free agents is inevitably a “hierarchical” order. I will have much to say on this theme when I elaborate Przywara’s analogical model of the Church in later chapters.
We can sum up what is essential for now by observing that to speak of the universe as subject to analogical “rhythm” is to construe it paradoxically as an “open whole.” It is “open,” on the one hand, inasmuch as the creature’s ascending activity presupposes the descent of God in creation. The creature’s actus essendi arises from what the metaphysician William Desmond calls an even more primal passio essendi or a receptivity to Being. 113 It remains “whole,” on the other hand, in that the vertical rhythm sets in motion a horizontal rhythm, which can be described as an oscillation between act and potency, a self-maintenance amid change. The fact that creatures comprise both act and potency means that they can both actuate other creatures and be actuated by them. This serves as the foundation for an internally ordered “whole” of mutually ordered secondary causes and free agents. In this way God’s providence governs, as Vatican I teaches, even those designs that “will be brought about by the free activity of creatures.” 114

The presence of secondary causality and freedom in the cosmos introduces a further aspect of Przywara’s understanding of analogia entis : that of analogy as guardian of the “middle” between the two extremes of pantheism and theopanism. This focus suggests itself both because the terms “pantheism” and “theopanism” are ubiquitous in Przywara’s thought and because analogy as a “middle” between these extremes serves as a tidy synthesis of the themes developed so far: analogia entis as response to the perceived dangers of pantheism in the Vatican I era, analogia entis as stable structure, and analogia entis as energetic rhythm. These topics flow best in reverse order.
Rhythmic Middle between Pantheism and Theopanism
Beginning with the rhythmic aspect of the analogia entis , we can observe that the secondary causality upon which creaturely freedom rests stands almost by definition as a “middle” between two causal extremes: absolutely autonomous causing and absolutely heteronomous being caused. A secondary cause, inasmuch as it is secondary to the First Cause, enjoys only a dependent agency and thus a restricted causal scope. Inasmuch as the secondary cause is a true and proper cause , however, it nevertheless enjoys some causal scope. Some secondary causes are so much causes , in point of fact, that they enjoy personal freedom. But this dependent freedom again presents a “middle” between absolute self-determination and absolute determinism. Objectively speaking, one’s creaturely status is determined by the divine creative act. Subjectively speaking, however, one may use one’s creaturely freedom either to ratify the rhythm of the analogia entis , adopting the posture of a “servant,” or to resist it, ending in self-contradiction and rebellion against God. 115 On the basis of these alternatives Przywara formulates the basic imperative of the creature: “Become what you are!” 116
Przywara refers to the two chief modes of rebellion against this imperative: theopanism and pantheism. Whereas pantheism means for Przywara the creature’s active usurpation of the Creator’s position, theopanism means the creature’s passive absorption into the Creator. If Przywara was aware of Franzelin’s twofold analysis of pantheism into “theopanism” and “pancosmism,” he does not adopt it wholesale. For he takes “theopanism” not in Franzelin’s sense, where God stands as the terminus a quo within the world process, but in the sense of the philosopher of religion Rudolf Otto, who uses it to describe a style of passive mysticism. 117 Przywara’s key insight is that the extremes meet. Theopanism, despite being in one respect pantheism’s diametrical opposite, is in another respect nearly indistinguishable from pantheism. For once one concedes that God alone does everything, it becomes just as true to say that everything that happens is God. A God seen to tower so exclusively “over” creation as to annihilate creaturely agency can, with but a shift of perspective, be equally seen as so totally submerged “in” creation as to become the creaturely agency he displaces. It is therefore not the God who is “wholly Other” who is truly transcendent but the God who is both “in” and “over.” 118
The best litmus test for whether a worldview corresponds to God in-and-beyond creation is in turn its hospitality to secondary causality. For secondary agency is the rhythm of the in-beyond: “The rhythm of the first (ascending) ‘above-and-beyond’ serves to overcome the excessive enclosedness of a totality. The rhythm of the second (descending) ‘above-and-beyond’ tempers the excess of a divine Agency, which alone is efficacious, into the proportion of a relative all-unity between Divine omnificence and the creature’s own proper agency.” 119 Only when one acknowledges this in-beyond structure of nested agencies as a fundamental law of the cosmos does one acknowledge the truly transcendent God, the God who is “omnicausal” ( Allwirksam ) but not “monocausal”( Alleinwirksam ). 120 God thus becomes not simply “All,” but, to return to St. Paul’s ecclesiology, “All in all” (Eph. 1:23). 121 God is “All in all,” however, only if the creature retains its own integrity vis-à-vis God, occupying a causal “middle” between theopanism and pantheism.
Structural Middle between Pantheism and Theopanism
The disruption of the energetic rhythm between Creator and creature coincides with the idolatrous deformation of the cross-structure. Objectively speaking, of course, the cross-structure can never be violated, for it does not lie within the creature’s ken to opt out of an existence stretched between polarity: whether to merge vertically with the Creator or to resolve the many horizontal tensions of being and becoming. Subjectively speaking, however, the cross-structure is easily distorted. Beginning with Adam and Eve, we can, and in fact do, strive to “be like God.” As the etymology of Przywara’s terms—theo pan ism and pan theism—suggests, the sin of pride invariably assumes the form of making one of creation’s finite poles into an “All.” 122 The creature, in other words, absolutizes some relative aspect of its own existence—whether its creativity or receptivity, its mind or body, its individual freedom or communal embeddedness—allowing it to displace the only genuine Absolute.
A couple images might help us visualize the dynamic of postlapsarian pride. The first is the image of “coordinate cross” with which we began. The posture of creaturely humility would correspond to a Cartesian coordinate in which God, the Absolute, presides atop the X-axis and polar creaturely values lie along the Y-axis, on either side of the X-Y intersection. God alone is Absolute, and all creaturely values are relative. The idolatrous posture, by contrast, would correspond to a rotation of the whole coordinate cross ninety degrees. God would rotate down to the level of a creature. At the same time, one relative value would ascend to the place of God while its counterpart would descend into the region of disvalue. Since creaturely polarities are competitive relationships, the absolutization of one pole has as its invariable result the demonization of its counterpart. 123 The creaturely posture is therefore a “catholic” posture in the etymological sense, for it alone is compatible with an affirmation of reality “as a whole.”
As a second image illustrating the inverse proportion between pride and “catholicity,” one can perhaps take that of a balance scale. If one imagines the point suspending both trays as the Absolute and the trays themselves as creaturely polarities, then the posture of creaturely humility would be represented by a scale at balance. With both plates receiving equal weight, the distance (read: transcendence) is maximized between the suspension point above and the plates below. The dynamic of pride, by contrast, could be pictured as the tipping of the scale toward one side or the other. As one plate rises to the height of the “absolute” suspension point (read: immanence), the other sinks into the region of disvalue. Abused creaturely freedom yet again introduces a state of cosmic disequilibrium, a Heraclitean strife or a Pauline “war between the members.”
To sum up, then, the analogy of being is a “middle” because it imposes an either/or on the free creature: either absolutizing some immanent value, thus unjustly slighting some other dimension of creation; or confessing the God in-and-beyond creation as the only Absolute, thus relativizing and reconciling both intracreaturely poles. 124 Creatureliness in the sense of the “middle” is thus not only an assigned station, but a task to be achieved. This sense of creatureliness as a human ideal perhaps explains why Przywara so often inverts traditional spatial imagery, depicting original sin less as a “fall” from supernatural heights than as an “ascent” from creaturely depths.
The Middle and German Idealism
Though this cross-structural analysis of pantheism may smack of a priori geometry, Przywara thinks the a posteriori history of Western thought and spirituality illustrates his point. To show how this is so, Przywara offers a genealogical account of the intellectual system most worrisome to the fathers of Vatican I: the pantheism of German idealism. German idealist philosophies, he argues, have their true origins in the theologies of the Reformation, especially Lutheranism.
Przywara connects Reformation theology to idealism in the same way that he connects theopanism to pantheism, that is, as halfway house to destination. Drawing especially on two interpretations of Luther penned for the Luther Jubilee of 1917, one by the Catholic F. X. Kiefl and the other by the Lutheran Ernst Troeltsch, Przywara identifies the heart of the Lutheran sensibility as the replacement of the traditional principle of God’s “omnicausality” ( Allwirksamkeit ) with the novel principle of God’s “monocausality” ( Alleinwirksamkeit ). 125 Luther’s insistence on the exclusive agency of God in a variety of domains— sola fide, sola gratia, sola scriptura —set the Reformation on an initially theopanist trajectory. 126 Its tendency to reduce human agency to the passive reflection of an invisibly electing will led in turn to a “demonism” of the creaturely sphere: “Because this god is only the ‘God above us,’ every proper being and activity of the creature is as such ‘sin.’” 127 Once God becomes the only actor in the world, however, it is only a matter of time before the whole world process, both fair and foul, becomes God. The Reformation metaphysics of unmitigated alterity becomes, in John Betz’s memorable image, “subject like an Escher drawing to sudden reversals.” 128 And it is just such a sudden “reversal” ( Umschlag , Umformung ) from extreme transcendence into extreme immanence that Przywara detects in the rise of German idealism. 129
Przywara makes this inversive dynamic clear in the cases of Kant and Hegel. “The center of Kant’s system, the doctrine of the transcendental subject,” he writes, “is genealogically [ geistesgeschichtlich ] nothing other than the deformation of the Reformation’s monistic [ alleinwirklichen ] and monocausal [ alleinwirksam ] God. The almost indistinguishable oneness of God-man in Luther’s thought places the main accent on ‘God’ and is thus called the ‘monistic and monocausal God’; in Kant’s thought the main accent lies on ‘man,’ and so the name of the oneness becomes ‘humanity.’” 130 Przywara detects Kant’s turn from a theopanist to a pantheist monism especially in Kantian epistemology, with its core doctrine of the self-legislating subject. To the extent that the Kantian ego projects onto (rather than discovers in) the world its regularity and lawlike intelligibility, it assumes the role of “primordially creative thinking” and thus “undeniable traits of divinity.” 131 Kant has effectively collapsed the interval between divine and human thinking.
And by collapsing this vertical middle, Przywara continues, Kant simultaneously abolishes the middle between various horizontal tensions too, especially the balance between subject-object and individualcommunity. Inasmuch as the Kantian subject is self -legislating, it stands as the wholesale creator of its knowledge. “Kant conceives the world as a pure cognitive product of the ego, and to this extent his epistemological solution is an equation of subject and object, identity of world and ego.” 132 The subject eclipses the object almost entirely. Inasmuch as the Kantian subject is self- legislating , moreover, Kant’s philosophy attends to human subjectivity only in its universal aspect. “‘Self-imposed’ law,” Przywara notes, “is only that law that, according to its logical nature, has or can have validity for all people.” 133 Such an emphasis cannot hope to do justice to the unrepeatable aspects of the human person, its individual genius and particular vocation. Przywara detects in Kant’s thought, in short, a collapse of the cross-structure: Creator into creature, object into subject, individual into universal.
Przywara offers a comparable diagnosis of Hegel, the thinker who perhaps most haunted the collective imagination of the fathers of Vatican I. Hegel, according to Przywara, resolves antinomies between the absolute and the relative not, as Kant does, by simply reducing one to a function of the other but by forging a “univocal ‘unity of opposites.’” 134 Whereas analogical thinking sees the “coincidence of opposites” as itself analogical, that is, as a tension between a creaturely essence-existence “unity” and the divine essence-existence “identity,” Hegelian dialectic knows only the coincidence of essence-existence on a single plane. 135 More specifically, the essential pole of creation, which Przywara calls the “inner ‘is’ of becoming,” rises to displace the transcendent Absolute: “German idealism equates this inner ‘is’ of becoming, which as ‘is’in-process cannot be removed from this contingent context [ Werdezusammenhang ], with the Absolute simpliciter . It must consequently build the ‘unity of opposites’ of the ‘Whole’ upon the antithesis of ‘Absolute’ (‘ist’) and ‘relative’ (‘is not’), which is the oscillation of the Absolute in the relative and the relative in the Absolute: the emanation-God of ‘totality’ [ Allheit ], which unfolds itself into itself and retracts itself back into itself.” 136
When finite essence displaces the Absolute, the predictable result is not only the immanentization of God, but the depreciation of the existential pole of creation. This means ultimately the neglect of everything empirical, particular, and refractory to the aseity of the human spirit. 137 A kind of uncreaturely self-exaltation follows: “Every philosophy of ‘only essence’ is ultimately a philosophy of thinking as creative freedom and creative freedom as thought, and therefore a philosophy of the ‘absolute ego.’” 138 Przywara is, of course, hardly the first to have accused Hegel of courting pantheism by essentializing existence. 139 More original perhaps is Przywara’s explication of Hegelian dialectic as a transgression of the analogical “middle.”
Though Przywara sketches highly stylized pictures—some would doubtlessly say caricatures—of Luther, Kant, and Hegel, his genealogies remain valuable in several ways. First, they illustrate what Przywara means when he calls the analogia entis a “middle.” The analogical principles of secondary causality and cross-structure offer the only viable path between the Scylla of (Lutheran) theopanism and the Charybdis of (Idealist) pantheism. All other configurations are inherently unstable. Second, Przywara’s diagnoses of German idealism illustrate somewhat more concretely the mutual conditioning of the axes of the cross-structure. If the creature does not freely ascribe to the Lord the place of the Absolute, he or she will absolutize one pole of the self and thereby demonize its counterpart. In absolutizing reason, for instance, Kant and Hegel necessarily marginalize the existential—particular, manifold, empirical, objective—dimensions of human existence.
Having explored Przywara’s analogical analysis of German idealism, we are perhaps better positioned to appreciate the “ecumenism” of Przywara’s analogia entis , in both its method and its conclusions. Methodologically, Przywara adheres to the low-resolution mode in which ecumenical councils attempt to formulate their teaching. Having apprenticed himself not only to Aquinas but also to Augustine and Dionysius, Przywara crafts a language for analogy—in-beyond, ascendingdescending, secondarily causal—elastic enough to accommodate the pluralism of the great tradition. With a similarly ecumenical ambition, Przywara presents the analogia entis as a method hospitable to the whole of reality: a refusal to marginalize one or another side of creation’s unmasterable polarities. Despite its universal breadth, Przywara considers the conceptuality of the analogia entis definite enough to exclude what falls outside the “catholic” consensus. His unfavorable judgments against Luther, Kant, and Hegel show concretely how the analogia entis can unmask what he considers partial or tendentious constructions of reality.
With regard to its conclusions, Przywara’s analysis of the analogia entis as a middle between pantheism and theopanism shows its “ecumenical” spirit in its affinity for the concerns of Vatican I. The points of contact with the analysis and condemnation of pantheism in Dei Filius are especially numerous and deep-seated. Przywara’s emphasis on causae secundae provides the philosophical underpinning for God’s providential guidance of those affairs to “be brought about by the free activity of creatures.” His rejection of the Hegelian “emanation-God” shows his commitment to a God who creates ex nihilo, “by an absolutely free plan,” and without “the intention . . . of obtaining happiness.” His elaboration of creation’s horizontal polarities echoes the council’s insistence on the “twofold created order,” whose every aspect—spiritual-essential no less than material-existential—God infinitely transcends.
Intriguingly, Przywara’s thought can be seen to extend not only the conclusions of Vatican I but also the thought of its Jesuit theological periti . Like Pecci, he sees pantheism as a clear and present danger and seeks its remedy in the establishment of “solid philosophy.” Though Przywara is less narrowly devoted to Thomas than Pecci, both agree that Aquinas represents a privileged vehicle for conveying a “creaturely metaphysics.” Like Franzelin, Przywara insists that God and creation can share no common principle—whether essence, substance, or esse universale . This is the achievement of his cross-structural analysis of the Creator-creature relationship. Przywara also shares Franzelin’s rough division of pantheism into descending (theopanist) and ascending (pantheist) types, even if he alone identifies the analogia entis as the middle between them. Przywara’s adherence to a distinctively Jesuit way of engaging the universal tradition, a theme to be explored at length in later chapters, is thus already foreshadowed in his reception of Vatican I.
In short, though Przywara’s analogia entis bears marks of original philosophical genius, it nevertheless remains deeply traditional. It stands squarely in the current of thought flowing from Vatican I and nineteenth-century Jesuit scholasticism, whose insights it synthesizes into a single principle, at once rhythmic and structural. Because the analogia entis pervades the whole of reality, moreover, its in-above pattern provides a formal principle for uniting disparate domains of human experience. It is to Przywara’s analogical interpretation of one such domain, the sphere of religious experience, that we turn next.
Analogia Entis and the Problem of Religion
This second chapter aims to draw on more or less the same range of texts as the previous one while applying Przywara’s analogia entis to a narrower question. This question is what I would call the “problem of religion” in the era of the antimodernist magisterium. Attending to Przywara’s analogical philosophy of religion at this point offers several advantages, allowing us both to study the analogia entis in the crucible in which it was forged and to connect the structures of the analogia entis —albeit in a preliminary way—with those of the Catholic Church.
In his “Preface to the First Edition of Analogia Entis I ” (1932), Przywara reports that what first compelled him toward an “explicit problematic of the analogia entis ” was a dispute over the “immediacy of the religious.” 1 The dispute arose when the scholastic religious philosophy emerging in the wake of Vatican I, patterned after Aquinas’s “Five Ways,” encountered Catholic intellectuals formed outside the scholastic milieu, such as the English convert John Henry Newman and the quondam German convert Max Scheler. Scholastic thought underscored the human mind’s “mediacy” to the divine, describing human awareness of God as the fruit of an inferential process beginning with observed creaturely contingency and ending in that necessary being “to which everyone gives the name God.” 2 Newman and Scheler, however, began offering alternative explanations of religious experience based on what at first glance seemed a phenomenology of unmediated experience. Writing in 1923, Przywara observes that one question stands at the “focal point” ( Brennpunkt ) of contemporary Catholic intellectual life: “Is the old way of demonstrating the existence of God and of the faith in particular unserviceable, and thus to be replaced by a new way?” 3 Applying the analogia entis allows Przywara to offer a measured response to this question.
In applying the analogia entis to this problem, moreover, Przywara finds it natural to link the structures of creaturely metaphysics with the structures of the Church. For to appraise the compatibility of Newman and Scheler with “creaturely metaphysics,” Przywara finds himself recasting two conceptual binaries as “cross-structures”: religionmetaphysics and nature-grace. The mutually conditioning nature of these polarities gives Przywara a theoretical model for explaining how religious dispositions, both natural and supernatural, influence theoretical reflection without displacing it. Only this theoretical background allows us to make sense of Przywara’s claims to have identified a distinctively “Catholic,” or even “Ignatian,” style of thought. Exploring the religious implications of the analogia entis thus affords the opportunity not only to consolidate and concretize the fruits of the previous chapter but also to lay the foundation for subsequent chapters on Ignatian piety and ecclesiology.
These aims suggest that the argument proceed in three stages. The first section traces the trajectory of ecclesial vigilance regarding religious “immediacy,” beginning with “semirationalism” at Vatican I, continuing through the modernist condemnation of “vital immanence,” and resurfacing in neo-scholastic opposition to what Przywara calls the “intuitionist school.” These doctrinal decisions and controversies allow us to see once again how Przywara’s analogia entis is not only materially but also methodologically ecclesial. The second section rehearses Przywara’s take on the religion-metaphysics polarity, with its full acquittal of Newman and partial exoneration of Scheler from the charges of fideism. The third section reviews how Przywara frames the nature-grace polarity, uses it to clear Newman and Scheler of suspicions of rationalism, and develops from it a sort of implicit ecclesiology. The chapter concludes by situating Przywara’s model of “nature” within contemporary debates about nature and grace, showing how it avoids both overand underdetermining the intelligible content of nature.

The intensity of debate over philosophy of religion in Przywara’s youth may owe something to what the literary critic Stephen Greenblatt calls the “fifty-year effect”: “time in the wake of the great, charismatic ideological struggle in which the revolutionary generation that made the decisive break with the past is all dying out and the survivors hear only hypocrisy in the sermons and look back with longing at the world they have lost.” 4 Though Greenblatt was applying this term to the Catholic nostalgia of Shakespearean England, one might discern something similar in the rise of what Przywara calls the “intuitionist school.” About fifty years after the close of Vatican I, with its victorious emphases on the gratuity of the supernatural and the external authority of the papal office, there emerged a widespread interest in—or even nostalgia for—inner religious experience.
This valorization of interiority sets new schools of Religionsphilosophie at loggerheads with two kinds of “extrinsicism” that gained popularity after the council: first, a subject-object extrinsicism that located the grounds for religious assent chiefly in the external object, whether in the external evidence of cosmic contingency (in the case of natural religion) or in the external authority of divine revelation (in the case of supernatural religion); 5 and second, a nature-grace extrinsicism that separated religious acts and objects into natural and supernatural domains with perhaps overconfident exactness. 6 Przywara, as we shall see, proves much more favorable to subject-object extrinsicism than to nature-grace extrinsicism. But in order better to appreciate Przywara’s application of the analogia entis to these questions, we perhaps do well briefly to rehearse the motivation and evolution of this extrinsicism, beginning with Vatican I and continuing through modernism and the phenomenological movement.
Vatican I and Semirationalism
Among the undoubted concerns of the First Vatican Council (1869–70) was the proper articulation of the “middle” between the extremes of rationalism and fideism. In the eyes of the council fathers, the former stood by and large for German idealism and the latter for French traditionalism. 7 Despite their concern to avoid both extremes, the bishops generally appear to have found the rationalist error “le plus inquiétant.” 8
The Jesuit periti were no exception to this general rule. 9 Franzelin, for instance, indulging a penchant for classification already familiar to us, distinguishes in his influential “Votum” between “mere rationalists” ( meri rationalistae ) and those given to “semirationalism” ( rationalismus moder

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