I came to my final conviction - that the elements of the Periodic Table are accidental forms of some larger substance, and not in themselves substantial forms, as the Neo-Scholastics were saying. I came to this conviction, and repeatedly confirmed it by my study of literary form and by extension of all art forms. St. Thomas says many times, that all art forms are accidents - that is essentially and existentially or metaphysically, the properties of the already existing materials of which they are made - or forms imposed. With literary forms, the materials out of which they are made, are the sounds and meanings of the author's language. But language itself is but a property, although a necessary - accidental property, of the substantial form that is human nature. Here we see immediately that the analogy is not complete. In fact, the Scholastic axiom holds that every analogy "limps".
The big difference is that in the case of all literary constructs, from the lowest and shortest colloquial exclamation, to the most sublime poetic discourse, the substantial form in which the elemental accidents of literature ultimately inhere, is some human being with a specific language - whereas the elements of the Periodic Table - the atomic elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire - in their natural state as prime matter and inanimate forms - ultimately inhere in the substantial form of the Body of the Universe, created on Day One, as narrated in the first five verses of Genesis One. The modern cosmologists, guided by the structure of reality itself, at least in this one regard, distinguish between atomic "matter" and light. And so does Genesis 1-5! Here is a most fertile field for further research and especially for educating the public in and about a truly Catholic Cosmology.
And so, in the case of the atomic elements and light, the substantial form in which they inhere/adhere as accidental properties and forms, is the physical Body of the Universe itself. In literature, the smallest elements of sound and meaning are analogous to the chemical elements. In language, the smallest meaningful element is the phoneme. The phoneme is meaningful only as part of a meaningful structure. Take the expletive WOW! The - w - alone is meaningless. So is the O. These two letters of the English Alphabet only have the totally abstract "meaning" of the 15th and 23rd letters of the otherwise meaningless alphabet. But, in the specific structural arrangement of WOW! - they convey the expletive meaning we recognize when spoken..(as by Pope John Paul II in his meetings with young people) and when we see it in print. The exclamation point is a conventional sign limited to the print or written medium. But in all cases, you can see it in the structure - the arrangement of the letters that means something. And, so it is with the chemical elements. H20 "means" - or actually defines the state of matter - we know as liquid water - or simply water - as quite different from the single signs H and O as two of the elements in the Periodic Table. Their mathematical identity is one and eight, respectively, and these numbers - the atomic number - are vastly more meaningful than the single signs O and W as the 15th and 23rd letters of the English alphabet. At least now.
In any case, there is an analogy that may be helpful in understanding both kinds of structure. Both are accidental forms. Here is an example. I think it is Bobby Burns, the 19th century Scottish Poet, who
is famous for the following, - very moralistic verse:
There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us - that it ill behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us.
But you dare not change one word of this verse without altering the entire fabric/form in some way.
* Here should be pointed out that the non-conceptual apprehension of the formal principle of an artistic structure - or one we term beautiful. The verse just quoted is perhaps best described as a pleasing - really comical structure of rhymes and rhythms, the internal rhymes especially causing the formality to stand out - as if saying "Look at this!" Notice, this is not the same as the conceptual form of the verse, something of a limerick and emphasizing the mechanics of the verse.
That the sun and moon revolving daily around our central, stationary earth, are but parts of the larger universal body. Genesis specifies that they were made as “two great lights“… made in the firmament…” (Genesis 1:14-19). I am suggesting that God“made” as opposed to “created from nothing”, using the light created on Day One, the Sun, Moon and Stars. My QPB Science Encyclopedia tells me that the Sun is 70% hydrogen, about 30% helium - with other elements making up less than 1%. My Catholic Cosmology has no “solar system” until after the Noachian deluge. I suggest the so-called “solar system” is an effect of the Flood. It is very reasonable to believe this in the light of the evidences brought forth by Walt Brown and his hydroplate theory. But, this is just one of those disputed questions to be solved or reasonably resolved in the future, in the light of a much greater and stronger divine Catholic Faith. In any case, my proposed Catholic Cosmology sees the Sun, Moon and Stars, as made directly by God, with the elements of Prime Matter created on Day One, to function as parts - accidental, non-substantial, but necessary parts of the Body of the Universe. Modern scientists have no clue as to the moon’s origin, nor do they know what elements constitute it. The most popular theory is that the moon is an offshoot of the earth. Some Catholics, namely the followers of Fernand Crombette (d.1970) believe this also, and Gregory Groebner has some interesting photographic evidence. These scientists also claim that the moon originally was much more luminous than now. The truth of this opinion seems to be strongly indicated by scripture itself - because God, on Day Four, says that the moon is but a“lesser light” to rule the night..” (Gen.1: 16). It must have been quite a sight to rule the night! I don’t see how any chunk of earth could do that, do you?
When it comes to body parts, analogies utterly fail. The celestial spheres, the celestial bodies - sun, moon, galaxies, and above all, the angelic choirs that govern them. All these are like the arms of a gigantic parent embracing, guarding, protecting the little earth at the center of all things: “the still point of the moving world”, as T.S. Eliot has it somewhere.