The use by Calderón of the notion razón de estado is itself interesting and warrants further study. It probably plays at least two roles in Calderón's message. First, it refers to yet another of the Thomistic proofs of God or ways of knowing God exists, this one relating to St. Thomas Aquinas's fifth proof based upon the existence of order or governance. Second, it is meant to criticize Machiavellian politics, which insinuated a division, a separation between the practical politics required to run a State and the virtues of religion.
With respect to the first use, as a reference to St. Thomas Aquinas's fifth proof, we might simply begin by quoting Fiore (33-34):
Thus Calderón, following the precepts of natural law, demonstrates that man, through natural reason, can come to know and believe in God por razón de estado if not by faith. . . . With the statement por razón de estado, Calderón refers to Aquinas's fifth demonstration of God which has to do with the governance of things.
St. Thomas Aquinas's fifth "proof" may be quoted here in full:
The fifth proof arises from the ordering of things for we see that some things which lack reason, such as natural bodies, are operated in accordance with a plan. It appears from this that they are operated always or the more frequently in this same way the closer they follow what is the Highest; whence it is clear that they do not arrive at the result by chance but because of a purpose. The things, moreover, that do not have intelligence do not tend toward a result unless directed by some one knowing and intelligent; just as an arrow is sent by an archer. Therefore there is something intelligent by which all natural things are arranged in accordance with a plan---and this we call God.
Quinta via sumitur ex gubernatione rerum. Videmus enim quod aliqua quae cognitione carent, scilicet corpora naturalia, operantur propter finem, quod apparet ex hoc quod semper aut frequentius eodem modo operantur, ut consequantur id quod est optimum; unde patet quod non a casu, sed ex intentione perveniunt ad finem. Ea autem quae non habent cognitionem, non tendunt in finem nisi directa ab aliquo cognoscente et intelligente, sicut sagitta a sagittante. Ergo est aliquid intelligens, a quo omnes res naturales ordinantur ad finem, et hoc dicimus Deum
[S.T. I, q. 2, art. 3]
The fact that there is an Eternal Law under whose governance, that is, God's Providence, the entire world thrives, has great implications for human government. Man and his governments participate in God's government, participate in His providence, and so can never act at odds with it without "kicking against the goad." See Acts 9:5, 26:14. Thus human government is both empowered and limited. It finds justification in participating in the loving Providence of God.
A Dios por razón de estado defends the medieval idea of a universe ordered by eternal law (Hillach 95). Because the eternal law informs all that stands beneath it in the fourfold hierarchy, this defense bears on the laws and the reason of state through which govern their communities on earth. Calderón appeals here to the Neoscholastic concept of law in order to refute the postulates of Machiavellian statecraft and to question the assumption of realist political thinkers that the Christian prince may isolate a limited field in which he is free to proceed according to the demands of secular politics. Calderón’s strategy of applying reason of state to divine positive law denies the autonomy that Machiavelli claims for the political sphere, but it is consistent with the Neoscholastic view that all law are ranged in a single coherent hierarchy. And the proposition that reason of state enjoins obedience to the eternal law has clear implications for those who preside over human society. In this auto, as in many political comedias of the period, the law stands as the pattern of a beneficient order, and human actions are just to the extent of their conformity with higher laws. Through this argument Calderón offers an astute and sophisticated defense of the central axiom of ethicist political thought: that true reason of state cannot be separated from the orders of law and of providence. He sustains this anti-Machiavellian position throughout his political theater, both by exploring the haste with which the procedures of realist politics descend into a self-replicating tyranny and by aligning the institutions and diplomacy of the Hapsburg monarchy with the cycles of providential history. In the affairs of a Christian state, as in the spiritual life of an individual believer, fidelity to the law secures human participation in the order of Creation.”
The term razón de estado may literally find its genesis in Machiavelli's "Ragion de Stato." But one must not think thereby that Calderón intended it in a Machiavellian sense. Indeed, the truth is exactly the opposite. Calderón's use of it was precisely anti-Machiavellian, in line with, for example, the Italian Jesuit Giovanni Botero's (c.1544–1617) use of it, or in the sense of the myriad Spaniard theologians or political philosophers, an example of which may the Spanish Jesuit Pedro de Rivadeneyra (1527-1611). Rivadeneyra wrote his Tratado de la religión y virtudes que debe tener el Príncipe Cristiano para gobernar y conservar sus Estados (Treatise on the Religion and Virtues that a Christian Prince Ought to Have to Govern and Conserve his States), published in 1595, clearly against Machiavelli's immoral concepts of political virtú. Machiavelli was referred to by Rivadeneyera as an "hombre impío y sin Dios, así su doctrina," an "impious man without God, and similarly so his doctrine." Rivadeneyra argues that Machiavelli's political theory is nothing other than the Averroist philosophical "double truth" theory applied to politics. But Rivadeneyra insisted that, in writing against Machiavelli, he was not to be understood as rejecting the reality of reasons of state; rather, the notion of reason of state had to be understood not as being against the natural law and religion, but consistent with it.
Ante todas cosas digo que hay razón de Estado, y que todos los príncipes la deben tener siempre delante de los ojos, si quieren acertar a conservar y gobernar sus Estados. Pero que esta razón de Estado no es una sola, sino dos: una falsa y aparente, otra sólida y verdadera; una engañosa y diabólica, otra cierta y divina; una que del Estado hace religión, otra que de la religión hace Estado; una enseñada de los políticos y fundada en vana prudencia y en humanos y ruines medios, otra enseñada de Dios, que estriba en el mismo Dios y en los medios que Él, con su paternal providencia, descubre a los príncipes y les da fuerza para usar bien de ellos, como Señor de todos los Estados. Pues lo que en este libro pretendemos tratar es la diferencia que hay entre estas dos razones de Estado, y amonestar a los príncipes cristianos y a los consejeros que tienen cabe sí, y a todos los otros que se precian de hombres de Estado, que se persuadan que Dios sólo funda y los da a quien es servido, y los establece, amplifica y defiende a su voluntad, y que la mejor manera de conservarlos es tenerle grato y propicio, guardando su santa ley, y obedeciendo a sus mandamientos, respetando a su religión y tomando todos los medios que ella nos da o que no repugnan a lo que ella nos enseña, y que ésta es la verdadera,cierta y segura razón de Estado, y la de Maquiavelo y de los políticos es falsa, incierta y engañosa. Porque es verdad cierta e infalible que el Estado no sepuede apartar bien de la religión, ni conservarse sino conservando la misma religión.
Before all else, I say that there is such a thing as reason of State, and that all princes ought to always have it before their eyes, if they desire to assure the conservation and governance of their States. But this reason of State is not one, but two: one false and apparent, one solid and true; one tricky and diabolical, the other certain and divine; one where the State makes religion, the other which religion makes the State; one taught by politicians and founded in vain prudence and in human and ruinous means, the other taught by God, which is founded upon the same God and in the means which He, in his fatherly providence, unveils in his princes and gives them the power that He, as Lord of all States, gives them to use for good. So what we will address in this book is the difference that exists between these two reasons of State, and we admonish Christian princes and their counselors and all those who fashion themselves as men of State, that they persuade themselves that God only upholds them and and their power to serve, so long as it establishes, amplifies and defends His Will, and that the best way of conserving the State is by staying in his grace and favor, guarding his religion and taking all the means that religion provides, and not running afoul of it, and that this is the true, certain and secure reason of State, and that of Machiavelli and those of the politicians is false, uncertain, and deceiving. Because it is certain and infalible truth that the State cannot separate itself from the religion, nor conserve itself without at the same time conserving the same religion.
Thus through the natural law and the moral guidance it gave, Intellect was able to see what was true in the Gentile's religion, and what was corrupt. He was able to reject the polytheism and the pagan gods because their immoral behavior, which offended the natural moral law, and was not consonant with the perfection required by the First Cause. Intellect could also reject Atheism, as simply unitellectual and unreasonable. Similarly, Intellect was able to understand that God as First Cause implied that there was governance and order, and therefore there had to be Law. Without Law there was no God, and God's existence implied Law. Though he found what was true in Africa's faith, namely its monotheism, appealing, reason eventually led him to reject Africa's faith before the coming of the prophet Muhammad as vacuous. The natural moral law also allowed him to reject the anticipated prophet himself, as the law he revealed allowed for polygamy, something that violated fundamental precepts of contract and justice, even love, as found in the natural law. Finally, reason allowed Intellect to appreciate the law of the Jew, and see how its completion was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Through reason, he was able to see that the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation were not repugnant to reason. He was also able to appreciate the Law of Grace. The Law of Grace aided men to comply with the Decalogue, which was nothing other than an enumeration, an amplification through Revelation, of the natural law. Thus reason would find nothing unwanting and untoward in Christianity, and though reason alone may not be able to elicit and Act of Faith, it could bring a man sufficiently close to Faith's threshold so as to say that the existence of one God, and the binding nature of the Natural Law and the Decalogue apply universally to all men, because of razón de estado, because of the reason in the way things are, that is, the way things have been Created and the way things are ruled by the loving Providence of God.