His Master's Voice (9.24.12)
A question: do kaliblind atheists have a point when they say that there is no evidence of God, and that if there were such evidence, then they would be believers? By "evidence," they usually mean something along the lines of magic. That is, they want to see something that is utterly inexplicable and defies all logic and reason -- you know, pink fairies under the bed. A miracle.
Let's look at it from God's point of view. Does he want to be known? Does he want people to know of his existence? So we have heard from the wise. But how does one reveal evidence of a person, especially if that person abides in a higher dimension, so to speak?
For example, how could I prove to my dog that I as a person exist? It's not as easy as it sounds, because dogs only experience you in dog categories. They might see you as the alpha dog, and respond accordingly. But they can't really conceive of your interior personhood. It is a dimension they cannot enter. I suppose they can apprehend some of its "energies," but never its essence, to throw a bone to one of man's best palamas.
Balthasar asks, "How, then, can we speak of the 'form of Christ' when most things about him -- the essential: his divinity and all the mysteries connected with it -- remain hidden and unfathomable in their internal depths of meaning?"
He responds that "We must begin by replying that the first and pre-eminent intention of the self-revealing God is, precisely, really to reveal himself, really to become comprehensible to the world as far as possible." In other words, we have to assume that God really is "putting himself out there," and that, for whatever reason, this is how he feels the climb can best be accompliced.
Again, we have to put ourselves in the position of a dog trying to understand our master. A lot of what the master does is going to be incomprehensible to us, even though that is never the point. Likewise, if God's intention "were to make those who believe in him assent to a number of impenetrable truths, this would surely be unworthy of God and it would contradict the very concept of revelation" (Balthasar). In other words, we can't really call it "revelation" if it doesn't reveal something of God's interior, something we are capable of fathoming.
However, at the same time, we cannot pretend that we could ever fully comprehend God, any more than we could ever comprehend even another human being. Thus, "a necessary part of this manifestation is his eternal incomprehensibility."
But here again, this "incomprehensibility" is by no means synonymous with "ignorance." Rather, it is to apprehend the divine from within the mode of mystery; as such, it is more like a direct transmission of the myster-er to the myster-ee, or contained (♂) to container (♀).
I'm sure you're all well aware of this feeling. We call it (≈). One of our tasks is to "amplify" (≈), which is hardly to increase our ignorance, but to sensitize our receptor, or (¶), so as to transduce (≈) into (n). Thus, as Balthasar observes, this paradoxical communication is not "a negative determination of what one does not know, but rather a positive and almost 'seen' and understood property of him whom one knows."
And once you begin to familiarize yourself with this property, you begin to realize that it is an enduring characteristic of the "divine object," similar to the familiar "vibe" one gets in the presence of anyone. You know what I mean. Someone once said that you can really understand how you feel about someone if you pay attention to the feeling you have when you receive a letter addressed from them. It's like that. Communiques from God will carry that familiar vibe. But only if you pay attention to the return address.
The same holds for a great artist. The totality of an artist's work will transmit a sort of consistent vibration. It reminds me of the book This is Your Brain on Music, in which the author pointed out that every great rock artist has a certain distinct and unique timbre that lets you know in an instant that you are listening to them and no one else.
Think about it for a moment. The Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Beach Boys, Byrds, Zombies, Animals, Creedence, Roy Orbison, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin -- each has a quite distinct "sound signature" that exists over and above the music itself. You know it's them from the first note.
In fact, one of the problems with modern recording technologies is the homogenization of sound, so that most contemporary music sounds rather bland and uniform. Few artists have that unique and inimitable sound signature anymore. To the contrary, radio stations actually want to have a kind of uniform vibe from artist to artist, so that when you tune into the station you know it's them. In other words, the timbre is no longer in the music, but the station.
And it's not just rock. For example, the timbres of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings, and Patsy Cline are all quite distinct. But if you played them on a contemporary country music station, they would all sound quite out of place.
Now that I'm thinking about it, the Christian timbre is quite distinct from the Jewish, Hindu, or Buddhist timbre. Here again, this timbre exists apart from any specific content. Balthasar observes that God "has offered himself to the gaze of mankind from every possible angle, and this gesture of self-disclosure... was part of his fundamental mission to manifest and explain God to man."
The musical timbre alluded to above is more than the sum of the parts. This is why, for example, after the Beatles broke up, none of the individuals ever sounded like the totality. A Paul McCartney solo album sounds nothing like the Beatles, to put it charitably -- for the same reason that Joel Osteen sounds nothing like Thomas Aquinas.
In other words, the "form" of God is a kind of totality that cannot be understood outside the fullness of the revelation. Thus, within the perception of revelation "we can distinguish two elements which belong together: the apprehension of a wholly unique quality, to be ascribed particularly to the supernatural origin of the light of faith, and the apprehension of an interior rightness (which is precisely where this quality of uniqueness proves and manifests itself), that is, of the objective, demonstrable beauty of all proportions.... One aspect of the form always points to and supports the others."
And this is why it is perverse for us to mix revelations "from below." One can hardly imagine the monstrosity of, say, Pink Floyd performing Twist and Shout, or the Beach Boys singing Communication Breakdown, or Led Zeppelin doing Yellow Submarine. It might sound something like this: