Objective Fantasy vs. Subjective Reality
Regarding the problem of terminal adolescence, it has reached a kind of nadir in the election of our first teenage president (although I suppose Clinton broke some important ground in that regard). Along with this has come the descent of the moonstream media to a new low, which no one thought possible, i.e., a bunch of breathless teeny-bopper fanzines. Seriously, when they start publishing articles about women who fantasize about having sex with the president, it is difficult to imagine any further devolution.
Adolescents make up for in enthusiasm what they lack in substance, depth, and wisdom. As Balthasar writes, they also tend to generalize this enthusiasm, so that the world is not seen objectively, but subjectively. If you give it some thought, I think you'll realize that this is one of the real problems in trying to have a rational conversation with a liberal. In fact, I well remember what this was like from the other side, back when I was a liberal. The main problem with conservatives was that they threw water on your enthusiastic state of subjective fantasy, so I had no use for them.
But fantasies are otherwise ephemeral things that do not endure if they aren't reinforced by a large collective. In fact, being what they are, fantasies are threatened by even one person who isn't on board with it, which is why totalitarian governments and liberal universities function the way they do.
Likewise, it is why the adolescents of the left want to resurrect the Orwellian "fairness doctrine" in order to eliminate one of the remaining institutions that resists their fantasy. The very existence of talk radio is a threat to the fantasy, and must be stopped.
In just three weeks, Barack Obama has already attacked Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and Sean Hannity. Does the press care that they are under assault? No, of course not, because that isn't the point. Rather, Obama and the MSM have a common interest in perpetuating their mutual fantasy. Likewise, George Bush was attacked for quashing dissent, when he obviously did no such thing. For the MSM, anyone who does not share their common fantasy is not a part of the legitimate press.
I had no intention to get sidetracked by politics here. My only point is to highlight the discrimination it requires in order to begin to apprehend the objective and the real, the very source and possibility of which is God -- or, let us say, the "principial realm," so as to not prematurely saturate the subject.
As Balthasar writes, "People who cling to this view of the subjective nature of taste's judgment have remained immature adolesescents." But "by developing his soul according to the images of the objectively beautiful, the maturing person gradually learns to acquire the art of discrimination, that is, the art of perceiving what is beautiful in itself." Critically, although this is obviously a subjective operation, "in the process of their development, the subjective elements of perception... more and more pass into the service of objective perception."
I would say that this is because maturity can be gauged by a gradual "withdrawal" of projection, so that we begin to see the world as it is, rather than how we would like for it to be. In other words, our subjectivity takes on a more passive, "female" role in receiving the world rather than forcing the world into our projected categories. I don't have the time to dig out examples, but one will find many, many references to this in the Christian and Taoist literature.
The world in itself is neither "objective" nor "subjective." Rather, these are human categories that we use in order to understand our experience. In reality, these two categories are complementary and give rise to one another. I would say that "objectivity" simply refers to the exterior of the world, subjectivity to its interior, and there can be no outside in the absence of an inside. Both art and religion specialize in disclosing the "cosmic interior," so it is no wonder that the skill required to deepen one's understanding of them has a similar aesthetic form.
As Balthasar describes it, "Even in the case of a masterpiece, the mature observer of art can without difficulty give an objective and largely conceptual basis for his judgment." For example, yesterday evening I was watching Olivier's 1948 production of Hamlet, and was blown away by the screenplay. I didn't catch the name -- William something-or-other -- but the way he used language was... I don't know what else to call it but godlike. His mastery of language was so complete, that it was almost a distraction from the plot.
The question is, was my aesthetic assessment of William something-or-other objective? Or "merely" subjective? Or, is it possible to use one's subjectivity in such a way that it discloses objective reality? Let's say some lowbrow atheist comes along and says that there's nothing special going on here -- just a story about a dead Danish king and his crazy son. Yes, that is objectively true, but is it true?
Or -- you will forgive me -- one could say that the Gospels are about a delusional Jewish carpenter who gets rubbed out by the Roman authorities. Is that true? Yes, in the same way that the theory of natural selection explains our humanness. The point is, to live in a state of "mere"objectivity is to plunge oneself into the deepest and darkest of fantasies, where no light can enter, since all light is subjective (i.e., only subjects can experience it).
A metaphysical Darwinist is living in a state of "objective fantasy," since he regards his abstractions as more real than the concrete reality from which they are taken. And this is why one cannot be a consistent Darwinist and remain human, because no human can sanely treat other humans as mere "replicating machines." Rather, the moment you appreciate the infinite value of the individual -- an example of a truly objective subjective fact, by the way -- you have left Darwinism behind. It's just a matter of explaining why human beings are so infinitely precious. I know why. The metaphysical Darwinist can never know.
Balthasar contrasts the two uses of imagination. The more immature way is to project and externalize from within to the exterior. An extreme case of this would be the psychotic, but the schlock-in-tirade of the psychotherapist is less obvious forms of this same process.
Conversely, the more mature use of imagination involves a kind of metabolic process "in which the objective content of images is assimilated from the outside toward the interior" (Balthasar). I think it is fair to say that this is how the the spiritually mature person "uses" scripture and religion in general.
This is how Balthasar describes it: "the believer indeed possesses in advance the fundamental possibility of believing which has been implanted in him; but this possibility does not exempt him from the human effort of searching with a probing gaze for the correct form of what he is to believe and, having found it, from the effort of integrating it existentially into his very self" (emphasis mine).
Again: the form is objective, but its assimilation is subjective; indeed, the former must be assimilated into our subjective being in order both for it and for ourselves to truly "live" in the dialectical space between them. You could say that this is the eternal space of both kenosis and theosis, which are two sides of the same divine reality, in that His flowing out is our flowing in.