Where the Buoys Are
The problem is especially pertinent to the dialectical jazz metaphysician and improvisational pneumanaut, who never likes to play the Cosmic Suite the same way twice. So I might pick up the tempo a bit, and see if we can't at least get our TOE tapping (Theory of Everything).
There is the cosmos. And then there is the cosmos of revelation. Both are worlds, the former exterior, the latter interior. The exterior cosmos is obviously dependent upon the interior, which is why a total knowledge of the exterior cosmos would reveal nothing of its interior dimension.
Indeed, the mere fact that the cosmos may possess knowledge of itself is far more interesting -- shocking, really -- than any of the knowledge itself. Those blunted souls who are unable to appreciate the miracle of subjectivity are analogous to someone who jumps over a quarter to save a nickel.
In fact, James touches on this very issue this morning. That is, he essentially asks us to meditate on the absurdity of exterior revelation being completely identical to interior revelation. If this were the case, then to know the science would be to know the Creator. But so what?
"This way of proceeding, while initially impressive and useful, is ultimately ridiculous. God goes to all the trouble to reveal himself and he ends up saying that? It would be like someone handing you DVD saying 'this is what God himself has revealed about your life', which, when you watched it, was a short documentary narrating all the basic facts of your life. With revelation like that, who needs revelation? If that were all God did, who needs God?"
When we say "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," I'm pretty sure this is what we're talking about -- about the gulf between the two worlds. Science can only reveal how things are on the surface, not how they are supposed to be deep down. The same with any discipline, really.
For example, a historian can only tell you what happened, not what was supposed to happen (although every historian, no matter how secular, always sneaks in his implicit idea of what was supposed to happen, but without ever justifying it. The next time one of them glibly suggests that Bush was an awful president because x number of people died in Iraq, calmly ask him how many lives will have been saved -- let alone made meaningful -- in the next 100 years because of the liberation of Iraq).
So with the aid of the interior revelation, we discern the meaning and trajectory (which amount to the same thing) of history, and therefore see how, in fulfilling itself, it is transcended. In other words, to say that history has any meaning whatsoever is to immediately lift the raw facts of history beyond themselves to a plane higher than history. The problem is, the secular historian has no rational basis for doing this, no defensible grounds for saying that history is anything other than one damn thing after another.
Again, consider James' analogy of a complete DVD of someone's life. You could sit through the whole production and not understand a single thing about the meaning of the life in question, because meaning is always an interior phenomenon. Ultimately it is the organizing principle, the lens through which we can understand all the "parts" of one's life. Thus, to say "meaning" is to say "interior."
In my case, as I sit here typing, I am "effortlessly straining," so to speak, to make out the contours of a nonlocal object that is just beyond the subjective horizon. It is my "meaning," my north star, except that this star is in the invisible firmament of the celestial realm. I know when I am in its orbit, because it confers a kind of spontaneous interior coherence that must then be deployed in a linear fashion, which I call O-->(n). This is how Balthasar describes the world of revelation, through which
"meanings come together to build but one faultless and yet effortless equilibrium: they had all been harmonized into a sovereign unity before we ever perceived them. The strange aprioristic certainty dawns on us that in this cosmos of revelation we can always press forward with our investigations and discover new connections and proportions...."
In other words, this is a kind of truth that is simultaneously "created" and "discovered" -- in fact, not discovered unless it is created. Otherwise, we fall into the danger of regarding revelation in the same way we do scientific knowledge, which again can be passed from mind to mind like an object, with no loss of information.
But to pass along religious truth in this manner is to miss its most important dimension. The externality of religion is analogous to a system of buoys over the sea. You might say that the buoys tell us where to dive in. But mere knowledge of the whereabouts of the buoys tells one nothing about the depths below.
And this is the bumbling block of the mere natural man, who is not just exterior to the cosmos, but exterior to himself. All he can legitimately say of religion is that "I know something is happening here, but I don't know what it is, do I, Mr. Jones?"
"Reason cannot contemplate the phenomenon as it were from the outside and the inside at the same time. To want to see the stained-glass window from the inside is already to believe." For it is to be drawn into the realm of the thing itself, the Divine Attractor at the end of history, which Balthasar describes as "an ontological gravitational pull like that of the part for the whole or the finite for the infinite." Importantly, this longing for the infinite whole preserves the finite part, since it is an intrinsic and "beloved" reflection of the Divine Beauty, even unto death. For
"this supratemporal beauty is able both to contain and to vindicate the death of the beautiful, because death, too, belongs to the form in which immortal beauty becomes manifest, and it is dying which in the end truly impresses immortal beauty upon the spirit that contemplates it."