The Mystery of Love, Divine and Human
To say that things attain their completion in the realm of the subject doesn't just turn the cosmos inside out and on its head. First of all, it is experientially and phenomenologically true, which I believe is Balthasar's point. In this particular volume, The Truth of the World, he doesn't get much into theology per se. Rather, he is just setting the stage for the theology which will come later. For as always, we must begin at the beginning, with the question of "just what kind of cosmos is this, anyway?" And any answer that leaves out life, let alone consciousness, as intrinsic properties, is a non-starter. Once we realize this, then it becomes much easier to understand where religion fits into the picture, i.e., the cosmic principles through which it operates.
In a truly evolutionary worldview, we would see a cosmos gradually becoming more interior to itself, until it reaches a point at which this interiority doubles back upon itself in man. As such, man can be a subject for objects, as well as for other subjects. And that is not all. For man can also reconcile himself to the Absolute subject behind the play of phenomena. Thus, just as objects complete their otherwise meaningless existence in man -- the locus of worldly meaning -- man completes his otherwise meaningless existence in the Absolute subject, the locus of cosmic meaning.
Again, this is not the least bit speculative. Rather, I am simply describing "what happens." I know that Mrs. G., for example, since her baptism last Saturday, has been feeling so reconciled to the Absolute subject, that she is still being flooded with cosmic meaning that can't even be fully articulated. But this is what happens when one goes from being the source of meaning to being with the source of meaning, for it is somewhat like going from death to life -- or being "born again," to purloin a craze.
Only in the sphere of the subject may we reveal ourselves, which is why one doesn't feel self-conscious to be naked in the presence of the dog. Rather, there is a transitional space that opens up between human subjects, but also in the field between the human subject and the divine subject. It is only in this space that one may "unfold latent potentialities that [one] cannot display elsewhere." Do you see the point? A human being who is not intersubjective is not a human being. We are thoroughly entangled in one another in an irreducible way; there is no "I" in the absence of the thou.
In fact, as I attempted to make plain in the Coonifesto, it is actually the thou, i.e., the (m)other, that is first discovered, and who in turn "confers" our subjectivity upon us. In other words, human beings only discover themselves within an interpersonal matrix. Even when you are alone an thinking to yourself, the internal speech is always "for" someone. Oftentimes that is the key to understanding the nature of a mind parasite, for the activity of the parasite may consist of nothing but a kind of repetitive chatter. But to whom is the parasite speaking? That often removes the veil from the little bugger.
For example, I used to get mad at my school. The teachers who taught me weren't cool. You know the story -- holding me down, turning me round, filling me up with their rules. In fact, me used to be angry young man. Me hiding me head in the sand. But to whom was this anger really directed? Suffice it to say that, thanks to the magic of unconscious logic, I was simply tilting at windbags, i.e., symbolic stand-ins, instead of dealing with the true source. Thankfully, before it was too late, He gave me the word, I finally heard, and now I'm doing the best that I can. And I have to admit it's gotten better.
Now, objects -- just like self-respecting subjects -- won't just open themselves up to anyone. There is an intrinsic "modesty" in existence, through which things simultaneously veil and reveal -- or reveil as I put it in the Coonifesto. But at the same time, the object cannot be known except by another subject, and therefore wants to "unveil its inmost being," "just as a patient bares himself before his doctor" -- a prerequisite of which being that you must also bear your unbearable self.
Come to think of it, this is a metaphor I have often used with patients who wonder why I have to ask so many questions during an evaluation. I tell them that it's similar to when they go to a real doctor -- the definition of a real doctor being a stranger who, when they tell you to take off your clothes, you do it -- except that one must reveal oneself in time as opposed to space.
In other words, the body can show it self all at once, before the eye of the senses. But how does the mind reveal itself, since it is like a stream that runs through time? This is why we must look at the patient as a baby, a child, an adolescent, an adult, and from many different angles at each point along the way -- cognitively, emotionally, interpersonally, etc. A person who doesn't wish to cooperate will simply show you a sort of "object" which they have defensively constructed, either consciously or unconsciously.
HvB talks about the "special gaze" which "leads to the inner sanctum of knowledge." For example, in discussions of love, we tend to focus on the desire of the subject. However, equally important is the desire to be desired, or to be the focus of desire of the other. A love in which we only desired the other would be only half a love; likewise, a love in which we only wanted to be the object of desire would be narcissistic. Many relationships end not because of desire per se, but the desire to be desired in a certain way, to experience oneself through the eyes of the desiring other.
Which reminds me. We're really going off on a tangent here, but I remember a particular patient who was a porn addict. When we explored it, interestingly, what most drew him in was not the bodies, but the eyes -- in particular, the way the women would look directly at the camera. In his mind, it was as if they were looking at him, into his eyes.
In turn, it was obvious that he longed to be looked at -- and therefore known -- in a certain way. Blah blah blah yadda yadda, it ultimately came down to never having come into being in the loving space of his mother's gaze, as she had abandoned the family when he was quite young. As a result, the porn actually entered the picture when he was seven or eight years old, as a kind of "maternal container" for a prematurely awakened sexuality that served as a substitute for the real missing link of love. (I have seen the same pattern in many male homosexuals, for whom compulsive sex is merely a means to an intrapsychic end of which they are unaware, i.e., the attempt to internalize male logos.)
HvB beautifully describes the dynamics of knowing oneself through being lovingly known: "This special gaze, which is possible only in the loving attention of the subject, is equally objective and idealizing." Within this supercharged space, the object "hopes to attain in the space of another the ideality that it can never realize in itself." In order to become who we are, so to speak, we need "someone who believes in [us] -- no, who sees [us] already existing in a hidden state, where, however, [we] are visible only to one who firmly holds that [we] can be realized, to one, in other words, who believes and loves."
Frankly, this is again not all that different from therapy, in which the therapist may be able to "see" the positive essence of the person, the essence that is buried under the activity of the mind parasites. In fact, if I cannot feel that essence, I can't help the person. In my own marriage -- and I'm sure this is the rule for most people -- I fell in love with the essence, but after awhile, other things reared their heads and began to get in the way. But you must realize, this is one of the very purposes of marriage, that is, a "loving space" where these things can be worked out. Now there's pretty much only essence left, so it's very much like being back at the beginning and really knowing it for the first time.
HvB talks about the "mystery of love," through which "the object ventures to be what it could have been but would never have dared to be by itself alone.... The image was only concealed in the beloved, and the eyes of love had to come and raise it from the depths" (speaking of resurrection). Truly, we can only be in the ultimate sense within a matrix of love. And obviously, this has profound theological consequences, for it leads directly to the trinitarian godhead, which is nothing if not two subjects eternally joined in love and "witnessing" to each other. And this is why, only in love can you be all you can be.
The beloved [knows] that the realization of his best potentialities is, not his merit, but the creative work of love, which impelled him to realize them, held before him the mirror and the ideal image, and bestowed the strength to attain the goal. In this creative happening, every distinction between subjective and objective becomes meaningless. The image that love saw and held up is doubtless an image of the object. Not, however, of the object as it is, but of the object as it could be. --Theo-Logic: The Truth of the World
Amen. Can I get a witness?