The Crown of Creation: On the Cosmic Necessity of Man
Human destiny is to hear and respond to God's speech in creation and thus, as the principium in the created universe, to draw all things back to their ultimate source. --Bernard McGinn
Back to our free associations on Self and Spirit. Just remember, these associations are going to be exceptionally free, and you get what you pray for.
Bolton begins with the perennial idea that mankind is the mediator between God and nature, or creator and creation. He is -- and this is me talkin' at ya now -- a third term that vertically links all degrees of creation, from matter to life to mind to spirit. Therefore, human beings are surely creatures, but they cannot only be creatures, since we transcend our creaturehood even while being rooted in it.
As such, transcendence is an irreducible cosmic category that pretty much blows Darwin out of the water, gosh! I say this because the principles of Darwinism cannot even be articulated without simultaneously transcending them. Or, once articulated, they falsify themselves -- like the old story of the scientistic cretin insisting that contingent cretins cannot know truth.
Now, our transcendence of nature would be an inexplicable absurdity, not to mention a bizarre nuisance, if it were not connected to, and explained by, its own source, which is "above" not below. In other words, we cannot begin our metaphysics with human consciousness somehow "hovering over the face of the waters," like God in Genesis. That's just stupid.
Let me rephrase that for added oomphasis: how can one naively begin philosophizing before accounting for the consciousness that is capable of philosophizing? For it is either contingent and therefore incapable of truth; or capable of truth and no longer contingent. To know truth is to know the necessary, or absolute. But since only like may know like, there must be something in man that shares in the being of this absoluteness.
You could say that in man there is a union of two natures that produces a third thing.
At this point I am going to ask you to use your feeble imagination, since I don't know how to reproduce the images in the book. [Update: I think I'll use that image from the other day, which I think is actually more accurate, since it depicts the "holographic middle" -- the interference pattern produced by the ascending and descending waves -- where human consciousness lives.]
Just imagine a triangle, with the base at the bottom and apex at the top. At the top is the divine-human archetype, or the Creator if you like. This bifurcates into the two points at the horizontal base of the triangle, which are male and female. In turn, the union of male and female produces a fourth thing. Thus, draw another triangle, this one the inverse of the above, with the apex now at the bottom (i.e., the nadir). If you're still with me, God should be at the top and the baby at the bottom.
As I wrote in my book, the neurologically incomplete baby is not just the hinge of cosmic evolution, but the very point of entry for our humanness, the narrow pain in the neck through which we must all pass on the way to maturity.
As such, we have a novel way of understanding Bolton's observation that "the fourth element (the nadir) is in a sense a recapitulation of the first (the apex) on a lower level, which also has some bearing on the meaning of childhood in relation to God."
For the baby -- the divine child, as it were -- is indeed a sort of earthly analogue of God, in that he knows no boundaries, is innocent and "omnipotent," and embodies a kind of infinite potential. I don't think it is any coincidence whatsoever that the baby Jesus is so central to Christian iconography. For God to become man, he had to first become infant, for infancy is the quintessence of, and gateway to, humanness.
Another way of considering the same triangle is to place God at the top, only now bifurcating into providence (or destiny) and fate, or perhaps freedom (or chance) and necessity. Once again, place a second triangle below, with man representing the union of fate and providence.
Here again, this encapsulates the irreducible irony, as it were, of the human condition, which makes us simultaneously apes and/or gods, so to speak (Darwinians get this right, but in a metaphysically garbled manner, since the ape is vertically descended from man).
How could one not laugh at the human predicament? Once again, we see that the man below is an earthly analogue of God above. Man is the "cosmic baby," with all that implies. Like a baby, we are born with a kind of infinite potential (relatively speaking) that we may or may not fulfill. And to fulfill it, we must indeed "imitate the Creator," more on which below.
Either way, we must somehow reconcile fate and providence. As mentioned yesterday, "the stars incline, but do not compel." However, as our the Minister of Doctrinal Enforcement reminded us, they do indeed compel in the absence of insight or self-understanding.
In short, as we discussed at length a couple of weeks ago, fate is precisely what interferes with our destiny. Or, to put it colloquially, if you remain on your present path, you're liable to end up where you're headed. Which could very well be a waste of a perfectly good cosmos. So if you see a fork in the transdimensional road, by all means take it.
Now, Bolton makes the interesting observation that Adam and Eve are created on the sixth and final day of creation, after the rest of the creatures (which, when you think about it, is entirely consistent with an evolutionary worldview, only in a higher Octave). As such, "on this basis, the human being can be taken to be resultant of divine action and the created natural order as a whole." Human beings are last because they are first; or first because they are last.
In any event, the point is that humans, and only humans, recapitulate the whole of creation within their very substance, which you might say is "two creatures" in one being. We are simultaneously fully animal and man, with two distinct wills with which we must grapple and try to reconcile. I forget the words they use, but Jewish metaphysics articulates this truth very precisely.
Which may well be why Freud came up with the idea of id and superego to talk about the lower and higher selves. "Id" is simply the German word for "it." We are all inhabited by the It, are we not? Usually, a mind parasite is a kind of unholy union of the It and a purloined piece of our subjectivity. Come to think of it, you could draw another triangle on that basis, which is why our mind parasites become the equivalent of "unconscious gods," if you will, or even if you don't. That is, they have wills of their own.
Bolton notes that the lower realm (remember, human beings necessarily embody all realms) "represents the life of instinct which attaches to the body, ruled by pleasure and pain, because its higher possibilities depend on its participation in those of the soul." In short, we must baptize the It (or make it kosher, I suppose).
Now, you could say that man was and is a cosmic necessity, in the sense that only he binds the higher and lower, and there is no such thing as an incomplete hierarchy. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it: "Unless there was such a being as man, comprising both archetypal and material reality at once, Providence and Fate (or nature) would have no means of relating to one another." Man's primary vocation is therefore "bridge builder," or "universal pontifex," "so long as it is understood that this function is a potentiality in need of realization."
In short, no man, no cosmos.
Where does this leave Christ?
I know, I know! Pick me!
Yes Dr. Bolton?
"[T]he mediation of Christ as Redeemer is both the prototype of man's cosmic mediation, as well as being the revealed basis of salvation."
It is in the cosmos of natural kinds that the fulness of the Being of the world must needs unfold and manifest itself, and man is the being in which this fulness becomes fulfilled and comes into its own. This is precisely the reason why God's absolute fulness of Being can choose man as the being and the vessel in which to reveal his own inner fulness to the world. --Hans Urs von Balthasar