The Story of God and the Prodigal Scientist
Along the way, we have concluded that there is something especially odd about this persistent duality -- we call it an irreducible complementarity -- of subject and object. Science treats the former like some kind of unwanted bacteria in what should be a sterile universe, but frankly, we have found this to be unpersuasive ever since the evening of June 16, 1991, while out walking the dog.
The cosmos can be looked at in a linear, temporal, and horizontal manner, or in a vertical, hierarchical, and spatial manner. Here again, the one complements the other, for one cannot even notice time unless it is from a spacious vantage point "outside" or "above" it, so to speak.
Higher mammals may have some vague sense of the passage of time, but they are too immersed in it to gain anything like a clear view. My dogs can sometimes get (or at least look) bored, but they know nothing about the history of canines, to say nothing of how boring it is. Only man can be in the river of time while simultaneously laughing about it on the way to the bank.
What we call "Darwinian" evolution is obviously horizontal. It doesn't take a genius to notice that there are prokaryotes, then entry level eukaryotes, followed by reptiles, mammals, and humans, yada yada. But it cannot make any value judgments about the process, because in order to do so, one must stand in a transcendent, vertical space of qualities -- qualities such as truth, compassion, beauty, etc.
From a strictly horizontal Darwinian perspective, there would be no essential difference between, say, a cave painting and a spider's web or bird's nest. Or, if the differences are essential, then Darwinism has proved its own insufficiency.
Again, horizontal is to time what vertical is to space; science can pretend that only the former is "real," but the truth of the matter is that man cannot exist outside this total cosmic sensorium of vertical and horizontal, or quality and quantity, form and substance, facts and values, music and words, etc.
It is in this vertical sense that the cosmos "completes" itself in man -- or in the psychospiritual activity of man. Even looked at only horizontally, the cosmos is always surpassing itself, e.g., from matter to life to mind.
But it also transcends itself vertically in every act of knowing. Nothing in the cosmos is "complete" in itself. Rather, everything moves toward completion via relationship. Objects are related to, and find their completion in, the subjects who know them. And a subject cannot "be" itself unless it is situated in a world of objects that yield real knowledge.
But at the same time -- for reasons discussed in yesterday's post -- there is no possibility of exhaustive knowledge of any object, not so much as a rock.
What this means is that even the barest "fact" nevertheless conceals a mystery at its core, a kind of "intimacy," so to speak, from which the most brilliant mind is barred. And yet, it must somehow be "known," for only what is knowable may exist. We can say it is "known by God," but let's not get out in front of our headlights.
If nature could truly be stripped bare and placed on the rack, she would be robbed of her own dignity, her majesty, her mystery and allure. To put it another way, nature would have no interiority and hence, no meaning.
This objectification of nature is a kind of "knowledge," but it is a "violent," or "destructive" knowledge, so to speak. For in the words of Balthasar, it "would cast a cold, pitiless, shadowless light into every corner, and there would be no possibility of escaping this scorching sun."
When modest science becomes grandiose scientism, it is analogous to an overexposed photograph, a picture rendered ugly because of too much light. If the normal man at times feels inclined to turn away from this photograph, it is not because of the science itself, but the way it is misused by subspiritual men to cast that scorching sun into the very realms that make this cosmos so hospitable. Truly, it is like cognitive porn, which, in showing "everything" reveals nothing (and not the good kind).
To "illuminate" a mystery in the vulgar, scientistic sense is analogous to studying night by the light of the sun. This is simply to convert night to day, and then deny the existence of night.
In reality, it is always night, with the exception of those times that the sun is out. The sun is surrounded by darkness, just as the human ego is surrounded on all sides by the dual mystery of the unconscious and supraconscious, and human existence as such is surrounded by a kind of "darkness" on all sides. Which is why you must get thy thingdom done while the sun is out, because the night is surely coming in which no man can blog.
For if it is honest -- or at least consistent -- science cannot actually tell us where man came from, where he is going, why he is here; in short, it can have nothing to say about origins or destiny, alpha or omega.
This wideawake and cutandry stance toward the cosmos is necessarily closed, and not just vertically. Rather, it must ignore anything that is not susceptible to abstraction and quantification. It inevitably leads to -- or is founded upon -- a kind of worldly-wise cynicism, which occurs "whenever man no longer has a flair for the central mystery of being, whenever he has unlearned reverence, wonder, and adoration, whenever, having denied God, whose essence is always characterized by the wonderful, man also overlooks the wondrousness of every single created entity."
This is surely to miss the concrete celestial trees for the abstract terrestrial forest. It is to cash in human existence for a "hypothetical life" that only works in theory, never reality -- like Keynesian economics, or anthropogenic global warming.
Again, much of this discussion revolves around the nature and existence of mystery, which is by no means synonymous with "ignorance." Rather, in the spiritual sense, mystery is positive information, a kind of revelation of essence. This essence is always -- thankfully! -- more than (human) words can say. Objects may speak their finite truth, but whisper their infinity.
Furthermore, this essential mystery is not "solved" in man, but only deepens: "It increases as things move up the scale of being-for-itself; it reaches its complete form on the level of self-conscious spirit."
Again, at this level there is a choice as to whether one will reveal the mystery to another; and, to a large extent, it is only in revealing it to another that the subject comes to know his own intimate mystery. Again, Balthasar:
"On this level, the exteriorization of the interior is left to the discretion of the spirit and is thereby protected from being grasped mechanically by any stranger's knowledge."
Remember Adam and Eve, who suddenly become aware of their nakedness? Individual psychogenesis recapitulates cosmogenesis, so I have noted with fascination my son's growing awareness of his own intimate space, along with his capacity for shame. We have never "forced" him to disclose things he is not ready to share. Rather, we let him know that he can always tell us anything whenever he is ready to disclose it. Which he does, in ways that are frequently *mindblowing*.
Likewise, we never took pictures of him naked, for the same reason one wouldn't do it of anyone else without their consent. Rather, we have treated him as a subject with his own autonomy and dignity right from the start -- and that would include his intrauterine life. Simple courtesy, really.
Now, isn't God the same way? What kind of God would compel you to accept him, would force his way into your psyche and demand assent? Yeah, him, but not the Christian God. Rather, he says, "whenever you're ready, I'm here. Just don't do anything really stupid while you're out, because then I might not be able to bail you out so easily."