The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth, About Everything
For example, if we begin with a cosmic wishlist that includes, say, the desire to let there be persons in our image and according to our likeness, this presupposes a multitude of variables and conditions. Again, not just any old cosmos can house man, let alone end in this particular Bob, i.e., the unique individual, each of whom is a "species unto himself," so to speak.
But the scientist does not and cannot begin with the cosmos as he finds it. Rather, he begins at the end or periphery of being, with pure effects such as matter and force, not with a priori principles such as intelligence, truth, and unity, even though he could never even get underway in the absence the latter. Ironically, the materialist pronounces from the center of the world that he (i.e., man) is not the center of the intelligible world.
In this regard, (mere) science is a little like liberalism, which presupposes the existence of wealth. For the left, it's just a matter of dividing it up. Where it came from, or how to generate more, they couldn't care less. Likewise, science presupposes the wealth of truth that is buried in matter, but never bothers with figuring out how it got there. Which is fine, because that's not their job.
In Theo-Drama I, Balthasar goes into a lengthy explanation of dizzying range and depth, which turns out to be surprisingly in accord with our own little mythunderstanding. I say "surprisingly" only because there is this cliche among the media and the tenured that somehow Christianity is at odds with an evolutionary cosmos, when the truth could hardly be more divergent.
There are, of course, modern, deviant forms of Christianity that reject evolution, but these turn out to be much more similar to materialistic science, not in terms of content, of course, but in the form of thought. We are not a participant in this battle, since it is really between two forms of flatland literalism which can only account for creation with recourse to magic -- the magic of "it just happened" vs. the magic of "God made it all happen."
The latter is, of course, closer to ultimate truth, but this is little consolation once we remember that it is also what the Mohammedans believe -- that God is responsible for everylittlething that happens, with no mediation by anything else, from physical law to human free will. So in either case -- the false religion of scientism or the bogus science of religionism -- we end up with man stripped of his innate dignity, and a man without intrinsic dignity is not a man.
Balthasar begins with the phenomenological truism that "The actualization of truth is no mere natural process but a spiritual event, which takes place only in the lightning-like encounter and fusion of two words -- the word of the subject and the word of the object."
Now, one can pretend this statement isn't true, but doing so is analogous to pretending the eyes don't see. What could be more obvious than that the experience of the simplest truth takes place in the mysterious "space" between subject and object?
For "outside of this event, there is no truth" (ibid). I mean, right? Objects do not know truth. Oddly enough they have truth, but this is not known until there is a subject to know it. In other words, the truth of the object may only be known in the subject who encounters it in the act of knowing.
So, could there exist a purely "objective" cosmos? No, of course not, because there is no object in the absence of a subject. Otherwise, who is it that is positing this object? Another object?
And yet, man is quite obviously not "pure subject." Right now I can look at my hands scurrying over the keyboard and know that I am an object; or that I am somehow in an object, or that there is an object in my am.
People seem to gravitate toward one pole or the other in their metaphysic -- i.e., spirit or matter -- but the plain fact is that we never experience a strict separation of the two. The most ethereal spirit is still "embodied" (in something, otherwise it could not communicate to us), while the most concrete fact discloses to us -- even if nothing else -- its bare existence.
If we assume a full employment, hierarchical cosmos, then we might say that the Object is at one end, the Subject at the other. Only the Absolute would be "pure subject" unencumbered by any specificity or limitation on freedom. But man, who is "in between," has his feet in a "subspiritual" world below, i.e., nature, but his head in the clouds of unknowing above.
And we use the word "unknowing" advisedly, because the only reason the cosmos is intelligible at all is because it is not intelligible in its totality. In other words, "ultimate" ignorance is the guarantor and seal of any particular knowledge. No particular knowledge can be complete and still be knowledge, because it would efface the distinction of subject and object, making you either the Godhead or a rockhead.
So for humans, while the actualization of truth is predicated on the freedom of the subject to know it, there is still an irreducible element of "unfreedom" in any human act of knowing.
This is because "subject and object find themselves by nature in a position of having to rely on each other in order to express their own intimate word" (ibid). The human subject requires the other in order to attain to his own truth, and is inevitably "constrained to actualize itself in something other than itself."
From the moment we come into the world, we are thoroughly entangled with objects that will only gradually reveal themselves as subjects. We ourselves enter the human drama "more object than subject," so to speak, and must be immersed in a milieu of subjectivity in order to actualize and deepen our own subjective space (or, one might just say "space").
Human evolution is nothing less than the ongoing exploration and colonization of this subjective horizon, but at every step along the way it must be attained in dialectic with objects, bearing in mind that all objects have, by definition, an interior capable of disclosing itself to us, whether it is the interior of a stone, an animal, or a beatle.
Therefore, as Balthasar writes, "There was never a time when the subject was not already disclosed to the world and the world to it." In other words, since existence is presumably "one," if nothing else, then there is no line we can arbitrarily draw that says "objects on this side, subjects on the other."
Rather, existence as such is a union of these complements, which is why, as Petey once said, "complements will get you everywhere." A world of pure objects would be "nowhere," because, for starters, it couldn't exist.
Can we say that there is any "ontological direction" in the world, some kind of sign pointing which way is up? Gosh, I think so.
For example, man, everywhere we find him, wants "knowledge," no matter how stupid the knowledge might be. Can we also therefore say that the world "wants to be known?" Let's not go there just yet. Let's just say that if man's earthly mission is to know, it would be a mission impossible in the absence of a willing partner. The partner may play hard to get, but deep down she wants to be known.
Getting back to the very nature of this weird cosmos, Balthasar notes that "It is of no insignificant question for an entity whether or not it is the object of someone else's knowledge."
With what we have discussed above, I believe we are in a better position to appreciate this significance. For it is not just that objects may be known by subjects, but even more strangely, that subjects may be known by subjects.
But obviously not in the same way. This is because -- reductionistic scientism notwithstanding -- in order to know a subject, the subject must disclose itself.
True, we can know a great deal about the subject by studying the object it is housed in, but there will nevertheless be a kind of ontic wall beyond which we cannot proceed. It is here that man's innate freedom and dignity lie, for this is a sacred space accessible only to God and ourselves, unless we choose to disclose it in intimacy.
This is why man can never be treated "quantitatively," as a mere object or means to an end, for to do this is to deny his freedom, his dignity, his unique individuality, and the intimate space where all these are disclosed and preserved.
"If each and every thing were nothing more than an 'instance of...' or a kind of algebraic 'x' that could be exchanged for other entities without loss, then things would possess absolutely no intrinsic value of their own as individuals" (Balthasar).
Rather, to know this man would be to know all men, with the result that "no individual could present [us] with any further mystery" (ibid).
But guess what? Each man is a mystery, for if he weren't, God couldn't have created him. In other words, just like the cosmos, we may only know man at all because we may not know him completely or exhaustively. Rather, there is always more to know and love.
To be continued....
Humans don't have a monopoly on the subject. Beneath the mask of every supposedly blankrupt object lies concealed a wealth of subjectivity just waiting to be unpacked and known: