Thoughts without a Thinker and Beauties without a Soul
Well, whatever it is, we know that it was here before us. For example, when we look out into a starry starry night, we register events from millions of years ago, with light that has been traveling billions of miles in search of eyes to see it.
It reminds me of Bion's adage that thoughts are prior to the thinker, and that it is necessary for the thinker to come into being in order to think the thoughts. Otherwise the thoughts are all over the place, with no center and no coherence, like the Democratic platform.
"Beauty is a crystallization of some aspect of universal joy; it is something limitless expressed by means of a limit" (Schuon, emphasis mine). In this formulation, beauty is both the container (which Bion symbolized ♀) and contained (symbolized ♂).
Thus, beauty may be understood as a kind of explosive force within a limiting boundary (oops! a dirty world), but both of these are orthoparadoxically necessary in order for beauty to be presence (or presence to be beautiful). You need both ♀ and ♂ to create a baby. We refer to this as the "cosmic beauty-call."
In a painting, the boundary, or container, is the canvas and frame; in a poem, the meter or rhyme scheme; in a song, the rhythm, harmony, and melody; in a play, the stage. Remove the "limiting boundary" and there is no way to even perceive the work of art, because it is not set off from the rest of reality.
Note also that this explains how the work of the true artist "spills over," beyond the confines of its container. It is somewhat like the phenomenon of "headroom" in audiophile lingo. If you want to get the best performance out of a good pair of speakers, you need to have much more power than they technically require.
In my case -- at least since I splurged on a new Luxman integrated last year -- I barely have to turn up the volume in order to power my speakers. The distance between this and the full capacity of the amp is the "headroom." A less powerful amp will still power the speakers, but you will be able to detect the "strain" at high volumes.
I suppose it's a little like acceleration vs. speed. A Porsche and a Pinto can both travel 90 mph, but one of them is going to show the strain, like this metaphor. In fact, my first car was a Pinto Wagon, and its engine blew up at 40 mph. Literally.
There are a handful of singers who are instantly recognizable for the amount of headroom behind their voice, for example, Van Morrison, Sinatra c. 1950 to 1965, Ray Charles c. 1953-1961, Aretha c. 1966-1975, Howlin' Wolf almost anytime, Roy Orbison. There is so much power behind their voices, that it's always a little shocking. Inferior singers have to work to reach the same place, but you can always hear the strain. (I also think of Louis Armstrong's insanely powerful playing in the 1920s. So much force!)
It reminds me of something someone once said about Shakespeare: his writing must have come easily to him, because if it didn't, it would have been impossible. In other words, no amount of mere struggle could have achieved such an aesthetic grace.
As it pertains to the world -- well, first of all, let's see you create one! Even if you could, it would require straining all your abilities to the breaking point, to put it mildly. But the vast cosmic headroom between Creator and creation explains how so much beauty is effortlessly cranked out, with plenty of power in reserve.
The world is apparently the boundary, or frame, around God's canvas. This would explain how it is that when we are in the presence of a great natural wonder, we are always aware of the implicit power beneath the beauty. We call this intuition "awe."
Now, as our unKnown Friend explains, the idea of the world as a work of art is implicit in Genesis, being that existence is a result of a creative act. In my opinion, so-called creationists focus way too much on the inevitable result of the act, rather than the act itself, the latter of which constitutes the very source and essence of creativity.
While the boundary is necessary in order to see the painting, you don't go to a museum in order to admire the frames. Rather, they should become "invisible," so to speak, and be there in support of the "explosive force" within them. Just so, the world-frame always overflows with the unique stylings of its profligate Author.
In this regard, it is critical to bear in mind that the cosmogony of Genesis is an essentially vertical, not horizontal, one. When Genesis says "In The Beginning," it really means in the beginning of the eternal creative act that is always happening now and which sustains the cosmos.
This is not merely an eccentric Bobservation, but standard Thomistic philosophy. "In the beginning" refers not to the temporal beginning, but to the atemporal beginning, or the beginning of time as such -- which "flows" from (and back to) eternity. It is the metaphysical, not the physical beginning , i.e., the "big bang." The vertical bang of which we speak is neither "big" nor "small," since there is nothing to compare it to. In fact, it's not even a bang. Just.... O.
Therefore, as Aquinas knew, "God is necessary as an uncaused cause of the universe even if we assume that the universe has always existed and thus had no beginning. The argument is not that the world wouldn't have got started if God hadn't knocked down the first domino at some point in the distant past; it is that it wouldn't exist here and now, or undergo change or exhibit final causes here and now unless God were here and now, and at every moment, sustaining it in being, change, and goal-directedness" (Feser).
In short, the "first cause" is above, not behind. But because it is above, it is necessarily ahead, which is in turn why the present cosmos is the "shadow" of its final fulfillment: "I am Alpha and Omega."
Similarly, as Perry observes, "from the cosmological perspective, creation is a progressive exteriorization of that which is principially interior, an alternation between the essential pole and the substantial pole of a Single Principle."
Again, of the two, essence is the more interior, and therefore takes priority. Essence could never be derived from substance alone, which is one more reason why it is absurd to insist that consciousness could ever be derived from matter.
Oh yes. Petey would like to remind us that this is one of the points of the obscure phrase "One's upin a timeless," at the beginning of the book. It refers to the Creator's eternal activity. Translated into proper English, we might say something like "the One is always present up there in the timeless creative beginning that always is."
In any event, just as we must develop a thinker to think the thoughts, we must cultivate the soul in order to apprehend all the beauty. If you can both think and create -- or even appreciate their work -- you're roughly halfway home in this halfway house.