Where there's Holy Smoke there's Celestial Fire
Naturally, we tend to conflate the world with our characteristic way of knowing it, but it is always "more" than this or that point of view, something the materialist seems constitutionally incapable of appreciating.
I mean, who can disagree that the world is composed of matter? But only matter? C'mon. Who says so, a tenured rock? And if that is the case, why are there university departments other than geology?
All historical periods have their share of stupidities, man being what he is. The danger in ours -- because it is spiritually fatal -- is to regard the world as nothing more than a reflection of our lowest way of knowing it.
Just because the world may be known scientifically, it hardly means that it is nothing more than the material object disclosed by science. If this were the case, the world would be too simple to account for the existence of even the most simpleminded materialist.
Think about it for a moment: we all know that it is wrong to treat a human being as a material object. This is an example of our intrinsic morality, something we cannot not know unless we have attended graduate school. The rest of us know that a person is infinitely more than a sackful of meat, blood, and bones.
Nor is man a statistic, a socioeconomic class, a sexual orientation, a tax bracket, or a race -- for these are all just neo-Marxist elaborations of the same sick idea -- but a person, a unique and unrepeatable individual with his own inviolable interior.
A person necessarily includes materiality while always transcending it. Our true identity could never be a function of any materialist doctrine, if for no other reason than it unfolds through time, and cannot be unambiguously given in space, as can a material object. (And even that is no longer accurate, since the quantum world consists of vibrating patterns of energy flow, and vibrations necessarily require time.)
Back to our last arcanum, The World. It is indeed no coincidence that this is the last word and final card, for the sum total of our previous meditations should begin to facilitate an ability to regard the world as a work of art, with all this implies.
Now, intellect is to truth as will is to virtue and love is to beauty. It's quite simple, really: Truth is what we must know and be; good is what we must nurture and do; and beauty is what we must love and create. Now, grow away and sin no more.
Being that beauty is the splendor of the true, there is a deep and abiding connection between truth and beauty, or knowledge and art, for surely art is a way of deeply knowing beautiful truths about the world that are inaccessible to science per se (although, as we all know, aesthetics enters science through the side door, for example, in the beauty of mathematics).
More than any other theologian of whom I am aware (with the possible exception of Balthasar), Schuon has the deepest understanding of the role of beauty in the cosmic economy. He said many brilliant things about the subject, but here are a few, conveniently taken from a book that is soon to be republished, Echoes of Perennial Wisdom:
"The cosmic, and more particularly the earthly, function of beauty is to actualize in the intelligent and sensitive creature the recollection of essences, and thus to open the way to the luminous night of the one and infinite Essence."
In other words, essence is opposed to existence as substance is to form. Just as the function of man's intelligence is to discern between appearance and reality, the function of the aesthetic sense is to discern between form and essence, the latter of which is always more inward, whether it is hidden in a poem, painting, musical performance -- or in the world itself.
In ether worlds, the latter has an inner ethereal essence that reveals itself in the mode of formal beauty -- which is why this ineffable divine beauty is only everywhere.
I noticed a trivial example of this the other day while out mountain biking. The bike trail winds through "virgin nature," which, for reasons that are indeed mysterious, is essentially always beautiful -- even the random patterns of rocks strewn about always seem "just so," as if carefully arranged by a Japanese painter or landscape artist.
But along the trail I saw a piece of broken concrete. I have no idea how it got there, but it didn't belong. Frankly, it was ugly, and was obviously out of place. It was an aesthetic error, which, when you think about it, is an interesting way of putting it, for it again emphasizes that there is surely truth in beauty, and therefore the possibility of error.
Schuon: "Beauty is a reflection of Divine Bliss; and since God is Truth, the reflection of His Bliss will be that mixture of happiness and truth which is to be found in all beauty.... The beauty of the sacred is a symbol or a foretaste of, and sometimes a means to, the joy that God alone possesses.... Sacred art helps man to find his own center, that kernel whose nature is to love God.... The sacred is an apparition of the Center, it immobilizes the soul and turns it towards the inward."
Yes. Just as truth is a reflection of the "divine light," beauty bubbles over with the divine joy.
Our beautiful unKnown friend writes that "the world is fundamentally neither a mechanism, nor an organism, nor even a social community -- neither a school on a grand scale nor a pedagogical institution for living beings -- but rather a work of divine art: at one and the same time a choreographic, musical, poetic, dramatic work of painting, sculpture and architecture."
Now, what if man actually subsisted in the bloodless and desiccated world of scientistic fantasy, devoid of intrinsic beauty? In addition to being an "impossible world" -- existence as such being an exteriorization of the divine beauty -- our very lives would be a cold and joyless task, like removing the Guy Ritchie tattoos from Madonna's wizened hide, or being married to Harry Reid.
Well, that is all I have time for this morning. Must get ready for work. To be continued.