Wisdom and Magic at the Edge of the Expressible
"We are here at the limit of the expressible; it is the fault of no one if within every enunciation of this kind there remain unanswerable questions.... [I]t is all too evident that wisdom cannot start from the intention of expressing the ineffable; but it intends to furnish points of reference which permit us to open ourselves to the ineffable to the extent possible, and according to what is foreseen by the Will of God."
Thus, universal metaphysics, despite being the closest we can come to an essential description of reality, is obviously not the thing itself; it is still the map and not the territory, the menu and not the meal, even if it is a gourmet one. Indeed, this is in accord with wisdom itself, which knows -- or should know -- the unavoidable distinction between creator and creature. Only an atheist could believe himself to be God.
Despite their limitations, we shouldn't devalue these precious "points of reference," firstly for their own intrinsic value, but secondly because if properly understood, they always implicitly point beyond themselves to that which they cannot explicitly express. This is quintessentially true of the points of reference we call revelation. One might say that revelation is not God, but God is revelation, at least in terms human beings can comprehend (which indeed is its raison d'être).
Now, science too provides us with points of reference. And these are obviously legitimate so long as they are confined to their appropriate bounds and do not transgress what was said above about the dictates of wisdom. For clearly, even in the most perfect scientific theory imaginable there will still remain "unanswerable questions" that lay at the foot of the inexpressible and cannot breach the walls of the ineffable.
Nevertheless, this doesn't mean we cannot know of the ineffable, for it surely communicates its effing reality from its end of things. "Ineffable" hardly means "non-existent." It just means unglishable, translogical, or mythsematical. O by its nature "radiates," and this radiation can be translighted to cutandry speech up to a point.
This is the point where faith begins -- where we leave language below and plunge heartlong into the Mystery. Or, just call it keeping an open soul (o). Doing so will still provoke language, but the language will necessarily be of a more poetical nature and therefore make perfect nonsense in spite of myself. Or so one hopes.
A brief aside: the above considerations shed some additional darkness on the phenomenon of evil. What is consistently striking about evil is its utter incomprehensibility. When we think about, for example, the Holocaust, the Gulag, or the enormities of Mao, our minds go blank, so to speak. This is not just because of Stalin's adage to the effect that a million deaths is just a statistic, but because even a single murder is a tragedy of unsurpassable proportions. It is truly "unspeakable" because incomprehensible. We can never "wrap our minds around it."
But the incomprehensibility of evil is very different from the ineffable, again, because the latter radiates itself into a receptive part of ourselves. The same is not true of evil, which is more like a black hole, or dense wall, or thick miasma of darkness. It is dead, not living.
Today, for example, is the anniversary of the Islamist attack on America. Can anyone really claim to understand what motivates such beasts? Whatever you -- or the terrorists, for that matter -- can come up with is just a pretext, not a reason. As the heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of, the heartlessness of Evil has a lack of reason which only the unreasonable "understand."
"The truth of reality," writes Voegelin, "is not an ultimate piece of information given to an outside observer but reality itself becoming luminous in the events of experience and imaginative symbolization." Evil and systematic falsehood represent the opposite of this process of reality-become-luminous to itself.
How do we know we're facing the right way? Which way is up? In other words, how do we know when our quest is oriented to truth and not something less?
Voegelin: "the human intentionality of the quest is surrounded by the divine mystery of the reality in which it occurs. The mystery is the horizon that draws us to advance toward it but withdraws as we advance; it can give direction to the quest of truth but it cannot be reached; and the beyond of the horizon can fascinate as the 'extreme' of truth but it cannot be possessed as truth face to face or within this life." What Moses said.
Evil also draws us, doesn't it? Yes, but the difference is that it can be reached in this life, especially by the dead. Conversely, truth is characterized by its radiance-within-mystery. This living radiance reveals but never exhausts the Mystery -- like an alluring veil that simultaneously hides and reveals. Evil, like pornography, shows everything while revealing nothing.
Voegelin speaks of a necessary "balance of consciousness" that we symbolize (↑↓). These two "are experienced as the moving forces of consciousness." Thus, "the process of reality becoming luminous" is structured by "the tension between them" as well as "the responsibility to keep their movements in such a balance that the image resulting from their interaction will not distort the truth of reality."
Too much (↑) is promethean, and soon degenerates to the "desire to know the mystery of the horizon and its beyond, as if it were an object on this side of the horizon."
Conversely, an excess of (↓) may "thwart the desire to know by assuming objects this side of the horizon to belong to the sphere of the mystery" -- e.g., pantheism, paganism, and deepaking the chopra more generally.
No, "a thinker must remain aware of his consciousness as permanently engaged in balancing the structuring forces" of (↑) and (↓). Anything less is magic, propaganda, and dreaming.
For which reason we would be wise to heed the words of Shakespeare, who wrote of the fortitude necessary To shun the heaven that leads men to hell (quoted in Voegelin).