Peeping Thomists and Mysterious Keyholes
Any even modestly deep thinker intuits that there is no possible secular answer to the question, hence the turn to religion for a more plausible or satisfying one.
But in any event, to engage in theology is to "reflect upon the fundamental assertion of Christianity as the answer to the question which man is." In other words, it is a "second pass," so to speak, over the subjective horizon where question and answer fit together in this altogether surprising way.
At least it's surprising to me. As I've mentioned on numerous occasions, I did not come at this whole innerprize from the standpoint of religiosity, but all the way back from blind atheism.
By the age of nine or so I realized that Christianity -- specifically, the version presented to me -- did not address the question I was to myself. Which is what I mean when I say that Bill Maher is every bit as intelligent as a nine year old.
But it took much longer to realize that the various feeble substitutes provided by the culture didn't address the question either. If anything, they just tried to force me to be a different question -- which, when you think about it, is what all forms of secular thought, from leftism to Darwinism, do: you are a race, or a gender, or a class, or a machine, or an animal, etc. Therefore, it was back to the dreaming board.
The deeper the question, the longer you have to hold off on answering it. But a good question generates deep answers, for which reason we need to avoid premature closure vis-a-vis this Ultimate (?).
Also, to paraphrase Schuon, there is far more Light in the good question than a bad answer; and in religious matters, as we shall see, the luminous question is actually composed of the very Light we are seeking -- otherwise, it would never even occur to us to ask it.
We could also say that (?) is a kind of precursor to the grace it evokes, or is even the grace itself. In author words & symbols, our (↑) doesn't just evoke (↓), but in the last analysis, is already the descent of (↓).
The (?) we are to ourselves is not analogous to a scientific or mathematical puzzle. Rather, it is fundamentally a mystery. But the latter is not, on the one hand, a riddle to be solved, nor, on the other, "a statement which is senseless and unintelligible for us."
For which reason our own mysterious question is susceptible "to those Christian mysteries which constitute the basic content of the faith" -- things like Incarnation, Trinity, and Resurrection.
Note that those latter three, if reduced to rationalistic non-mysteries, no longer speak to our own mystery in the same deep way. Myster-O must speak to Myster-I in a deep and intelligible way, and we mustn't confuse intelligibility with mere surface reason; nor should we be expected to simply accept mysteries that have no inner resonance at all. Intelligence has its legitimate rights.
Man is a mystery to himself, but everywhere and everywhen we find him intrinsically oriented to the greater Mystery, to O. This is what motivates everyone, from the scientist, to the philosopher, to the mystic theologian. All are on a quest for answers to the mystery.
Now, there was a time, not too long ago, when none of this was problematic. But today, as Rahner points out, we have to accept the fact that "Jesus Christ is himself a problem" (or, if you are Jewish, you could say the same thing of Torah: that it is a problem because there is no God, and besides, he doesn't spend his timelessness writing books for a bunch of stiffnecked nomads wandering in the bewilderness.)
For which reason Rahner doesn't begin with Jesus. As mentioned in a previous post, Rahner doesn't get to him until chapter six. Meanwhile, he is examining the keyhole, not the key: "A keyhole forms an a priori law governing what key fits in, but it thereby discloses something about the key itself."
O ho! This explains why a guy can learn a lot by simply keeping the keyhole open and uncorrupted, instead of shoving in any damn key, or even trying to pick the lock (or looking for the key under the streetlamp because that's where the light happens to be).
It seems that it won't be long before keys will become completely obsolete. Instead, we'll just have codes and passwords for everything. A physical key is a password, just as a password is a virtual key. And the purpose of the key is to -- or let us say the key's reason for being -- is tied in with this idea of a semi-permeable membrane between two spaces, for example, the inside and outside of my house or car or bank account.
Man needs boundaries in order to live -- for example, the skin that separates us from the environment. But all human boundaries are simultaneously open and closed. For example, as we go about our day-to-day business with the world, certain boundaries are more "rigid" than they are when we are with our family. Some people hold the keys to our heart in ways others don't.
As alluded to a couple of posts back, it isn't difficult to establish the existence of God -- or better, O. What is a bit more puzzling is why human beings should not only know of O, but be oriented toward this Big Mystery. This itself reveals a great deal about our mysterious keyhole, something which Rahner calls "unthematic knowledge of God."
You might say that this latter is the completely unsaturated knowledge of God that is part of our standard equipment. Later, theology will be superimposed upon, or fill in, or respond to, this unsaturated space. It is similar to our intrinsic "preparedness," so to speak, for justice or to receive beauty. No one would create a specific beautiful object if there weren't an innate receptiveness to beauty in general. And law couldn't exist unless man loves justice.
Likewise theology. No one would waste a moment on it if it weren't a response to the primordial mystery.
Rahner speaks of the "anonymous" God. Since it is anonymous, we'll just have to call it O, on pain of descending into either mythology or rationalism or yelvertone deafness, which amount to the same thing.
In any event, "the original idea of God is not the kind of knowledge in which one grasps an object which happens to present itself directly or indirectly from the outside." Rather, it has "the character of transcendental experience" as such.
This is a subtle point, but an important, well, key to the whole. But it's so familiar, that most people seem to miss its significance -- as if any other animal -- or mere animal -- is oriented to the Mystery of All. No, this is only possible for a mirror animal.
As Rahner explains, this built-in transcendental experience -- or experience of the transcendent -- "is always present unthematically and without name." It is present in the "non-objective luminosity of the subject in its transcendence" toward the hOly Mystery.
So, once we're aware of this transcendental keyhole, then we can start talking about the type of key that might fit.
In the contemporary world this whole issue -- as with most everything else -- has become completely inverted. By which I mean that man has convinced himself that he may start his self-understanding with various kinds of knowledge that aren't really knowledge at all, not when you trace them all the way down.
Rather, the one thing we can know and must know is that this stuff we call "knowledge" is but "a small island in a vast sea that has not been traveled. It is a floating island, and it might be more familiar to us than the sea, but ultimately it is borne by the sea and only because it is can we be borne by it." Again?
Yes. So the questions become: which do we love more, "the small island of... so-called knowledge or the sea of infinite mystery?" And "is the little light with which [we illuminate] the island -- we call it science and scholarship -- to be an eternal light which will shine forever for [us]?"
"That would surely be hell."
(All quoted material from Rahner.)