In Order to Know Much, You Must Know Little
This indeed is the purpose of a liberal education, i.e., the assimilation of timeless principles that allow us to accurately interpret the world and to order our lives accordingly. All science is grounded in this same principle, of the reduction of multiplicity to unity -- or particular to universal, local to nonlocal, and finally (in the larger scheme of things), knowledge to wisdom.
Human consciousness exists in a kind of bi-directional dialectical space, "down" into facts, details, and particulars; and "up" into ideas, theories, and principles. Ultimately, one might say that God and Fact define the limits of this space, but the one can never be understood in the absence of the other (even though God is obviously ontologically prior; immanence is a consequence of transcendence, not vice versa).
In one sense, the downworld of facts and particulars becomes increasingly expansive as we descend into it, but not really. In reality, it can lead to specialization, specialization to shrinkage, shrinkage to provincialism, provincialism to deformity, and deformity to tenure.
This constricted way of looking at things tends toward what Voegelin calls a pneumapathological rejection of reality, or a "counterexistential dream world." The modern ideologue collapses this divine-human space because he refuses to live in the unresolvable tension of its complementarity.
Indeed the malignant dream of the left is that if we only create a more powerful and intrusive state, our existential tension will be eliminated. Or else! Liberalism is an experiment that never ends, because the state never learns -- or learns one thing only, how to expand based upon empty promises of deferred human happiness. But if you're still waiting for the state to make you happy, then you'll never be embarrassed by that Obama sticker on your Prius.
For human reality exists only in that space of vertical energies (or attractions), "between the material world and the pneumatic pull from a palpable spiritual source" (McAllister). As such, our first and last temptation -- and this is precisely the lesson of the Genesis 3 space mission -- "is to believe in a symbolic expression of a deformed but fully intelligible reality" (ibid.). In other words, make God and nature conform to man rather than vice versa.
Clearly, in our secular world, the most "educated" person is going to be the most vulnerable to this temptation, due not only to opportunity and access, but to the spiritual pathology that has become normalized in this inverted age. Clever mediocrities are the quickest to conform and the easiest to indoctrinate, therefore Academia.
To plunge into matter is to take flight from spirit (even though, ironically, it is an imaginary flight). However, the loss of spirit is compensated for by a growth -- or better, metastasis -- of pride and vanity. Or, as God shrinks, narcissism expands. And yes, we are looking at you, Obama. You are the end state of the oldest cosmic disease.
To paraphrase (or possibly quote) Weaver again, total immersion in matter makes a man unfit to deal with the problems of matter. Is this not axiomatic? Who does a materialist call when matter is broken? Remember, the materialist cannot stand outside or above matter, any more than the residents of Flatland can perceive their world from the third dimension.
Speaking of which, just as every picture tells a story, every story may be reduced to a picture. This is because man's default mode of thinking is an analogue of the eyes. But to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, the deepest things must be seeingly felt or feelingly seen. Or in other words, despite its temptation to detached abstraction, seeing is really just an extension of the sense of touch -- as is true of all the senses. Sight is what it feels like when photons are striking the retina.
Likewise, spiritual in-sight is what it feels like when Spirit touches the intellect. Spiritual wisdom is no less a matter of touching and being touched by God, otherwise it would have no explanation. Indeed, Johnson once wrote a prayer that comes very close to the morning Raccoon prayer, i.e., to the way Toots Mondello taught us to pray: "Almighty God, without whose grace all wisdom is folly, grant [that] thy Holy Spirit not be withheld from me, that I may promote thy glory, and the Salvation both of myself and others."
Or in other words, Save me this day and this post from idiocy and its propagation!
Johnson was not an orthodox Christian, and yet, there really was no category then for what he was. As such, he was more than a little troubled, or at least unsettled, in his faith. Along these lines, he made many timeless observation on our recent subject of imagination, in both its healthy and pathological aspects.
In general, I suppose one could say that a pathological imagination is one that plunges headwrong into the lower vertical.
There's nothing intrinsically wrong with the lower vertical, mind you. It's just that you need to be accompanied there by an adult. In the absence of adult supervision, it redounds to hell. It will "grow claws and start to tunnel" downward, breathing life into envy, resentment, auto-victimization, entitlement, and illegitimate violence.
This is why the well-ordered soul must be prior to the order of the state, while a principal task of the state is to promote order in the soul -- or at least not its opposite, which is precisely what the left not only encourages but often mandates: you will photograph homosexuals! You will pay for men to cut of their wangs! You will be racist!
Johnson made a subtle observation to the effect that "so few of the hours of life are filled up with objects adequate to the mind of man." This is because, in my view, our mind is ultimately an adequation to God. God -- or the Absolute -- is the only thing fully adequate to our intelligence and understanding. It is not that we should ignore the lower vertical, but rather, see it in the light of the upper vertical. It's simple, really: see the relative in light of the absolute, or time from eternity, or individuality in terms of transcendent communion and love.
If we opt out of this dynamic space, then we may plunge into mischievous uses of the imagination, "to past and future supplemental satisfactions," such that "recollection and anticipation fill up almost all our moments." This is done to escape from "the vacuities of life," which are mostly vacuities in the soul. For Johnson, it is critical that imagination be regulated or disciplined by reality, otherwise it may become an instrument of torment.
Difficult? Maybe. That's why they call it a spiritual practice. In contrast, living from hope to imaginary hope is one way to go hungry, since it is a refusal of our daily bread. We see how the "future bread" of Obamaism works -- that is, give me your bread, and I promise this time to spend it on more bakeries.
I say, teach a man to bake. And prior to that, to separate the good seed from the bad, to plant, grow, harvest, and eat. But I suppose that's unconstitutional.