Man is a Bridge to Nowhere. Or Everywhere. Your Call.
We begin with an invOcation:
Human destiny is to hear and respond to God's speech in creation and thus, as the principium in the created universe, to draw all things back to their ultimate source. --Bernard McGinn
Back to our free associations on Self and Spirit. Bolton puts forth the perennial idea that mankind is the mediator between God and nature, or creator and creation. Therefore, human beings are surely creatures, but they cannot only be creatures, since we transcend our creaturehood even while being rooted in it. Transcendence is an ineluctable cosmic category that pretty much blows Darwin out of the water. Gosh!
That is, our transcendence of nature would be an inexplicable absurdity, not to mention a bizarre nuisance, if it were not connected to, and explained by, its own source, which is "above" not below. In other words, we cannot begin our metaphysic by denying the consciousness that engages in metaphysics.
You could say that in man there is a union of two natures that produces a third thing.
Now, at this point I am going to ask you to use your imagination, since I don't know how to reproduce the images in the book. Just imagine a triangle, with the base at the bottom and apex at the top. At the top is the divine-human archetype, or let's just say that of which we are the image.
As I wrote in my book, the neurologically incomplete baby is not just the hinge of cosmic evolution, but the very point of entry for our humanness, the narrow neck through which we must all pass on the way to maturity.
As such, we have a novel way of understanding Bolton's observation that "the fourth element is in a sense a recapitulation of the first on a lower level, which also has some bearing on the meaning of childhood in relation to God."
For the baby -- the divine child, as it were -- is indeed a sort of earthly analogue of God, in that he knows no boundaries, is innocent and "omnipotent," and embodies a kind of infinite potential. I don't think it is any coincidence whatsoever that the baby Jesus is so central to Christian iconography.
Another way of considering the same triangle is to place God at the top, only now bifurcating into providence (or destiny) and fate, or perhaps freedom and necessity. Once again, place a second triangle below, with man representing the union of fate and providence.
Here again, this encapsulates the irreducible irony, as it were, of the human condition, which makes us simultaneously apes and/or gods, so to speak. How could one not laugh at the predicament? But once again, we see that the man below is an earthly analogue of God above. Man is the "cosmic baby," with all that implies. Like a baby, we are born with a kind of infinite potential (relatively speaking) that we may or may not fulfill. And to fulfill it, we must indeed "imitate the Creator."
Either way, we must somehow reconcile fate and providence. As the old gag goes, "the stars incline, but do not compel." However, as reader Will reminds us, they do indeed compel in the absence of insight, or self-understanding.
In short, as we discussed at length a couple of weeks ago, fate is precisely what interferes with our destiny. Or, to put it colloquially, if you remain on the path you're on, you're liable to end up where you're headed. Which could very well be a waste of a perfectly good cosmos. So if you see a fork in the transdimensional road, by all means take it. Or in other words, just say Yes to God.
Now, Bolton makes the interesting observation that Adam and Eve are created on the sixth and final day of creation, after the rest of the creatures (which, when you think about it, is entirely consistent with an evolutionary worldview, only in a higher key). As such, "on this basis, the human being can be taken to be resultant of divine action and the created natural order as a whole." Human beings are last because they are first; or first because they are last.
In any event, the point is that humans, and only humans, recapitulate the whole of creation within their very substance, which you might say is "two natures" in one being. We are simultaneously fully animal and man, with two distinct wills with which we must grapple and try to reconcile.
Which may well be why Freud came up with the idea of id and superego to talk about the lower and higher selves. "Id" is simply the German word for "it." We are all inhabited by the It, are we not? Usually, a mind parasite is a kind of unholy union of the It and a purloined piece of our subjectivity. Come to think of it, you could draw another triangle on that basis, which is why our mind parasites become the equivalent of "unconscious gods," if you will, or even if you don't.
There you go: Bolton notes that the lower realm (remember, human beings necessarily embody all realms) "represents the life of instinct which attaches to the body, ruled by pleasure and pain, because its higher possibilities depend on its participation in those of the soul." In short, we must baptize the It in order to redeem its vital energies.
Now, you could say that man was and is a cosmic necessity, in the sense that only he binds the higher and lower. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it: "Unless there was such a being as man, comprising both archetypal and material reality at once, Providence and Fate (or nature) would have no means of relating to one another." Man's primary vocation is therefore "bridge builder," or "universal pontifex," "so long as it is understood that this function is a potentiality in need of realization."
Where does this leave Christ?
"[T]he mediation of Christ as Redeemer is both the prototype of man's cosmic mediation, as well as being the revealed basis of salvation." He is the fulfillment of what would otherwise be only a kind of unfulfillable longing in man.
It is in the cosmos of natural kinds that the fulness of the Being of the world must needs unfold and manifest itself, and man is the being in which this fulness becomes fulfilled and comes into its own. This is precisely the reason why God's absolute fulness of Being can choose man as the being and the vessel in which to reveal his own inner fulness to the world. --Hans Urs von Balthasar