One of Aristotle's most important metaphysical insights allowed for the reconciliation of two contradictory views of reality: one of pure process, impermanence, and becoming (Heraclitus) vs. one of absolute oneness and changelessness (Parmenides). These two views are reconciled via Aristotle's division of being into act and potency.
This division is quintessentially seen in ourselves -- in the human person -- in that regardless of how much self-actualization we accomplish in this life, there's always more: each of us dies before we are finished. D'oh!
Which again makes us unique among living beings. Other animals may fail to attain their end due to accident, illness, or predation, but we apparently fail to do so under any circumstance. It is not as if Mozart or Shakespeare or Groucho would have run out of melodies or stories or puns.
Now that I'm thinking about it, it seems that potency relates to infinitude. Only God is literally infinite -- or Infinitude as such -- and yet, our deiform nature means that we share in it. As we do with his Absoluteness, which would seemingly correspond to act at our end of creation (as infinitude corresponds to potency).
That little preramble was provoked by the following passage from Person and Being: "It does not seem," writes Clarke,
that the process of self-possession through self-knowledge can ever reach a final stage of completeness and total clarity for a human person at any time throughout his life, at least this present chapter of it. The human remains always a "known-unknown," a mysterious abyss, in which more remains unknown than known (emphasis mine).
Hmm. Quite the ontological pickle, but I think there's a way out.
At the moment, my melon is being assailed from two sides, but let's start with a couple of bold claims made by John Paul II -- that in the absence of Christ, man remains a mystery to himself; and that the Godman is somehow the center of both history and of the universe itself.
In short, Christ is the key to unlocking the mysteries of creation, man, and history. This is either the Best or Craziest Idea Ever, and let's not jump to any conclusions but abide in unknowing as we proceed.
Of course, Christ is not merely an "idea" but a person, and now we're getting somewhere, because even absent Christ, personhood is the most important fact in all of existence, and this fact is said to be anchored in the principle of Christ, who is in turn anchored in the Trinity. Obviously we'll have much more to say about this marvelous or crazy notion.
The second idea assailing my melon comes from Schuon. He expresses it in so many ways in so many contexts that I'll have to choose some at random -- for example,
--Man, like the Universe, is a fabric of determination and indetermination; the latter stemming from the Infinite [read: potency], and the former from the Absolute [act].
--Man is central, and in all things must be an extension of God.
--The celestial Word, once it has descended into the human dimension, becomes a human cosmos with regard to its form.
--Man is himself “made in the image of God”: only man is such a direct image, in the sense that his form is an “axial” and “ascendant” perfection and his content a totality.
--Man is like a reduced image of the cosmogonic unfolding; we are made of matter, but in the center of our being is the supra-sensible and transcendent reality, the “Kingdom of Heaven,” the “eye of the heart,” the way to the Infinite.
--The animal cannot leave his state, whereas man can; strictly speaking, only he who is fully man can leave the closed system of the individual, through participation in the one and universal Selfhood.
--[O]ther creatures also participate in life, but man synthesizes them: he carries all life within himself and thus becomes the spokesman for all life, the vertical axis where life opens onto the spirit and where it becomes spirit.
--[T]he highest spiritual aptitude resides in man's capacity to surpass himself in relation to God...
I could cite dozens more, but the point is that man is at once forever incomplete and yet offered the gift of completeness insofar as he orients himself to the Absolute and actualizes his deiformity in this life. To be continued...