Monday, August 06, 2018

Sensing God

Let's stipulate that we cannot literally prove the existence of God, since infinitude by definition escapes finite logic. Adequate proofs, of course, abound, but only for people who don't need them. Why don't they need them? Well, for one thing, because there are other modes of proof besides mere logic.

For example, no one needs to prove the existence of vision in order to see. Explicit science has only existed for a few hundred years, but this doesn't mean man wasn't aware of countless scientific facts and principles. The world is what it is, regardless of what we think about it.

Back to something touched on in the first paragraph: to say that the finite cannot contain infinitude is already to have an intuition of the Infinite. And then you're off to the races! For the Infinite is one of our most important cognitive placeholders. It is always there, implicitly undergirding our thought, as the ocean is beneath the ship. Remove the ocean and ships not only won't sail, but no one would have bothered to invent them.

Or perhaps a better analogy is wind, since it is invisible. It blows where it pleases. You hear its sound, but can't tell from where it comes or where it's going. And yet, we -- at least in premodern times -- were absolutely dependent upon it, what with sailing, windmills, and free air conditioning.

In the previous post we touched on a couple of ways God can be spontaneously "sensed" -- for example, vis-a-vis piety, which "is essentially the sense of the sacred, of the transcendent, of profundity," or of humility, which is awareness "of our metaphysical nothingness." To put it the other way around -- or First Thing first -- the Divine Presence is the sufficient reason for sanctity and humility.

If one denies God a priori, then these very human responses lose their sufficient reason. You have to deny them altogether, reduce them to irrelevance, or invent some other reason for their existence. For example, a Freudian might say they are the shadow of some infantile memory of omnipotent parents, while a Marxist might say they are class weapons to keep you in your place.

Religion is full of similar "responses" to "presences"; the response proves the presence -- unless you are too blunt to sense the latter, or if they are inconvenient barriers to one's own auto-deification.

As we know, one of the primordial trinities within God is Love-Truth-Beauty. Take just the latter, beauty. To deny that man senses beauty is to deny man. And yet, this is one of the major projects of postmodernity -- to entirely subjectivize beauty, such that it is located in us, not in the world. In this cosmic inversion, beauty is just a meaningless projection of the human psyche. It is reduced to an opinion or illusion.

Note that with this inversion, beauty loses its sufficient reason. On some level the barbarians are aware of this, so they try to come up with new sufficient reasons for its existence. These reasons are too stupid to seriously consider, but evolutionary psychologists, for example, pretend that beauty is reducible to some genetic advantage.

Come to think of it, a great many aphorisms go to exactly this subject. Not only do they say it better than I can, but they do so more succinctly. Let's dig out some examples.

As to our sense of beauty, The existence of a work of art demonstrates that the world has meaning. Even if it does not say what that meaning is.

You could say this meaning is a power before it is refined into a thought: thus, Strictly speaking, the work of art does not have a meaning but rather a power.

From an aesthetic experience one returns as from a sighting of numinous footprints. And no, they don't belong to Charles Darwin. Likewise, The steps of grace startle us like the footsteps of someone passing by in the fog. Boo!

Damn. I've had the sudden realization that half the aphorisms come down in one way or another to "sensing" God:

Aesthetics is the sensible and secular manifestation of grace. Boom.

Every work of art speaks to us of God. No matter what it says. Boom².

I could spend the rest of the post on beauty, but let's give equal time to truth, since I'm running out of it (of time, never of truth, since the latter is infinite).

I only contemplate wisps of truth that twist in the night gusts. Wisps of truth. They're out there! And they enter through the eyes, ears, mind, and spirit. But only if these gates are open. Vertically.

Only in prostration is the truth of man expressed. Because God is not an invention, but a finding. And if you're not rendered humble by the finding, then you've found the wrong guy -- an impersonator and imprisonator, so run in the opposite direction.

Of what is important there is no better proof than the fact of the well-born soul liking it.

So, what is man -- the well-born kind, AKA my readers -- but the sensory membrane between Creator and creation?

To be continued Wednesday...


Anonymous said...

Love the post. Sensing God is a peak experience. However, even when not sensed we must assume He's there.

Part of the reason life is so difficult to bear is the lack of sensing God. It is what it is. Must be a reason.

julie said...

Religion is full of similar "responses" to "presences"; the response proves the presence -- unless you are too blunt to sense the latter, or if they are inconvenient barriers to one's own auto-deification.

On a personal level, this past week has been extraordinarily difficult. And yet, that very presence is undeniable, as the daily graces of answered prayers and little miracles carry us through. Truly, it is in our weakness and distress that His presence can be most plainly seen, if we are willing to see it. Without that presence, what is simply difficult would quickly become cause for despair.

We who see are so often like the apostles in the boat in the storm, panicking while He naps. Like them, I’d prefer the storm be calmed. Barring that, to take comfort in His sleep and rest beside Him even as the winds stir the waves... that would be a beautiful thing. Simply to think of it grants a measure of peace, and here, too, His presence is revealed.

Anonymous said...

You're right on track!
Keep it simple: Read Isaiah 42:16

Anonymous said...

This post resonates. For a long time, my readings through Jung and others and Christian apologists now seem to have been mostly to get my rational mind out of the way of another, more primitive mind that was open to God and the sense of God and meaning. My life has become flooded with purpose and meaning, but even now when I am experiencing some meta experience, I notice my rational self trying to interfere and run its own soundtrack of the experience.
The good news is I can just ignore it for the time being. It doesn't any longer insist that my sensations are nonsense and to be ignored.
Now it seems so sensible: why wouldn't I trust my senses and intuitions, is my mind based on a lie that I must ignore my instincts? How could that be possible? How did I ever come to believe that?

Gagdad Bob said...

Good questions. I believe upcoming posts might furnish some answers.