Quality is reduced to quantity, placing man behind bars of math and physics. Then, like a frog at the bottom of a dark well of tenure, we can never perceive where we are actually situated in the wider context of things.
One popular way to discover where we are in the world -- meaning existence itself -- is to consult our desire. It's far from the best way, but at least you know where you stand: relative to what you want.
In our consumer culture, it seems that many people unreflectively order their lives in this way. I probably sound like a 50s beatnik, but it's true that this kind of shallow materialism gets you nowhere, since it involves one relativity in relation to another, and then one acquisition followed by another until death do you depart. Squaresville.
However, not always. Desire is situated on a vertical scale, and some desires are closer to the absolute than others -- for example, a desire for aesthetic beauty. As Schuon describes it, "Human will is, virtually and vocationally, the tendency toward the absolute Good." And "secondary goods, whether they be necessary or simply useful, are determined indirectly by the choice of the supreme Good." It's a matter of putting things in order.
The will cannot determine the good, only pursue what the intellect and/or sentiment have placed before it. Whereas the intellect is ordered to (ultimately) absolute truth, the sentiment is ultimately "love of the Sovereign Beauty and of its reverberations in the world and in ourselves."
Now we begin to see how the soul is oriented in the immaterial spacetime mentioned in yesterday's post: in this space, truth and beauty are vertical dimensions.
In the novella Flatland, its citizens inhabit a two dimensional world, such that the third dimension becomes a source of mystery and wonder for some, irritation and threat for others -- for example, seeing a point transform into a circle, then back to a point before disappearing. This must mean that something like a sphere exists and moves in a higher dimensional space, even though inhabitants don't have direct access to this space per se.
It's the same here in our world, only constantly. That is, we are routinely visited by angelic presences and specters from nonlocal dimensions. Like a Flatlander who denies the existence of spheres, we can always insist that this world alone is a sufficient explanation for everything that goes on in it. What is a materialist but a man who claims there's no such place as Spheresville? And what is a mystic but a man who has been there?
Once returned to Flatland, the [mystical] Square cannot convince anyone of Spaceland's existence, especially after official decrees are announced that anyone preaching the existence of three dimensions will be imprisoned (or executed, depending on caste).
Eventually the Square himself is imprisoned for just this reason, with only occasional contact with his brother who is imprisoned in the same facility. He does not manage to convince his brother, even after all they have both seen. Seven years after being imprisoned, A Square writes out the book Flatland in the form of a memoir, hoping to keep it as posterity for a future generation that can see beyond their two-dimensional existence (Prof. Wiki).
Huh. A prophet is without honor in his own dimension.
Continuing for the moment with Schuon, he mentions that piety "is essentially the sense of the sacred, of the transcendent, of profundity." In other words, the sense of piety is a real sense that senses real things, only in vertical space. This is what the Square would say about Spaceland: no, it is not some kind of an illusion or escape from reality, but an actual place.
Reducing Spaceland to Flatland is exactly like reducing transcendence to immanence; and with it, absolute to relative, truth to opinion, beauty to accident, mind to matter. It is to put a lid on the spirit, so as to bar it from contact with its own source and sufficient reason. In other words, in this scenario, the soul is not permitted to know where it came from and where it is going, i.e., its origin and destiny, ground and telos.
"My kingdom is not of this world." To the gallows!
A little threatened?
All wars are about territory. Our present culture war is no exception, except that it involves vertical territory. True, you could say it involves horizontal territory in the sense that, for example, the left wants to overrun the country by an invasion of illegal immigrants.
But this is not really the case, or the underlying motivation. The left doesn't care about illegal immigrants -- or any other human beings, for that matter -- except insofar as they are illegal Democrats. They would have built a wall long ago if our shores were being invaded by illegal conservatives.
The point is, the illegals are just a proxy for the conquest of a vertical psycho-political, cultural space. Otherwise immigrants are as useless to the left as anyone else.
As piety is a spontaneous sense of transcendence -- of height, depth, and sanctity -- humility is spontaneous awareness "of our metaphysical nothingness." Not nothingness relative to itself, which would simply be nihilism. Rather, nothingness relative to God.
In other words, to sense God is to be aware of our own relative nothingness. Who wouldn't be humble in the face of such a perception? It's really just another name for sanity. What's the alternative?
There are alternatives, and not just a crude denial of Spheresville. You don't have to just become the village ideologue or materialist. For example, as the Aphorist says, Man inflates his emptiness in order to challenge God. Like how an animal can make itself look larger in the face of a threat.
However, notice that when the animal does this, it is because it perceives a real potential threat. Likewise the atheist. Which is why Eckhart cracked that he who blasphemes praises God. Just so, what more proof do you need of God than the existence of atheists?
As to our sense of Spheresville, a few aphorisms (emphases mine):
Faith is not an irrational assent to a proposition; it is a perception of a special order of realities.
Aesthetics is the sensible and secular manifestation of grace.
From an aesthetic experience one returns as from a sighting of numinous footprints.
Every work of art speaks to us of God. No matter what it says.
The thirst for the great, the noble and the beautiful is an appetite for God that is ignored.
Nevertheless, the Creator made us free, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it. Thus,
Each one sees in the world only what he deserves to see.