The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But points are immaterial and dimensionless markers of position. A line between them reveals where they are, even though they’re not really there, a point not being a dot, for example.
Now, take that crap you learned in high school and apply it to immanence and transcendence. These are like two points at either end of the vertical line of consciousness. And as human beings, we are always suspended in or on that line, even if we pretend we’re not.
Marxism, for example, famously collapses transcendence into immanence, but this is supposed to result in “transcendence on earth,” AKA utopia, as seen, for example, in our Democrat run cities.
Conversely, Islam recuces transcendence to a sensory and material paradise, what with the delicious food, carnal pleasures, rivers of milk and wine, beautiful gardens, and lots of sexually available doe-eyed virgins, very much like the opposite of any Muslim majority country.
In any event, here on earth, the best we can do is acknowledge these two directional pointers without conflating them or reducing one to the other, or denying their existence. This according to Voegelin, anyway. But also Davila, as it turns out, even though I doubt the Aphorist ever crossed paths with the Political Philosopher.
By the way, this subject might seem arcane and abstract, but I’m pretty sure it’s as practical as can be, provided it is true. If it’s not true, then to hell with it. But if it is true, it will have both a normative function and a great deal of explanatory power, especially when things go wrong.
Let’s begin with some aphorisms, for example, this extremely important one:
Atheism is the prelude of the divination of man.
And the abolition of man, up to and including genocide. Readers with ears, let them hear, because I won’t insult your intelligence with historical examples.
The error lies not in dreaming secret gardens exist, but in dreaming they have gates.
Turns out these gates don’t swing wide open for the Islamist martyr, no matter how many Jews he blows up.
He who speaks of the farthest reaches of the soul soon needs a theological vocabulary.
My son is at that that skeptical and querulous adolescent age where it is easy enough to see the inconsistencies, absurdities, and contradictions. But I point out to him that one of the purposes of religious speech, categories, and symbols is to have a means to talk about this invisible and hierarchical reality. Analogously, no one has ever seen the quantum world, but it helps to have words like "quark," "lepton," and "boson" to talk about it.
Ours may not be the perfect language, but it’s the one our civilization developed and upon which our civilization was founded. If you want to understand the deeper meaning beneath the symbolic pointers, you can do that, but it requires aptitude, self-discipline, sincerity, persistence, and grace. Alternatively, one can take the easy way out and become an atheist, AKA terminal adolescent. No vertical development for you!
Turns out the boy is a gifted musician, so I also tell him the spiritual dimension is much like music. We can speculate about it all day long, but in the end you have to pick an instrument -- or religion -- and play it.
This is not to preach indifferentism, because some instruments are more adequate, plus the best virtuoso may or may not be an artist. Even more mysteriously, the greatest artist need not be a virtuoso. Analogously, think of all those dryasdust theologians who know all the words but not the music. Those with ears, let them hear.
By the way, these religious folk who have memorized the words give rise to another aphorism:
Nothing is more dangerous to faith than to frequent the company of believers. The unbeliever restores our faith.
My son is already quite familiar with this dynamic: being turned off by those fundamentalists, until encountering one of those even more dense and fundamentalist atheists.
The simplistic ideas in which the unbeliever ends up believing are his punishment.
And our punishment if we don’t retain that theological map for the vertical dimension. Note that the point of this map is to explore the territory, and that this exploration is always “experiential,” or bound up with experiences of it. In other words, religious categories are like “pre-experiential” templates of what they signify.
Analogously, think of the early explorers who did their best to empirically describe the “new world” they had discovered. Some found a temperate climate with palm trees and mangos, while others like de Champlain found a lot of snow, fur traders, and hockey prospects. Not until later did we develop a 3D map that could situate both extremes.
So much of the early debate about the nature of Jesus was in order to avoid the errors of what Voegelin would call ideological “deformation.” Various heresies ranged from regarding Jesus as purely divine (or transcendent) to purely human, when he was both. It is easy to reduce him to one or the other, harder to appreciate the tension involved in being both. Come to think of, and speaking of geometry and pneumometry,
Christ was in history like a point on a line. But his redemptive act is to history as the center is to the circumference.
No time to get into the sphere.