Monday, November 15, 2010

Summing "It All" Up

Aidan Hart's work
I know I've promised various thoughts on various subjects, so I mean to try to do some summing up...

Ancient stories about saints, in which they are purported to have repelled Loch Ness monsters, ordered ravens around, or predicted death sound strange to us, and I admit I have no absolute verification that such happened. The same technology which would render such events recordable also help to destroy the immediacy in relation to Nature & Super-Nature which might have set the magic chain of Being vibrating down Jacob's Ladder. So, does one pray to the saints or not? Does one ice-bathe & fast, or not?

I am not sure it is essentially mattering very much what we "believe" intellectually about all this. The heart accepts and ratifies what the mind finds dubious or hard to understand, perhaps preposterous.

Ancient customs, among which I have wandered this Long Lost Last Dark Night of My Soul's Museum, are often more confusing than the rumors which reach us as mere legends:
Here (for instance!) is how many theological/philosophical debates go ~

Understanding Plato

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve (1831-1924), quoted by John A. Scott, "Gildersleeve the Teacher," Proceedings of the American Philological Association 56 (1925) xxii—xxviii (at xxiii):
Platonic scholars, with rare exceptions, are roughly to be divided into two classes, those who can understand the thought but not the Greek and those who can read the Greek but cannot understand the thought...
Cf. John Burnet (1863-1928), Humanism in Education, in Essays and Addresses (London: Chatto & Windus, 1929), p. 109:
I would not, however, give two straws for any one's opinion on the criticism or interpretation of Plato's text unless he can write tolerable Greek prose...

It is always dangerous to imitate genius, opines Richard Mitchell. Here, as in theology, we often find the Fathers and the Ancients in exact, diametric disagreement. Then, why bother? One is forced to read them, in order to accurately measure one's self against a perfect standard, for certainly our day can provide none. It is misshapen and disproportionate at best. The "Ideal" of God and His God-men may not exist (or have existed) but the music of their deeds reaches us through the ears of the soul, which hears better than it sees. In aspiration, we can reach for an ideal which should exist, and which can exist absolutely, for "God is the truth of all Illusions".

Agreed that Tradition itself is not intrinsically Perspicacious nor Holy nor One nor True. However, it is the inevitable and endless and necessary portal to any approach to these things we could possibly make. The imagination demonstrates the truth of this proposition to us, for if God does not exist, anything is permitted, and the imagination is oriented to the Good, and rebels against this Chaos. What quivers in the wind or the cold stars, it is increasingly felt, is the whisper of truth.

All truth must die and be reborn. If there is to be Unity, there must be a final Death, both for man and perhaps for the Cosmos. We see through the Mirror darkly. But, as we travail and climb, the mirror sometimes clears and we come to see more. To do more. To become more.

This is the only Christianity worth dying for.
For, as has been already said, every soul of man has in the way of nature beheld true being; this was the condition of her passing into the form of man. But all souls do not easily recall the things of the other world; they may have seen them for a short time only, or they may have been unfortunate in their earthly lot, and, having had their hearts turned to unrighteousness through some corrupting influence, they may have lost the memory of the holy things which once they saw. Few only retain an adequate remembrance of them; and they, when they behold here any image of that other world, are rapt in amazement; but they are ignorant of what this rapture means, because they do not clearly perceive. For there is no light of justice or temperance or any of the higher ideas which are precious to souls in the earthly copies of them: they are seen through a glass dimly; and there are few who, going to the images, behold in them the realities, and these only with difficulty. There was a time when with the rest of the happy band they saw beauty shining in brightness-we philosophers following in the train of Zeus, others in company with other gods; and then we beheld the beatific vision and were initiated into a mystery which may be truly called most blessed, celebrated by us in our state of innocence, before we had any experience of evils to come, when we were admitted to the sight of apparitions innocent and simple and calm and happy, which we beheld shining impure light, pure ourselves and not yet enshrined in that living tomb which we carry about, now that we are imprisoned in the body, like an oyster in his shell.


We are not "imprisoned in the body", but note that Saint Paul probably quoted this tradition, in "seeing through a glass darkly". Time to resurrect the Cambridge Platonists.

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