Today concludes a 4-part series on the subject of joy. This series was inspired by certain personal difficulties I have been having, lapses of faith that have been very troubling; I used the presentation of sermons as an excuse to consciously delve deeper into my own soul, and I have used you all as a sounding board off which I could bounce some of the thoughts that have been going through my head, as I have sought resolution.
So, once again, I affirm that these sermons are not for you, I make them for myself--to answer my own questions, to feed my own soul with spiritual food. The last two months have been very emotionally complex for me, and it is therefore not surprising that some spiritual angst has made its way into the mix. However, contemplating the concept of joy, and willing myself into an attitude of joy, has once again renewed my faith in the only person who can provide an answer--Jesus. I have said many times that we must develop sensitivity to spiritual reality through acts of will, and have declared my inability to relentlessly do so, and have have confessed my sin to be the precise extent to which I have lost contact with that higher reality. I am happy to report that I feel much better now, and am reminded, once again, that God puts obstacles in our paths to make us work harder to get over them--the conquest of spiritual trials may leave welts on our back from the cruel strokes of the Shepherd's staff, but, in the end, we always wind up remembering that He is cruel to be kind.
I have contacted this higher dimension, routinely, through my music, and it is my music that I have always depended on to carry me to the end. The message I am getting in prayer lately is that I need to energize my spiritual organs of perception with a new and different kind of sensitivity. I cannot describe the actual technique of this energizing other than to say it involves opening my eyes and bolstering my faith through an act of will--of desire. The bottom line is always Jesus--Jesus is the calvary coming to the rescue. When I forget to call Him, or out of pride refuse to call Him, I fall into misery, doubt, and panic. When I just open my heart to Him, trust Him, adore Him, I am safe, serene, and free. There, in the meeting place between me and Jesus, is my joy.
We will begin to day's formal presentation by reviewing some of the material from last week concerning Kant and his dualistic models of intuition. We do this to remind ourselves of the absolute truth of Kant's assertion that we cannot fully trust our perceptions of the universe, neither through the senses, nor our thoughts. The way Kant blends the perception, of physical and abstract experience into a blur on a continuum, is a first step in attaining a full appreciation of human consciousness, in its fullness, AND in its limitations. Kant sidesteps the limitations of simple momentary consciousness by introducing the concept of intuition:
Remember that Kant suggests that there are two kinds of intuition: empirical (sensual) intuitions and pure (logical) intuitions.
Empirical intuitions are intuitions that contain sensation.
Pure intuitions are intuitions that do not contain any sensation.
An example of an empirical intuition would be one's perception of a chair or another physical object. All such intuitions are immediate representations that have sensation as part of the content of the representation.
The pure intuitions are, according to Kant, those of space and time, which are our mind's subjective condition of coordinating sensibilia. Our representations of space and time are not objective and real, but immediate representations that do not include sensation within those representations. Thus both are pure intuitions.
By extension, from Wikipedia:
"Kant holds that there are two kinds of knowledge:
sensible (sensual) and logical.
Sensible knowledge is based on sensation;
logical knowledge is based on reason.
Kant's division of Transcendental Aesthetic and Transcendental Logic result from these two kinds of knowledge.
The Transcendental Aesthetic is that part of the Critique of Pure Reason that considers the contribution of sensation to cognition.
Kant distinguishes between the matter and the form of appearances.
The matter is "that in the appearance that corresponds to sensation".
The form is "that which so determines the manifold of appearance that it allows of being ordered in certain relations".
This grouping concisely summarizes the whole mind/body dichotomy, brought to light by DesCartes; furthermore, it goes a long way toward a coherent analysis of the way we experience and process sensual and abstract experience. However, the problems it uncovers inevitably leads the way back to the idea that two is not enough--there is THIRD thing that is necessary to make the system work. Two cancel each other out no matter how hard he tries to prove otherwise--it is the THIRD thing, the conduit, that allows the energy to flow from the abstract to the physical.
I don't know why Kant couldn't see his way to consider the THIRD thing; there are so many systems of three in the physical AND mental planes. Perhaps the system of threes occurs elsewhere in Kant's writings, but as far as The Critique of Pure Reason goes, Kant's dualism leads inevitably to duplicity (ha ha). For now let us just be reminded that many, many dynamic systems in nature tend to include groups of three--why should not the system of the transduction of spiritual consciousness into mundane consciousness not also depend on some kind of "threeness"? The threeness we are talking about is merely the duality of Infinite God and finite Man with Jesus as the connecting link between them. In this subject-predecate-object scenario, God is clearly the subject, Man is clearly the object, and Jesus the quickening infinitive. Jesus always emerges as the ultimate source of all spiritual experience because it was His sacrifice that empowered Him to act as the intermediary between Man and God. Without this living intermediary, spiritual experience on the physical plane would be impossible.
A short list of dynamic 3's would include:
(from Harry A. Ironside)
the heart (to feel), the mind (to think), and the will (to decide)
The list goes on.
There is an an archetypal image that appears in many ancient religious symbologies--an image that has been meaningful and helpful to me over the years: it is the image of the gateway between two sphinxes. We see this image in one form or another in much of the architecture of ancient cities, and, more recently, in the movie The Fellowship of the Ring, when the heroes row their boats through a narrow strait guarded, by two great forbidding statues standing on opposite banks of the river.
To me this image represents the twin poles of duality canceling each other out; but in the middle there is a hologram of reality. To remind you: a hologram is a visual illusion that offers a three-dimensional view of an object. By contrast, a reflection is light bouncing off an object directly in a straight line, offering the viewer's eye one perspective--but a hologram is diffracted light, light waves bouncing off of each other all over the place, the effect of which is a three-dimensional image that has the appearance of reality except that it tends to look rather transparent or ghostly.
To me this is a good metaphor for how the system of threes works: you need a point of reference (subject), a goal or purpose (object), and then you need a way to make the two interact (predicate). The interaction of the subject and the object creates reality. The reality is never objective nor it is subjective, because it is dynamic--its reality depends on its movement. Many times in the past few months we have repeated the principle that spiritual truth cannot be pinned down, that it is always dynamic, always enthralled in a progress toward (or, in unfortunate cases, away from) perfection.
It may be argued that the hologram is an illusion, (as indeed, it may be argued that all mundane reality is an illusion), but that argument plunges us back into the quagmire of Kantian representations, idealizations, and intuitions. Why quibble about something that is ultimately too trivial for words? Why prefer the illusion of the hologram when we can cling to the concrete, irrefutable logic of words? It is because the words, no matter how flawless in their rational structure, are still fixed; and we have to admit that the true reality is always dynamic; reality exists not on a fixed point but on a continuum that restlessly glides from point to point relative to the position of the subjective observer. The hologram is indeed an illusion, but it is an illusion of perspective not an illusion of reality. The problem with the reality of the hologram is where you are standing!
All philosophy depends on reason, and reason always fails--illusion of perspective is real because we are real--each perspective is the unique reality of the individual. As C.S. Lewis says in That Hideous Strength, subjective reality becomes real in the arbitrary elected invention of the gods.
The operation of the hologram as the diffraction of projected energies, as ideal representations which operate dynamically on each other, is not so different from Kant's idea of intuition. Good man. But Kant's philosophy still contains a hole that can only be filled by spiritual experience and understanding. Notice that Kant has not managed to get far away from DesCartes because his system is still dualistic; the missing third element we will be looking for comes later, and is invisible to a man who does not believe in the tangible reality of faith. Verily, verily I say unto you: if sense and understanding may be thought of as springing from the same source, it is an inevitable conclusion that, at some point their separate branches will converge at a common root. This root unites sense experience and thought into a higher level mode of cognition. If we spend enough tine in this modality, we will develop FAITH. Faith is not without its scruples--it grows by increments--first a little leap of faith (that first one's actually a doozy) and then more and more little leaps of faith, until we have completely surrounded ourselves with the armor of God, and can leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Today we will move away from Kantian dualism to Kierkegaard, a philosopher who freely admits the mystery of spirituality into his opinions, and who claims Jesus as the intermediary between God and Man.
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel. He was also critical of the state and practice of Christianity, primarily that of the Church of Denmark. He is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher.
1. the doctrine that man forms his essence in the course of the life resulting from his personal choices.
2. an emphasis upon man’s creating his own nature as well as the importance of personal freedom, decision, and commitment.]
Much of Kierkegaard's philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a "single individual", giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking, and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment.
His theological work focuses on Christian ethics, on the institution of the Church, and on the differences between purely objective proofs of Christianity. He wrote of the individual's subjective relationship to Jesus Christ, the God-Man, which came through faith. Much of his work deals with the art of Christian love.
To start with, Kierkegaard says this:
"Worldly wisdom is of the opinion that love is a relationship between persons; Christianity teaches that love is a relationship between: a person–God -a person, that is, that God is the middle term. To love God is to love oneself truly; to help another person to love God is to love another person; to be helped by another person to love God is to be loved."
Another lovely quote that fits right in with what we have been saying here is:
"Science and scholarship want to teach that becoming objective is the way. Christianity teaches that the way is to become subjective, to become a subject."
This sentence is rich with contrasting possibilities:
first, to become subjective, might mean, to become active as a dynamic extension of divine will, a predicate of God;
second, to become subject, could mean merely that we become a servant of God, a subservient particle in a kingdom of infinite scope.
I have no problem with either or both of these interpretations, since they do not really contradict each other, they just offer for our edification, two sides of the same coin.
Another nice quote is the following:
"God is not like a human being; it is not important for God to have visible evidence so that he can see if his cause has been victorious or not; he sees in secret just as well. Moreover, it is so far from being the case that you should help God to learn anew that it is rather he who will help you to learn anew, so that you are weaned from the worldly point of view that insists on visible evidence. (...) A decision in the external sphere is what Christianity does not want; (...) rather it wants to test the individual’s faith."
“Prayer doesn't change God, but changes him who prays”
As little as Kant would like to admit it, his philosophy is firmly rooted in the visible--his point of view, for all its heady complexity, never wavers from the worldly point of view. Kierkegaard is so much more easy to read than Kant not because it is shallower, but because it does not try to trick the reader into knowing something it is impossible to know. Kant offers us the blind alley of the limits of knowability--Kierkegaard offers us Jesus--Jesus not clad in peasant rags, but kingly raiment. Furthermore, Kierkegaard is a major exponent of the moral imagination, a believer in faith as an active agent in a world in need of good works:
"What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die."
Notice, he DOESN'T say, I need to do what my Gramma did, and that's good enuff fer me; he says, "knowledge must precede every act". He is not some anti-intellectual espousing the path of least resistance, he is a serious man, an intellectual man, but he is not seduced by the glamour of syntactical complexity--he does not follow his words to their conclusion, he makes his words follow him to HIS conclusion.
One of his deepest concepts is his idea of recollection. Like many men he sees that the significance of one's life is often contained in the memories of one's life. He perceives that experience is a great teacher only in retrospect:
"O, can I really believe the poets when they say that the first time one sees the beloved object he thinks he has seen her long before, that love, like all knowledge, is recollection, that love in the single individual also has its prophecies, its types, its myths, its Old Testament.
We experience forwards, we understand backwards."
This is not to deny the resonance of the eternal moment, the anomalous now; but it does admit to the fact that we cannot, as sinful human beings, spend every passing minute in spiritual ecstasy--we must have down time, and that down time is best spent in spiritual reflection, not linguistic confusion.
A propos to the messages I have delivered on the evils of basing our conscious religious beliefs on cliches, on what Boethius termed, "empty fictions", Kierkegaard says this:
"Christendom has "lost its way" by recognizing "the crowd," as the many who are moved by newspaper stories, as the court of last resort in relation to "the truth." Truth comes to a single individual, not all people at one and the same time. Just as truth comes to one individual at a time so does love. One doesn't love the crowd but does love their neighbor, who is a single individual. Never have I read in the Holy Scriptures this command: You shall love the crowd; even less: You shall, ethico-religiously, recognize in the crowd the court of last resort in relation to 'the truth.' In all expressions, God must be the middle term.
The crowd is untruth. And I could weep, in every case I can learn to long for the eternal, whenever I think about our age's misery, even compared with the ancient world's greatest misery, in that the daily press and anonymity make our age even more insane with help from "the public," which is really an abstraction, which makes a claim to be the court of last resort in relation to "the truth"; for assemblies which make this claim surely do not take place. That an anonymous person, with help from the press, day in and day out can speak however he pleases (even with respect to the intellectual, the ethical, the religious), things which he perhaps did not in the least have the courage to say personally in a particular situation; every time he opens up his gullet—one cannot call it a mouth—he can all at once address himself to thousands upon thousands; he can get ten thousand times ten thousand to repeat after him—and no one has to answer for it; in ancient times the relatively unrepentant crowd was the almighty, but now there is the absolutely unrepentant thing: No One, an anonymous person: the Author, an anonymous person: the Public, sometimes even anonymous subscribers, therefore: No One. No One! God in heaven, such states even call themselves Christian states. One cannot say that, again with the help of the press, "the truth" can overcome the lie and the error.
O, you who say this, ask yourself: Do you dare to claim that human beings, in a crowd, are just as quick to reach for truth, which is not always palatable, as for untruth, which is always deliciously prepared, when in addition this must be combined with an admission that one has let oneself be deceived! Or do you dare to claim that "the truth" is just as quick to let itself be understood as is untruth, which requires no previous knowledge, no schooling, no discipline, no abstinence, no self-denial, no honest self-concern, no patient labor! No, "the truth," which detests this untruth, the only goal of which is to desire its increase, is not so quick on its feet. Firstly, it cannot work through the fantastical, which is the untruth; its communicator is only a single individual. And its communication relates itself once again to the single individual; for in this view of life the single individual is precisely the truth. The truth can neither be communicated nor be received without being as it were before the eyes of God, nor without God's help, nor without God being involved as the middle term, since he is the truth. It can therefore only be communicated by and received by "the single individual," which, for that matter, every single human being who lives could be: this is the determination of the truth in contrast to the abstract, the fantastical, impersonal, "the crowd" – "the public," which excludes God as the middle term (for the personal God cannot be the middle term in an impersonal relation), and also thereby the truth, for God is the truth and its middle term."
Elsewhere, Kierkegaard says the following:
"It is indeed just possible that Christianity is the truth; it is indeed just possible that someday there will be a judgment in which the separation will hinge on the relation of inwardness to Christianity. Suppose that someone stepped forward who had to say, “Admittedly I have not believed, but I have so honored Christianity that I have spent every hour of my life pondering it.”
Or suppose that someone came forward of whom the accuser has to say, “He has persecuted the Christians,” and the accused one responded, “Yes, I acknowledge it; Christianity has so inflamed my soul that, simply because I realized its terrible power, I have wanted nothing else than to root it out of the world.”
Or suppose that someone came forward of whom the accuser had to say, “He has renounced Christianity,” and the accused one responded, “Yes, it is true, for I perceived that Christianity was such a power that if I gave it one finger it would take all of me, and I could not belong to it completely.”
But suppose now, that eventually an active assistant professor came along at a hurried and bustling pace and said something like this, “I am not like those three; I have not only believed but have even explained Christianity and have shown that what was proclaimed by the apostles and appropriated in the first centuries is true only to a certain degree. On the other hand, through speculative understanding I have shown how it is the true truth, and for that reason I must request suitable remuneration for my meritorious services to Christianity.
Of these four, which position would be the most terrible?"
Who has the more difficult task: the teacher who lectures on earnest things a meteor's distance from everyday life-or the learner who should put it to use?"
Thus, the bottom line for Kierkegaard is right action, putting his faith to good use. And thus, in four sermons I have come full circle to proclaim that the true joy of Jesus's guiding hand is in doing His will in His world. We began with me declaring that the only joy I felt was in performing my assigned heavenly tasks; then we moved to affirming that joy is a secret source of power and energy that we could keep on the back burner and bring out when the going got rough. Last week we stressed the fact that, no matter how we may express it in language, we always may cherish the joy of heaven's foreknowledge, in hopeful contemplation, and this exercise may be the consolation of lonely evenings looking out the window at falling snow; but the true expression of the joy of faith lies in the inward knowledge of God's infinite personality, and right actions, through Jesus' direction and grace, in bringing joy to the world and peace on Earth.
Let us pray: Jesus, thank you for your presence in our lives, unfailing. Continue in your patient tolerance in our failures to hold onto your face in times of trouble, and keep coming back to us as we get nearer and nearer the ultimate goal. Amen