Saturday, May 6, 2017

Education & The Christian in the hierarchy of beings

"Thinking which has not trembled in the face of the eternal mystery of existence, that essentially endless sea of truth, has never conceptualized itself, let alone its object." - Balthasar, Theologik II.A.2

There are two problems which arise from the two aspects at the heart of Christian theology. Taken as a universalism, Christianity is intellectually perceptible, but distant. Taken as a personalism, Christianity risks debasement to the level of the person at its core: the human individual in whom it resides.

Balthasar, like all high minded men, seems to leave these problems in the margin of his initial discourses on the freedom of the Object because the spectre of ignorance and its offspring (evil) imply the limits of freedom before it can make the case for itself. Even Genesis follows this pattern as we are treated first to the Creation, only later the Fall. To imply the one within the other (as Hegel does in his Logic) takes a grim mind indeed. Balthasar seems to recognize the problem in different terms, namely those of natural inequality:

"The higher an existing being stands in the hierarchy of beings, the greater care is given to their shielding, as if the Holy were protecting it against the intervention of someone who does not share in its secret. Only a soul insensitive to that which is noble and to the necessity to defend it, will bemoan that all which is greatest is likewise hidden. This soul will mistaken that which is greatest and hidden for that which is irrational. This soul will speak of the irrationality of objects that remain inaccessible to the anonymous common perception. Yet to say of a Kingly palace open to only a few that it does not exist because not everyone can see it is incorrect."

Oh how I wish this were more obvious to me, yet I cannot shake the democratic prejudices of my age! It is the curse of the well educated to forever walk the Earth and marvel that anyone could be poorly educated. The very concept of mass public education should preclude the possibility that anyone could fail to gain access to the Kingly Palace, but alas education is opportunity, not actuality. The education of the commoner has often been the reduction of education to the level of the commoner rather than the elevation of the commoner to the level of the educated.

It is as though nature has reasserted herself by proclaiming that there is indeed a hierarchy of being and ones place in it is not determined by force of will, only by the confines of our minds and bodies. The subjective religious experience of the vulgar is such a blasphemy that the most noble atheist can conceivably rest closer to God in the hierarchy of beings than the devout retrograde.

Yet this is essentially most un-Christian because it is uncharitable. Noble obligations oblige! Thus the highest lowers itself, for upon spying this chain of beings the worthy man determines he is unworthy while the unworthy man determines he is worthy. This is precisely why the true Christian at the top of this hierarchy of beings is the silent lover of humanity who works to elevate mankind in spite of itself, while the false Christian is the loudmouth, the judge, jury and executioner.

"If someone who loved thought that they really knew the being they loved, one would nevertheless never cease to give daily thanks to her for the incomprehensible miracle of existence."

This spirit of charity and humility is the definition of the height of being. It is the aim of education. It is the precondition for freedom. It is a precondition seldom if ever met.

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