Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Experience of the Heart

A couple of years ago, Robert Wright interviewed Lorenzo Albacete about his book "God in the Ritz." Albacete bases the deepest encounter with "ultimate reality" (or God) on religious experience. His own experience, which led him to leave his career as a space physicist, was not a spectacular event but rather a weak voice that slowly preoccupied him. For him, finding beauty and truth is a continuous search which will never be exhausted in this life. We always find someone or something beautiful but it still does not satisfy our longing for beauty. All our experiences including sexual experience, love, and the search for beauty are at a deeper level a kind of religious experience. Of course, mere lust is not part of this experience as it objectifies the other person. Darwinians think that the purpose of sex is to get genes into the next generation, but they are missing out on the experience. Obviously, Darwinism does account for everything within its sphere, but only in the scientific explanation or mechanism. "The problem isn't Darwinism or Neo- or Neo-neo-Darwinism as a proposal for the scientific explanation of life. The problem is Darwinism or any -ism -- Creationism for that matter -- as an ideology, that is to say, as a scientific method that accounts for all human experiences." He says. Wright proposes "Darwinism can in some sense account for everything but it's not the final account." Robert Pollack, a biologist who teaches at Columbia university admits " a certain point I realize that my scientific convictions do not explain all of my life." Albacete continues "My question is: Does this account, does it fulfill, does it correspond to my experience of life? That's what I want to deal with. I don't want to compare it directly to something somebody tells me about God. I want to compare it to myself... The moment it stops accounting for my experiences I will leave it. Why not? It would be absurd... you stop believing..embrace that which accounts for the experience of your heart but do that in a reasonable way. That's all I advise." Religious experience of God, it seems, is larger than our conceptual framing of knowledge. According to Albacete, even Catholic doctrines and dogmas are signposts, but not the reality that one is after. As Daniel Callam says, the entire Christian faith is based on a historical religious experience of the Resurrection of Christ by his disciples. Or, according to Peter Kreeft, in the Eucharist we think God enters us , but in fact we enter him. Kreeft continues: Divine truth is the deepest longing of our hearts. What is the heart? The heart is the abyss that is at the centre of our being: the self or the spirit. The spirit can think, choose and judge. But there is always something that escapes every possible picture of yourself, and that is the one who is making the picture. In a movie theatre, you can project everything on the screen except the projector. The one who is looking is not the one who is looked at. If you knew every single fact about yourself, you could not because every act of understanding every fact is itself a new fact, and that new fact could only be understood by another new fact. This is why we need memory. Since we live in time we can never grasp all knowledge about ourselves. Only God who is in eternity can fully know us. The heart is the term that Scripture gives to the self or the 'I'. It does not denote mere emotions, feelings or sentiments but the 'I', when you say my body, my thoughts, my choices. It is the fountain of all our waters. Jesus said to the disciples that you can't be defiled by what goes out of you. Out of the heart flows virtue and sin, but also the deepest love, not mere philanthropy, nor friendship but the "fundamental option" i,e. internalizing it in your heart, It is your freedom, a mysterious attitude of accepting or not accepting God's love. Since God designed our hearts, and made us to be happy like himself, it is impossible not to love God. "Our hearts are restless until they rest in you" said St. Augustine. It is psychologically impossible for one to refuse happiness. Even a suicider loves happiness but his life makes him miserable and hopeless so he wants to get rid of it. We cannot not seek our full happiness. Our hearts' deepest love, longing and happiness is God himself but God is not definable. He is beyond our definitions and comprehension. St. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest of minds in the history of theology, admitted that he could not finish his Summa Theologica because he came to believe that all what he wrote was straw. When asked by Christ on the crucifix what he wants as a reward for his work, Thomas said "Only You Lord." That was his last wish. All authentic mystics, even non-Christians, know that God cannot be defined in human language. The mystical experience is the closest to peace, light and Truth. When Jesus spoke about God, he spoke in parables, because God is beyond human language. Theologians can explain what is not God but not God. God is not an abstract principle. Our hearts call out for the Deep who is pure light. The mysterious longing of our hearts calls out to this mystery who is our creator. We can have clear knowledge about things abstract such as mathematics. We can have adequate knowledge about things that are real but not living such as rocks. But as we rise in importance, we sink in adequacy. We can have all the initiative for getting the knowledge of non-living things and they will not try to escape us. If we want to know animals we have to tame them. They can hide and escape, especially the primates. They have almost freedom like humans. But when it comes to human beings, the probability of guaranteeing response is 50-50. With God, the whole initiative must come from God. This divine truth that we long to must come from God. The claim that Christianity is superior to other religions is the fact that it is not man’s search for God but God’s search for man. Here you go - Two great speakers: a scientist-theologian in Lorenzo Albacete, and a philosopher in Peter Kreeft. See and listen to the full words here: Lorenzo Albacete: Peter Kreeft: They are examples of contemporary Catholic mind treating some of today's questions. Do you agree? You can comment anytime. George Farahat

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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