Wednesday, July 20, 2016

ορατων τε παντων και αορατων

…ορατων τε παντων και αορατων, oratón de pándon ke a-oráton, all things seen and unseen, visible and invisible. Thus the first confession of the universal Church forced out of it by the Christian emperor in pursuit of a difficult vision of one empire under one God and of one faith—an impossible dream then as now. Yet it shows that Christianity was, and still is, a faith with intellect, despite what its detractors and its fanatics believe. The Creator that we believe in made everything that is, both things we can see and those we cannot. We're not here speaking of such speculative entities as angels and devils, heaven and hell, and the like, but of things that we know for sure really are there, even though we cannot, at least without special instruments or frames of reference, see them. Of course, we are also using sight as a placeholder for any number of senses, not merely vision. We will never see an atomic particle, but our instruments tell us they are there, and tell us some of their characteristics. The early Christians may not have known about such things, but they did know about other things just as invisible yet incontrovertibly real.

Thus arises another idea, that of the real and the unreal. Obviously, we cannot say that the Creator who made everything there is made the real and the unreal. At least, I don't think so. Philosophy can ponder such things, being and non-being, and there is a long tradition of such speculation, stronger in Judaism and some other religions than in Christianity. But it is not God who made the unreal. It is we ourselves. And what is or are the unreal? Isn't it at least what we may call, the world of ideas? Yet, this world too, when God is thinking it, is a real world. God's ideas are real, even if ours are not. In fact, the universe we live in, along with ourselves and all other life, are in some sense God's ideas. But in our case, though made in God's image and thus capable of creating ideas, our fall can be defined by the fact that many if not most of our ideas are not real. They are unreal, though they are not powerless to trap us and drag us into themselves. The linguistic continuum of idea > ideal > idol is no accident. Where stop our wills along this continuum determines our trajectory into being or non-being.

There are many things that we believe or accept as real that are not, and yet believing is beneficial, at least, serves some good purpose. Other unreal things we believe have the opposite effect. We may laugh at such things as papal infallibility or unscientific creationism, yet they have an effect on those who believe in them, and that impacts us. Others may laugh at the concepts of human rights, individual liberty, or free market economy, also invisible and not incontrovertibly real, but these ideas, even ideals, have an effect in the real world, shaping it and us. I believe that there is money in my bank account, but rationally I know it is just numbers. Those numbers, though, can buy me many real things. If I believe that those numbers are real and make them my prime directive, I will fail to notice that my real life is draining away while I chase after what is actually nothing. Thus the world of the unreal, made not by God but by us, even by me, is always around us, outside and, if we're not vigilant, inside us, an invisible ulcer bleeding us to death. As scripture says, 'Greed shrivels the soul,' and this need not be about money.

What exists, and what does not exist, 'to be, or not to be,' yes, that is the question, and for reasons we cannot know, He who made us gave us the power of choice, to follow Him into full reality, into real being, or not. It is not a question of opposites. There is only One, and nothing else. How can we hesitate?

No comments: