One positive dimension of the affective life is the aesthetic experience. What people describe as an aesthetic experience is simply a dimension of common human experience available to us all. Aesthetic experience typically relieves tension and quiets destructive impulses. It resolves lesser conflicts in the self and assists toward interpretation. It refines perception and discrimination. It develops the imagination and the ability to put oneself in the place of others. It is an aid to mental health. It fosters mutual sympathy and understanding. It offers an ideal for human life. Aesthetic experience is momentary. The original emotion disrupts normal consciousness, experience, and behavior. What occupied our attention before is not as interesting. We abandon occupations. It disorients our situation. It checks our daily experience. Eventually, we must resume daily experience, we must return. It satisfies our desire to see the object of reflection. We satisfy the hunger with this experience. Yet, it contains within it the beginning of a new longing or desire. In an aesthetic experience or love experience, the self does not disappear, even though one may direct one's attention so fully outside the self that it feels as if the self disappears. Such peak experiences have their own intrinsic value. Truth, goodness, and beauty form into a unity in such moments. Peak experiences bring momentary loss of fear, anxiety, inhibition, defense and control, a giving up of renunciation, delay and restraint. As a peak experience, one feels more integrated than at other times. The greatest attainment of identity is a transcending of self, a going beyond and above selfhood. We feel ourselves to be at the peak of our powers, using all our capacities at the best and fullest. People feel lucky, fortunate, and graced. Joy surprises us. Aesthetic contemplation is for the sake of enjoyment. We would not continue to attend to the object of contemplation if doing so were not enjoyable. We savor the experience, rather than classify and identify it. Although analysis may enhance such savoring of experience, it often stifles it. The object of contemplation goes beyond practical use as well. We often quickly determine the utility of an object. When something in our world overwhelms us, forces itself upon us, disrupts us, we have gone beyond utility. Aesthetic experience brings us to see the surplus of human experience.
A second positive dimension of the affective life is beauty. It involves the individual in an inward mental self-transfiguration, even if only for the moment when the beautiful captures the eye. The unity that explorations in truth and goodness seek is already present in the aesthetic experience. As such, the experience hints at and anticipates a unity or harmony human beings seek. The beautiful simply strikes as such, and we contemplate it. Our intuition that something is beautiful becomes the basis for the aesthetic moment. We might think of the moment as more like a form of intoxication or dream, as over against the Idealist notion that one encountered it in the imagination.
An occasion of beauty incites and requires an act of replication. An occasion of beauty prompts the begetting of children; it prompts a copy of itself. We are willing to revise our own location in order to place ourselves in the path of beauty is the basic impulse underlying education. We cannot conceive of a beautiful thing that does not have the quality of replication as an impulse toward creation that results in both the famous painting and in the mundane act of staring.
Beauty takes place in particulars - a painting, a symphony, a poem, a novel, etc. Beauty has a sacred and unprecedented character. Beauty saves lives and confers the gift of life; it quickens adrenalin, making the heartbeat faster. It makes life increasingly vivid, animated, living, and worth living. The beauty of a phenomenon captures our attention, puts us out of gear with practical life, and forces us to view it on the level of aesthetic consciousness. The object focuses our attention outside self. Beauty also incites deliberation; it fills the mind and invites the search for something beyond itself, something larger with which we need to bring it into relation. Beauty causes us to gape and suspend thought, while also causing us to reflect upon precedents and parallels and move forward toward new acts of creation. It causes us to bring things into relation with a kind of urgency as though one's life depended upon it. Beautiful things have a forward momentum, inciting the desire to bring new things into the world. Beautiful things also incite us to move backward, to the ground out of which we may rediscover and whatever makes a new thing.
What can we hope to bring about in ourselves when we open ourselves to and actively pursue beauty? As those who behold beauty, we seek to bring new beauty into the world and may become successful in this endeavor. We become increasingly beautiful in our interior life. Further, beauty is life-saving and life-restoring. We receive the gift of life in our perception of beauty, as well as bestow life.
The aesthetic moment and the experience of beauty is an analogy to the experience one may have of God. Such experiences focus upon the moment that captures us. It focuses our attention upon the event. To see God in revelation is to refuse to allow human history to be nothing other than the accidental truths of history. A moment that we come to see as divine revelation stands out, captures our attention and disrupts us. That moment is no longer like any other moment of history or like our daily life. We orient our lives around the center, from which the light of beauty shines. The Bible refers to this as the glory of the Lord that human beings experience as shining forth as light. Such light intends to enlighten our path. Theology itself can have its beauty. The theologian can see, hear, and behold that which captures her or him. It can capture us, rapture us, and even transform us. Revelation directs our attention to that which outside us, to its time and place. This gives us the appearance of pure objectivity. Yet, the “exterior” witness must unite with an “interior” witness, with the light of faith. It may well begin as a largely personal experience, but the fact that one has responded to a witness from history will quickly bring us to that which transcends the personal. If we understand aesthetic appreciation on analogy with the response of faith in revelation, then we are embarking upon a theological analysis of existence. This will require close attention to the understanding of Christian existence that we find in Paul and John. Faith is attentive to the divine voice. On analogy with the experience of beauty, human experience is an event. Within Christianity, faith is surrender to one who has surrendered himself for us. Therefore, as beauty moves us toward its object and away from self, so faith moves us away from self and toward the object of revelation. Since Christian existence is movement toward its goal, it is more like a flight toward a destination than a state or condition at which one arrives. The point of the response of faith is attunement or consonance with God. To state it philosophically, the soul learns to attune itself with being. Such attunement is a response to grace and is the ontological elevation of human life. In the church, the reception of sacraments is a sign that grace comes toward us. The danger in focusing upon experience is that it will overwhelm the objectivity of the event of revelation. In the Christian tradition, the mystical and the ordinary must find their unity. We can best see these explorations in the writings of Irenaeus, the Philolakia, and the Middle Ages. If we were to explore these matters from psychology, we might consider the nature of archetypes. The archetype lifts one into the image enables participation in it. The perception of God through revelation, then, depends on God becoming world in the Incarnation. The total revelation of God is that to which eschatology points. Yet, that total revelation will be homogenous with its beginning and continuation in human history. The Bible shows revelation as sensory and objective (not simply inward and spiritual). Revelation always has a proleptic or anticipatory element. For example, the Old Testament has myth behind it and the Incarnation ahead of it. The Old Testament has a proleptic element in that sense. The unity of body and soul we find in Barth, Romano Guardini, and Paul Claudel is consistent with the Christian notion of Incarnation, as God confronts humanity in the act of kenosis or self-emptying. Experience needs the objectivity that the Body of Christ. In all our explorations of Christian existence, we need to remember that we must never close it off. It must always remain open to the freedom of revelation. Christ is the epiphany of God for the world. People receive Christ within the context of the church, where Christ shines. Christ reaches the generations through the Sacrament and the Word. Yet, Christ stands apart from the church, as the one who died for us. What we have seen thus far is that an objective form stimulates the subjective aesthetic experience. In that way, subjective experience is an anticipation of the fullness of the object that stimulates the experience. Applied to the discussion concerning divine revelation, this means that the Infinite and Eternal God is beyond human experience. The form of revelation must be a form of the world and must be the perfection of what God intended in creation in order for humanity to see, hear, and respond. The form of revelation is the specific focus of John 1:1-18, Hebrews 1:1-4, and II Corinthians 3:13-4:6. Yet, the revelation always contains a hidden quality. As an analogy, the work of art is an expression of the artist without fully disclosing the artist. The accompanying, sustaining, and life-giving activity of God represents the commitment of God to what God has created. For that reason, human beings can reasonably entrust themselves to God. This revelation occurs in the Word and in humanity, yet, concealment is an implication of revelation. Of course, in Christianity is the center of the form of revelation. In fact, the plausibility of Christianity presenting a true view of God rests upon the plausibility of this fact. Any Christian presentation of the New Testament will show both the inherent power of the form of divine revelation in Christ by focusing upon the work of the Spirit through Christ, presenting the uniqueness of the form. The form of Christ is inseparable from the work of God in Israel. The form of Christ also fulfills the religious hopes of humanity. Yet, Christ is also accessible through the historical moment he appeared. We do not read of his conversion or calling precisely because his life is identical to the form of revelation. As the bringer of salvation, he comes in an historical rather than mythological or eschatological figure he is the image of God. Yet, any Christian presentation of Christ must also show the hiddenness and misapprehension of Jesus. Along with the nature of divine revelation having hidden quality, human guilt and blindness contribute to such hiddenness. The Gospel presentation of Jesus presents both his inherent power in the Spirit and his hiddenness as divine revelation. The form of divine revelation in Christ comes to us through scripture and through the church. We receive the form of Christ in the sacraments and in proclamation of the kerygma. The attestation of the form comes to us through the witness of the Father. It comes to us through the testimony of history, especially in the discontinuity and continuity we find in Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament provides us with a basic anthropology, a basic eschatology, and a focus upon divine judgment that opens the door for us to hear the message of grace. We also have the testimony of the cosmos, which the Bible expresses in terms of the powers, the miraculous, and angels. Myth returns in the eschatological reduction of all things to the forming work of the divine potter over the clay of this world. It refers to divine judgment of all that opposes God. It also refers to the fulfillment of the work of God in salvation history. The Lord will make all things new because the old has passed away. What we have done is consider revelation from the standpoint of beauty. The fineness and beauty in the world is an analogy to the beauty, splendor, and glory of Christ. The gift of love is that God wills to be with us. Revelation perfects created nature. Beauty rises into relationship with God. The motivation of a great theology invites us to gaze upon divine splendor. One might provide historical color by exploring theological styles from the standpoint of beauty of those who have received ordination. One might also explore the theological styles of laity. Dante represents a conversion to the vernacular, history, laity, and Eros. St. John of the Cross will have the message that God alone suffices in a world increasingly convinced of its importance. Pascal the “seer” saw the finite in need of an infinite medium. Falling from love is the mystery of original sin. Johann George Hamann offered an ironic view of the aesthetic and suggested the infinite wrongness our relation to God. Vladimer Soloviev was under the influence of Hegel. Gerard Hopkins offered trans-mythologizing and the immanence of the absolute. Charles Peguy is similar to Kierkegaard. All of this leads us to consider the fact that we cannot explore the glory or beauty of divine revelation without metaphysics. Such a fundamental notion in the Bible that had no echo in our hearts and lives would remain incomprehensible. God is at work beyond the historical bounds of revelation. We need to understand the significance of the fact that theology and philosophy have their origin in poets and myth. If we explore myth in antiquity, we explore Homer, Hesiod, Pinder, and the tragedy of Aeschylus and Sophocles. We see the encounter between the hero and the gods. Philosophy in antiquity, especially as seen in Plato, considers the totality and harmony, which means it considers aesthetics. It submits itself to reality and seeks a better understanding of it. Inspiration through the daimonion is a recurring theme in Plato. Religion in antiquity sought a bridge between myth and openness to being. As Aristotle put it, philosophy, begins in the experience of wonder, which is a religious experience. Christianity is religion, philosophy, and myth, and thus, to get rid of any of them is to deny Christianity. We then need to learn the theological apriori, or knowledge the proceeds from deductive reasoning, of the philosophy of beauty. Christians begin with the fathers of the early church, with the middle ages, especially Boethius, Cassiodorus, Benedict, Gregory, and John Erigena, the transition to philosophy that occurs in the Victorines and the school of Chartres, and the transcendental aesthetic of Francis, Alexander, Albert, and Mechtild. Thomas Aquinas will explore the inheritance of this tradition. He will consider being as likeness to God and metaphysics as aesthetics. The point is that the Christ event is a new experience of divine glory and a unique experience of it three themes found in antiquity are the procession from God and back to God, Eros as the yearning of the finite for transcendence and the beauty of the soul. Can we re-affirm the radiant goodwill of being? Music represents our thirst for wholeness. Beauty exists because wholeness and harmony exist. We can then explore the Aesthetics of transcendental reason. The notion of Being becomes a parting of the ways. Philosophy will tend to view Being as undifferentiated. Occam viewed theology as fideistic and practical, dispensing with metaphysics. Suarez viewed Being as neutral. With Eckhart, Being is God. The metaphysics of the saints involved the tragedy of suffering and abandonment combined with imitation in Tauler and Theologica Germanica. The language of espousal arises with female saints and the Cloud of Unknowing. Ignatius of Loyola had a vision from the gospel narrative. The metaphysics of the saints includes folly and glory. The saint, rather than the hero of antiquity, is more like the fool, as in Erasmus, Ship of Fools, Idiot, and even Hamlet. Like Jesus, people think of them as mad or possessed, as in the Don Quixote of Cervantes. They could even write of Christ the clown. Nicolas of Cusa suggested absolute knowledge and total glory. Classical mediation can go the direction of becoming seeking refuge in the past. Eros can lead to the glory of melancholy. One can retreat to the human person as center, which happens in the Reformation and science. The mediation provided by the Middle Ages breaks down. Holderlin may found a new Christian idolatry as he contemplates the wonder of the ancient world by transferring the glories of revelation to it. In particular, he sees it as the glory of love. Nature is glorious in that it reveals God. Time and history are not divine, but dreadful and godless. He risks his life as the presence and mystery of love. He chooses the poet rather than the preacher. Goethe is an example of poetry uniting heaven and earth. Creativity is at the heart of nature. Of course, the problem with many persons today is that the creativity involved is that of creative destruction. In order for the new to emerge, suffering and death must occur. However, for Goethe, God speaks in the purity and beauty of the universe. Nature is an organ of the divine. God works and creates in nature and nature lives in God, for eternity. The influence of Goethe is in the area of the philosophy of nature and the philosophy of life. His thoughts led to harmony between the soul of the poet and the world Heidegger provides fertile ground here as well for a potential philosophy of glory. He warns against technocracy. Yet he fails in intellectual courage because he does not address the question of existence, especially as to how God enters philosophy. We can then discuss the metaphysics of Spirit. The return to antiquity may have worked if one understood it as openness to revelation rather than a reflection of revelation. Antiquity could have anticipated revelation in a similar way that the Old Testament anticipates Christian revelation. Philosophical nominalism loses the radiance of the universe. The devout encounter God only within self. It also becomes the source of a form of the materialist mentality. Exact natural science is the progeny of positivistic nominalism. Descartes is the beginning of the modern philosophy of Spirit. He has a spare system. Spinoza levels distinction between God and World. Leibniz has triumphalist claims to a system that knows all things. He is an advocate for God and for the world, a phrasing that is so appropriate to the writing of Leibniz. He affirms every partial truth with the courageous act of secondary integration. Malebranche adds to the uniting of the immediacy of God and humanity. Kant is a solitary figure between epochs. His critical philosophy does not present space for an epiphany of the divine glory as an experience of worldly Being. The ethical consists of the Law within that has its source in the Law above. He is conscious of mystery, but has no room for the supernatural. Kant links beauty with the true and the good. Edmund Burke is worth exploring in these matters as well. Thus, Kant also accepts the broad categories of the beautiful, the good, and the true. The self-glorification of the Spirit occurs in Schiller. Absolute Spirit is in a process of becoming, living only in reference to an end the individual constructs. Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel find humanity within this wholeness of Absolute Spirit. God and humanity evolve in Schelling. Philosophy requires heroic defiance of the Abyss. Hegel views himself as commissioned by the World Spirit to open up the future. He is the final stage of this world as the self-manifestation of God. In this view of Hegel, von Balthasar joins many critics and is a possible reading of Hegel. I do not share that view. Hegel does separate Judaism from Christianity by placing antiquity between them. Yet, it certainly served his interests as a Christian philosopher, which I believe Hegel thought of himself as such, to show that philosophy of antiquity anticipated basic themes of revelation. We can also look upon aesthetics as science. Being no longer has radiance and beauty. The beautiful is appearance, form, and the actual. The beautiful creates a space of charis, virtue, grace, and appearance. We can then think of the site of glory in metaphysics. For one thing, we need to ponder the miracle of Being. Why is there something rather than nothing? Science presupposes what it sees and studies. Yet, I am within a community of beings, which is also a source of wonder. I and Thou awaken in the encounter of each other. Others stand in the same relation to Being as I do. Being is indifferent in its abundance. Thus, it does not have essential form. My accidental existence does not integrate into being, which is fullness and poverty at the same time. For another thing, we need to ponder the theological a priori as an element in metaphysics is in that revelation assumes a distinction between God and world and radiates from the moment of revelation. Therefore, metaphysics attains its fulfillment in the event of revelation. Finally, love is a custodian of glory. We can see this as we consider the light of Being and love. A journey toward transcendence shows that nothing is beyond love. Love is what awakens us beyond departure, abandonment, privation, disappointment, pain, and death. All of that is an interpolation. Love permits me entry into life. We see in such love an anticipation of the welcome of Being, which is light and glory. The fundamental metaphysical act is love. All of this suggests mutually conditioned freedom and the freedom of Being to shine, but behind it, the pure act of Being untouched by Nothingness. We can also see this as we consider the Christian contribution to metaphysics. It guards metaphysical wonder. Beauty and terror complement each other. Even sin is against the background of divine love. Christians need a comprehensive metaphysics, but modern life has forgotten Being. The service of the world needs integration with human openness to Being. “Service” in this context is responsibility for the destiny of Being. We need metaphysics of wholeness.A well-known praise song captures the spirit of this approach to the Lord. It refers to the light of the world, who stepped into our darkness. It asks the Lord to open our eyes to see beauty that made this heart to adore the Lord. We worship and affirm that the Lord is our God, who is altogether lovely, worthy, and wonderful to me. The Lord, glorious in heaven, humbly came to the earth the Lord had created. For the sake of love, the Lord became poor. Therefore, I worship the one who is altogether lovely, worthy, and wonderful to me. I will never know how much it cost to see my sin upon the cross. Thus, I am here to worship the one who is altogether lovely, worthy, and wonderful to me.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume I, 57-218.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume I, 219-301.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume I, 301-365.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume I, 365-428.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume I, 429-435.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume I, 435-463.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume I, 463-527.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume I, 527-604.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume I, 605-678.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume I, 679-683.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume 2, 11-30,
where he will want to provide historical color to the first volume by
considering the clergy styles in the second volume of Irenaeus, Augustine,
Denys or Dionysius the Areopogite, Anselm, and Bonaventure.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume III, an
exploration of laity theological styles
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume IV,
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume IV, Myth,
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume IV,
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume IV,
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume IV,
Elaporation of the theological apriori of the philosophy of beauty, 317-412.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), Volume 5, 9-47.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), 5, 48-140.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), 5, 141-204.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), 5, 205-246.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), 5, 247-450.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), 5, 451-596.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), 5, 597-612.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), 5, 613-634.
(von Balthasar 1961, 1967, 1982), 5, 635-656.
 Here I am to worship, Songwriters: DEBBIE SMITH, MICHAEL W. SMITH, MICHAEL WHITAKER SMITH, PAUL BALOCHE