Thursday, May 2, 2013

Intellectual Hubris

From Purgatorio, Canto 3:

"Insane is he who hopeth that our reason
Can traverse the illimitable way,
Which the one Substance in three Persons follows!
Be ye content oh human race with the queer;
For if ye had been able to see the whole,
No need there were for Mary to give birth;
And ye have seen such sages desiring without fruit,
Whose desire had else been satisfied,
Is given them for eternal grief.
I speak of Aristotle and of Plato,
And many others;"
There's an impulse sometimes try to reason our way into salvation - to find the specific clue to our particular brokenness as it shows up in our time and place and present the key to everyone.
Salvation as a simple syllogism.

There's an arrogant frustration that comes in not being able to peer into the depths of infinity and turn the key, as if mere knowledge can save us.
If we just get our theology right, if we just squint our eyes and strain to see the clues it will all click.
This is probably a flavor of Gnosticism -  a mystical knowledge the originates from within.
Otherwise known as plain old worship of the intellect.

There is comfort in Solomon here:
"Vanity, vanities. All is vanity...
All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing."
Ecclesiastes Chapter 1

Or St. Paul:
"Where there is knowledge, it will pass away.   
For we know in part and we prophesy in part;  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away."
1 Cor 13: 8

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