marți, 27 mai 2008

God, Zen and the Intuition of Being

It is within the context of the intuition of being that the question of the existence of God must be placed. Without this intuition, the conceptual statements that are framed to prove the existence of God will remain flat and unconvincing. Logic alone does not have the ability to make us see. St. Thomas could never have imagined a metaphysics without God at the center of it, and God was not superimposed on his metaphysics because of religious reasons, but was the very heart of the intelligibility of his metaphysics. We start with the most basic facts of everyday existence and by means of the intuition of being we follow them inwardly and see that they point towards existence itself. Existence as received and contracted, this or that existing being, is not possible without there being existence unreceived. The intuition of being is the opening of our eyes to how every existing thing points to existence itself. St. Thomas gives his five ways leading to the existence of God, and Maritain adds a sixth, and there are others, but they must share the common essential ingredient of an intuition of being which vivifies them. Once the basic insight is in place, it is possible to grasp why St. Thomas gave God the attributes that he did.
There is no intellectual intuition of God Who is Himself existence. The limited and received existence of the beings of our experience demand there be a center to the circle on pain that there would be no beings. As soon as we disengage being as being from the empirical being of this or that existent, we must posit existence in itself. Essence must be finally understood as a certain capacity to exist and essence-existence or being must be finally understood in relationship to unreceived existence.

Here we have reached the limits of conceptual or essentialistic understanding. God does not possess a capacity to exist. He is without essence in this sense. There is no reception or contraction of His existence by His essence. He is His existence. All essences are measured in relationship to Him. God is not a being among beings. He is not something among other things. It is possible to call Him no essence, no-thing, if we keep clearly in mind that this is not nothingness or no nature, but no potential or capacity.(30) He is not nothing, for existence is all actuality and reality. We cannot contain God within our concepts. We can say true things about Him basing ourselves on the very structure of the things that exist around us, but the way He exists in Himself is beyond our comprehension. Maritain writes that the concept of being:

"Is one in a certain respect, in so far as as it does make incomplete abstraction from its analogates, and is disengaged from them without being conceivable apart from them, as attracted towards, without attaining, a pure and simple unity, which could alone be present to the mind if it were able to see in itself - and without concept - a reality which would be at once itself and all things. (Let us say the concept of being demands to be replaced by God clearly seen, to disappear in the face of the beatific vision.)" (31)

In the intuition of being we glimpse the transessential nature of existence, but this is simply a weak reflection of what existence itself must be, of what God, esse subsistens, is like. Maritain again:

"The analogical infinitude of the act of existing is a created participation in the unflawed oneness of the infinity of the Ipsum esse subsistens; an analogical infinitude which is diversified according to the possibilities of existing. In relation to it, those very possibilities of existing, the essences, are knowable or intelligible." (32)

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