One mark of modernity is dichotomy. The world was split asunder when the material and the spiritual were thought, one to be here, and the other, out there…somewhere. From theological and philosophical moves made in the 14th Century, a two-story universe was constructed. From thereafter, faith and reason, science and religion, the natural and supernatural, and many other areas of thought and life, all began to move further and further away from each other until the divide became, it would seem, an infinity. The divide would eventually lead to the shipwreck of the 20th Century, its many graveyards, and the modern sensibility. Yes, I know, it was more complicated than that—but still, I think there is some truth to those connections.
After all, once such a division is believed to be true, it doesn’t make room for the material and the spiritual. All it does is leave the material. The spiritual becomes so abstract, so apart from anything we can know, all one is left with is deism or agnosticism/atheism. The ethical becomes something we can’t specify and thus the technological becomes the mean. There is no basis for asking “should” we do something, but only, “can” we do it. If we “can” we will. As Martin Luther King, Jr. noted, we end up with “guided missiles” used by “misguided” men.
We live in the flotsam and jetsam of those moves—moves that led the world at that time, to no longer see the lighthouse of one world and thus the rocks beckoned, like sirens, black, jagged, and hidden just beneath the surface. And so, here we are, gazing up from the sandy bottom as the shimmering light shines down through the watery expanse.
But what has changed really? Nothing. Only our perception of the world. We simply “see” the world differently now. No “fact” or fragment of information has changed the nature of the world. We imagine the world as split, divided. We do this with such hubris. We think we are grand cartographers. Having split the world in two, like atoms, we now set out to map our conquest. And in our mapping, we miss the glory in front of us.
As an aside, the FG world reads their Bibles this way. As maps. This is where the FG world imitates the “scientist” in what they believe will show them as equals, just as serious, just as studious, just as educated, just as modern. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be comical. Imagining the Bible to be a map, they open and follow the directions. They note the longitude and latitude, north and south, east and west. They note distance and scale. There, see, it’s right there and all who follow the map correctly will arrive at the same spot. And if they don’t, they must have misread or missed an important directional clue or piece of information. Because, of course, we have our map and north, south, east and west, never change.
The task of our time is to “see” the world anew, to imagine something greater than what we have been told, to re-narrate the world as one world. As Maximus the Confessor told us:
“The world is one…for the spiritual world in its totality is manifested in the totality of the perceptible world, mystically expressed in symbolic pictures for those who have eyes to see. And the perceptible world in its entirety is secretly fathomable by the spiritual world in its entirety, when it has been simplified and amalgamated by means of the spiritual realities. The former is embodied in the latter through the realities; the latter in the former through the symbols. The operation of the two is one.”
And this one world doesn’t give easily to being mapped or controlled—because it is not some dead thing. We are better off with the type of cartography and map spoken of here:
Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw.
And because no nation thrives without capital,
he set a star in this world and drew a circle round.
Though no trace of his print exists, the moon,
hills, and trees all reveal his glory in the garden.
Surveying his heart, unreliable landmarks slept
in shadows as he found himself alone. Doubled down
an angel from heaven attended him and gave him strength
and he pounded his fist against his chest
to ensure everyone spoke the grammar of his love—
his kingdom inaugurated with beads of blood
pouring forth from the power of prayer aglow.
Standing against the threat of the devil’s deception,
when he got up from prayer, he came to them
a map flashing open from his mouth, the way
tumbling forth as a single beam of light sped
toward the chasm where silence bears his name.