Blogging my thoughts further: “Seeing in the Light of God”
A citation that I remembered today came from Theodor W. Adorno. It relates to being completely oblivious to thought and consciousness when the physicist deals with space-time. It is just like Plato, whose form of forms was invisible, because it was intellect. To translate Adorno: “Where science is dogmatically made into objectivity, [it is as if] it had not gone completely through a subject.” Michael Polanyi refers to this failure of science as the “cult of objectivity.” In a similar way, Leibnitz had to remind John Locke, who opposed innate ideas, “Nothing that is in the intellect was not first in the senses, except the intellect itself.” What has to be remembered is that in the very recent discovery of inflation and the ripples marking the gravity waves, is the concomitant expansion of thought or intellect, knowledge.
On the Sunday before last, the subject entailed Jesus healing the beggar, the man born blind, found in the Gospel of John, chapter 9. Calling Christ the light of the World reminds very much of the Face of God shining upon us, the invisible sun of intellect, Plato’s form of forms, the source of goodness, truth, and beauty. Another way to speak about it comes from Psalm 36:9: “For with you is the fountain of life and in your light we see light.” The light in which we see light, Plato would call the intellect and others might call it consciousness. For the Hebrew tradition it would also have to include faith, trust, and compassion. Because God became flesh in Jesus Christ, because God became a human being in Jesus Christ, he is the “Son of Man” and the Son of God. That makes it tempting to change “Son” to Plato’s “Sun” and identify Jesus as the source of goodness, truth, and beauty in the Greek Philosophical tradition and the shining Face of God, bringing favor and blessing and growth in the Hebrew tradition.
The Preacher that Sunday, Monique Ortiz, made the point that Jesus was almost stoned and then thrown out of the temple. It is in that condition that he sees the man blind from birth, an invisible beggar, who because he was always there, no one could see, until Jesus saw him there in the light of healing and compassion.
So the light in which we see light is not merely reason the way Immanuel Kant would have it. His ideal was the fully rational person. The affect also has to be involved, thus in my treatment of Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals in Kant and Luther in my website, you will see that I added “the fully mature person” as well. Graphically I illustrated Kant’s conception with a sphere. (The ascent up to the top axis is into Spirit and Freedom, the descent into the depths below is into necessity and nature.)
So in the light in which we see light, we are not only able to distinguish goodness, truth, and beauty, but those nouns become verbs. From Jesus the Truth, love and compassion flow out of him for this beggar representing all of humanity that is blind from birth and healing him so that he becomes a seer, like the prophets of old, and I believe that he also received physical sight as well. But as the chapter progresses his vision improves. He sees Jesus first as a good man, then as a prophet, then as the Son of Man, and finally as the Messiah of God.
This reminds me of the light of the eyes article Your Eye is the Lamp of your Body that I posted and to which my son, Mark responded. Like Kantian knowledge our sight is actively healing the world with trust, love, and compassion, affective components that have to fulfill the intellect, in the way Jesus proclaimed it.
The way the light of Jesus’ compassion heals the blind beggar, the man blind from birth, that creative love and compassion also makes us come into existence. The beggar standing there invisible to people must have felt like he didn’t exist. We sometimes feel as if we did not exist. The compassionate eyes of Jesus see us into existence, because we are contemplating the light of life, thought, and love, nouns that become verbs in the continuous creation of God.
We used to speak of active listening. Those who have ears to hear let them hear and faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17) and morning by morning God awakens my ear so I hear like an apprentice (Isaiah 50:4b). But all the senses have to become active rather than passive: sight and touch as well. Thomas Aquinas had all the senses come together internally into the common sense, an invisible hand, by which intellectual things could be grasped. Origen believed that spiritual senses intensified into higher sensations, spiritual sensations, to which the physical senses could not hold a candle.
Spiritual seeing is difficult to describe. A fellow seminarian, Dave Zimmer, saw a drunken man walking, no stumbling down the sidewalk, clinging and holding on from one parking meter to the next so that he would not fall down. David said, “See that fellow? He has never learned to walk.” Later I also thought, as an alcoholic, he has also not been able to give up the bottle, the way every baby has to learn to do. This is the kind of seeing that represents the spiritual sense of sight, but also filled with the compassion that brings healing.
We see with our minds – with our intellect and we see with our hearts – with compassion. That Sunday Monique Ortiz talked of sing the homeless in the streets of San Francisco with the eyes of the soul.
At the end of chapter 9, Jesus closes by reproaching the religious authorities in a Socratic way. Because you say that you can see, even though you are blind, your guilt remains with you. If they had confessed that they too were blind from birth and they too needed eyes that see and ears that hear and a heart full of compassion (participating in the light in which we see light and walking by the Light of the World and continuing the creation with Jesus) then they would have no sin. But because they said that they could see, their sin remained.
When a person said that they knew something, Socrates would begin questioning him. After some probing questions a person would soon come to the limits of their knowledge and become confronted with the great unknown. (The more we know the more we know we don’t know. The less we know the more we think we know.) When so confronted and so unwilling to face their ignorance, some left Socrates in a huff quite offended, while Socrates’ disciples laughed at the person’s ignorance. If the person confessed his ignorance, Socrates would put his arm around him and say, “Let’s try to learn more together. The unexamined life is not worth living.”
So because the religious authorities said that they could see, they were blind. Had they confessed their ignorance, that is, their lack of compassion, confessed that they could not see, then the Light of the World would have dawned within them.
 “Wo Wissenschaft dogmatisch zu einer Objektivität gemacht wird, die nicht durch das Subjekt hindurch gegangen sein soll…” Theodor W. Adorno, Aufsätze zur Gesellschaftstheorie und Methodologie, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1970), p. 190.
 William F. Lawhead, The Voyage of Discovery, (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Thomson Learning, 2002), p. 259.