Thursday, November 5, 2009

On Anselm's Tension Between God's Transcendence and Immanence

Taking into consideration Nietzsche's "Madman" (c.f. The Gay Science Bk. III, 125), I advance Anselm as a charitable and glorious alternative:
Truly, Lord, this is the 'inaccessible light which you dwell' (1 Tim. 6:16) For surely there is no other being that can penetrate this light so that it might see you there. Indeed, the reason that I do not see it is that it is too much for me. And yet whatever I do see, I see through it, just as a weak eye sees what it sees by the light of the sun, although it cannot look at that light directly in the sun itself. My understanding cannot see that light. It is too dazzling; my understanding does not grasp it, and the eye of the soul cannot bear to look into it for long. It is dazzled by its splendor, vanquishes by its fullness, overwhelmed by its vastness, perplexed by its extent. O supreme and inaccessible light, O complete and blessed truth, how far you are from me while I am so close to you! How far you are from my sight while I am so present to yours! You are wholly present everywhere, and yet I do not see you. "In you I move and in you I have my being" (Acts 17:28), and yet I cannot come into your presence. You are within me and all around me, and yet I do not perceive you.

Still, O Lord, you are hidden from my soul in your light and happiness, and so it still lives in its darkness and misery. It looks around, but it does not see your beauty. It listens, but it does not hear your harmony. It smells, but it does not perceive your fragrance. It tastes, but it does not know your savor. It touches, but it does not sense your softness. For you have these qualities in you, O Lord God, in your own ineffable way; and you have given them in their own perceptible way to things you created. But the senses of my soul have been stiffened, dulled, and obstructed by the long-standing weakness of sin.
- St. Anselm, Proslogion, trans. Thomas Williams (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1995), Ch 16f.

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