My Worldly Commitment: Western Civilization
I am an Aristotelian-Thomist — that is to say, my world view is largely framed by an all-encompassing faith and optimism in human reason as created in the image and likeness of God… from which our dignity flows. We are, in the sense of “likeness,” little λόγοι of Λόγος itself. Each of us is also, in the sense of an “image”, an εικών — an “icon” that points to our Creator.
I make no apologies for this: in the very core of my being I know that human beings can know the things of this material world, but they are also capable of employing that knowledge to reason to higher immaterial verities. We can know things about the material world because it is, with no doubt, ordered.
Moreover, stated in humility — not pride, I firmly and deeply believe western civilization is a superior expression of what it means to be human. That is, I consider myself belonging to that great project started by the Ancient Greeks, that is, western civilization. And for this as well, I make no apologies. All of us ought to be deeply engaged in the great conversation of western civilization.
Plato may be criticized on many things. But, he stands out among all others for, more than any other writer, Plato strives to lead his readers out of themselves… out of our own caves (if you understand the allusion). The greatest gift he bequeathed to humanity was a sense of transcendence — way beyond what the Ancient Greek materialists could offer. Plato wants us to have an “ah-ha!” moment… a tiny glimpse of heaven. If that split-second glimpse could last forever — if you could see the “what” of everything — you’d understand why God never gets bored. Boredom is a problem for modern man who pursues entertainment more than soul-growth. Plato wrote his dialogs to help us with the real education of our souls, that is, with our formation. However, the word “education” means much, much more than being in-form-ed. Education means, literally, a “leading out.” Out of what? Our caves. Toward what?
Toward the true, the good, and the beautiful: “Truth, beauty, and goodness have their being together, by truth we are put in touch with reality which we find is good for us and beautiful to behold. In our knowing, loving, and delighting the gift of reality appears to us as something infinitely and in-exhaustively valuable and fascinating.” (Thomas Dubay)
The Greek word for “formation” in the sense of “education” is μόρφωση. The Ukrainian word for “formation” is виховання: to come out of hiding, out of yourself, out of Plato’s allegorical cave into the blinding light of the knowledge of reality… and the Good: the Sun! The Greek word, ἔκστασις, is similar for it consists of ekstasis — to stand outside or out of, to be out-standing. To experience ecstasy is to lose oneself or be “standing outside oneself,” “rapture,” “astonishment”… even “insanity”. To be beyond time and space in the presence of the Eternal. The word “eternal” does not mean “a very, very, very long time.” Time has nothing to do with a proper understanding of this word — it is an atemporal term. “Eternal” means “unchanging.” The Ukrainian word for “education” is освіта, whose root means “light”: an educated person is an “enlightened” one.
Little wonder, then, that the Seraphim (singular: seraph — the “one who burns” from the Hebrew שָׂרָף) are in a constant state of literal, mind-blowing, all-consuming, burning ecstasy — continuously sing praises to God of “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory”. In the celestial hierarchy, the angelic choir of Seraphim are “closest” to God and are, therefore, “burning” in the presence of Love Itself. Heaven is far hotter than Hell: just ask Dante about Κωκυτός.
This also relates to knowing in the Old Testament biblical sense, in the way that Adam “knew” Eve or Moses knew his wife Zipporah. Lovers are in ecstasy. “To know” in the biblical sense means much more than the euphemism expressing the sexual act — for even animals have sex, but humans love. Think of the verb “to conceive” or the noun “conception”. A “concept” is a universal — that by which we know things. Concepts are not mere images, the latter which even many brutes have. As rational animals, we can “conceive” of ideas in a process of ideogenesis.
This is what Aristotle had in mind in the very first sentence of the very first book of the Metaphysics: πάντες ἄνθρωποι τοῦ εἰδέναι ὀρέγονται [ορέγομαι] φύσει (“All men by nature desire to know”). In Greek, the word for “desire” is may otherwise be rendered as “craving” or “yearning” or “coveting”… or even “lusting”. To love means to desire and act for the good of the other, while the opposite of love is not “hate”… but “indifference.” Note what is stated in Genesis 2:24: “… a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh”… implying integrity (wholeness), consonance (proportionality and complementarity), and clarity (radiance): a thing of beauty.
As a point of interest and in contrast to the above, the Russian word for “upbringing,” воспитание, has as its root пит[ь] — “to drink,” but is also the root for the word пища or “food”. That is, upbringing in Russian centers not on the greater reality outside one’s self but on the individual who acquires; not what is greater but that which can be consumed. In the context of what psychological impact language has on one’s soul, Russians are consumers because they strive to possess, to take, to surround themselves with “the taken”… even to “take” knowledge. However, one does not possess the truth — the truth ought to be permitted to possess the knower. Indeed, if one understands Aristotle’s epistemology (reflection upon how we know), one understands the knower becomes formally the thing known. The Russian word for “education,” образование, has as its root образ — “form” or “picture” or “image”. That is, there is no deeper indication of conceptualization or enlightenment — merely “imaging” with a distant echo of formation.