Grad School Diary: Fall '15 in Summary


School is over and other than that I messed up my final exams and paper, the semester was fantastic. I needed this class for its perspective on life. God always makes an interesting topic and the mystic's point of view on the Divine is extremely thought-provoking. I used to think that the Supreme Being is an entity we love for what she can do for us. Hence my love for God blossoms when things seem good and my disbelieve is strong when things appear awful. It never crossed my mind that God must be loved for herself; that God is more than the monster we create to punish others. That to love God is to be doing myself a favor. Mysticism allows an individual approach to God and suggests there is a good reason that we do not know what we do not know. The mystic believes that God is the answer to that unquenchable thirst that drives us to want more whiles nothing we acquire is ever enough. It is only God that can satiate us; but in a way that is never tiring. Neat? The mystic believes in acquiring the Good in life; they believe in heaven and hell here on earth. And there seems to be a difference between religion and believing in God; that God is not religion; and God needs no religion. I say this because the contact between God and human, according to the mystic, is the soul. Hence God communicates directly with us.

This semester the discussion, through the lens of purgatory, introduced the class to Augustine's three concept of knowing—— the corporeal, the imaginative/spiritual, and the intellect. In relations to Dante's Divine Comedy, hell is corporeal, purgatory is spiritual, and paradise is the intellect. But the notion that the corporeal must perish for the good to be, seems different. The corporeal here is  presented also as good. So that there is good even in hell. The medieval concept is that we are made to love. As Virgil says to the pilgrim:

     Neither Creator nor creature ever, " he began,
"son, has been without love, whether natural or of the mind, and this you know.
     Natural love is always unerring, but the other
can err with an evil object or with too much or too
little vigor.
      As long as it is directed to the first Good and
moderates its love of lesser goods, it cannot be a
cause of evil pleasure,
     but when it turns aside to evil, or when with
more eagerness or less than is right it runs after
some good, it employs his creature against the
Creator.
     Hence you can comprehend that love must be
the seed in you of every virtue and of every action
that deserves punishment. (Purg. 17.91-105)

Based on this, the suggestion is that free will allows that we choose what to love. But that which is our true desire is the "first Good," which is God. However, because we are blind to the truth, which I suppose is a veil put in place by  free will, we are often drawn to love erroneously the perishable. This is not the state of the rest of nature; the will of nature is the same as that of the "first Good." So we love in error by loving perversely, deficiently, or excessively the lesser good and this is sin. This concept is very interesting. Even if you do not believe in the Devine Being, the theory that the nature of our soul is to desire that which is good and is made to love is a most optimistic concept suggesting that all that there is is love. Also the mystic believes that the world is God and all that is in it is good and made of love; love is God and one cannot be outside God. So what of evil? Well there are some interesting theories on the question, but I am very confused on what it all means and I hope to learn more by writing my thesis on the subject. It seems that, that which draw us to love is the same that draw us to evil:

     The mind, created quick to love, can move
toward everything that is pleasing, as soon as it is
wakened into act by pleasure.
    Your power of apprehension takes from some
real thing an intention and unfolds it within you,
and if, having turned, the mind bends toward it,
that bending is love, that is nature which by
pleasure is first bound in you.
     Then, as fire moves upward because of its form,
which is born to rise to where it may last longer in
its matter,
     so the captured mind enters into desire, which is
a spiritual motion, and it never rests until the
beloved thing causes it to rejoice. (Purg. 18.19-33)

It seems to me that this is a fascinating lens to frame more questions about life and what God is. If you are intrigued, my professor, Nicola Masciandaro, has a ton on his blog, The Whim.

-
Jane

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