Converging and Convincing Proof of God: The God of Promises and the Iron Cage of Modernity
Jesus is the key which unlocks the iron cage of modernity into the freedom and the glory of the Sons of God.
It was from the human experiences of persons, of communion with the other, of promise, of fidelity and of desire that fidelity not be limited by death that existentialist philosopher Gabriel Marcel, using the illative sense, apprehended, even if only through philosophical hope, that there must be a transcendent reality behind these things: a personal communion with an Other, an Other that is faithful beyond death.
As part of this escape from the "iron cage," Marcel believed that the "ontological weight" behind certain words--such as person, promise, fidelity, love, hope--had to be recovered. Such words had become flat--like an airless ball--and had lost their metaphysical bounce. They had to be filled with the air re-inflated with the things of the spirit.
For Marcel, modern man had gotten too comfortable in his "iron cage." He seemed resigned to his prisoner status, and refused to realize that he was in a "false position," that he entertained a view of the world that was not entirely real, and ultimately unsatisfactory because it did not answer the fundamental human questions.
To escape from his predicament, man, in Marcel's view, had to recapture the metaphysical mind that the Enlightenment-era thinkers had suppressed. The current state of affairs simply would not do.
Human thought had to break through the shackles of matter to the truth beyond but unseen. "A mind is metaphysical insofar as its position within reality appears to it essentially unacceptable," Marcel wrote.
Marcel was like the prisoner Edmond Dantès in Alexandre Dumas's story Count of Monte Cristo, unjustly imprisoned in the Château d'If, and who for fourteen years methodically worked on his escape knowing that freedom existed, not "in here," but "out there."
Perhaps of all terms flattened by the Enlightenment philosophers, the term person was the most significant. The word person had become flaccid and lost its metaphysical weight and mystery. This was largely through a shift in the understanding of what it was to be a person. The concept of a person had changed from an ontological concept (something that had to do with being) to a functional concept (something that had to do with having or doing).
This change, and therefore de-mystification of the concept of personhood, appears traceable to the philosopher John Locke, who famously defined the person (the "self") as "a conscious thinking thing . . . which is sensible, or conscious of pleasure and pain, capable of happiness or misery, and so is concerned for itself, as far as that consciousness extends."
All of a sudden, thanks to Locke, a human person was seen only as someone who could think, feel, experience pleasure, and be able consciously to guide itself towards happiness and avoid misery. Having these faculties or functions was what defined the person. Man was no longer a person because of who he is (being), but because of what he had or what he could do (having/doing).
This sort of functional concept lost the full concept of personhood by narrowing it in Marcel's view. It was like poking a hole in a balloon: what was left over was hardly like what it was before it was ruined. And Marcel aimed to regain the fullness of the concept of person through a process he called recollection or recuperative thinking (recueillement). By such process he hoped to regain the mystery that man, as person, is.
In his philosophy, Marcel distinguished between primary and secondary reflection. The primary level of reflection involved our distancing ourselves from the objects of our experience. There is the "I" and there is the "other," the subject and the object. The "I" and the "other" are separated, and the "other" analyzed by the "I" as if it were something entirely separate. While there was some value to this way of thinking, Marcel insisted that the primary reflection cut out a significant portion of reality, one which had to be recovered.
The portion of reality that the primary reflection cut out was that the "I" and the "other" did not live separate lives, abstracted one from the other. Perhaps even more important than the "I" and the "other" of the first reflection--especially where two persons were involved--was the relationship or communion between the "I" and the "other." This was the secondary reflection that had been lost and had to be regained.
While his fellow existentialist Sartre--who famously said that "hell is other people"--entirely overlooked this reality fell into a sort of philosophical solipsism (and also rejected God), it this relationship between persons that was central to the thought of Marcel. For Marcel, ...
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