The Numinous In Luther

Is Catholicism the feeling of the numinous is to he found as a living factor of singular power. It is seen n Catholic forms of worship and sacramental symliolisin. in the less authentic forms assumed by legend and miracle, in the paradoxes an 1 mysteries of Cat holic dogma, in the Platonic and neo-Platonic strands woven into the fabric of its religious conWptions in the solemnity of churches and ceremonies, and especially in the intimate rapport of Catholic piety with Mysticism. For reasons already suggested, the mysterious is much less n evidence !n the. official systems of doctrine, whether Catholic or Protestant. Particularly since the time when the great mediaeval scholastics (the ' theologi moderni', so called) replaced Plato by Aristotle and welded the latter and his method on to the doctrines of the Church. Catholic orthodoxy has been subjected to a strong rationalizing influence, to which, however, actual living religious practice and feeling never conformed or corresponded. The battle here joined between so-called ' Platonism ' and ' Aristotelian-ism', and in general the long persistent protest against the scholastics, is itself in large part nothing but the struggle between the rational and the non-rational elements in the Christian religion. And the same antithesis is clearly operative as a factor in Luther's protest against Ar.stotle and the ' theologi moderni'.

At that time Plato himself was known (very imperfectly) chiefly through the interpretations and misinterpretations of him by Augustine, Plotinus, an 1 Dionysius the Areopagite. Yet it was a true feeling that led the contrasted attitudes of li mind to choose the names of Plato and Aristotle as their battle-cries. Plato did indeed make a powerful contribution towards the rationalization of his religion, for according to his philo^mlLy the deity had to become identical with the ' Idea of the Good and consequently something wholly rational and conceivable. But the most remarkable characteristic of riato's thought is just that he himself finds science and philosophy too narrow to comprise the whole of man's mental life. He has indeed properly no Philosophy of Religion; he grasps the object of religion by quite different means than those of conceptual thinking, viz. by the ' ideograms ' of myth, by ' enthusiasm' or inspiration, ' eros ' or love, ' mania' or the divine frenzy. He abandons the attempt to bring the object of religion into one system of knowledge with the objects of 'science' (kma-Truir)), i.e. reason, and it becomes something not less but greater thereby; while at the same time it is just this that allows the sheer non-rational aspect of it to be so vividly felt in Plato, and indeed vividly expressed as well as felt. No one has enunciated more definitively than this master-thinker that God transcends all reason, in the sense that lie is beyond the powers of our conceiving, not merely beyond our powers of comprehension.

' Therefore is it an impossible task both to discover the Creator and Father of this Whole Universe and to publish the discovery of him in words for all to understand.'1

Aristotle's thought is much more theological than Plato's, but his temper is far less religious; and at the same time his theology is absolutely rationalistic. And this contrast between the two is repeated among those who profess themselves ' Platonists' or ' Aristotelians'.

1 Timaeus, 28 C tov fitv ovv irotrtr^v Kai narepn roitie tov ttavros evpnv r< fpyov Km cvpovTa eif Trairac afrvvarov \tyftv. For the non-rational and supra-rational strain in Plato the reader is referred to von Wilamowitz-MOllendorff, Plato, i. 418: and especially to the splendid passage from Plato's Eeventh letter: 311 C: 'Concerning these things (sc. ultimate truth) there is not, nor will there be, any treatise written by me. For they do not at all admit of being expounded in writing, as do objects of other (scientific) studies. . . . Only after long, arduous conversance with the matter itself... a light suddenly breaks upon the soul as from a kindled

Another influence which orthodox doctrine underwent, from the earliest patristic period onwards, and which tended to weaken the non-rational clement in religion, came from the acceptance of the ancient theory of the divine arr'iOiia or immunity from paSiioS The God of Greek, and especially of Stoic, theology was constructed after the ideal of the 'Wise manwho achieves this "apathy' by the overcoming of hi? passions' and 'affections'; and the attempt was now made to assimilate this God to the ' living God' of Scripture. And, as intimated above, an effective if unconscious factor in this contest was the antithesis between the non rational ami the rational aspects of the deity. Laetantius, in his treatise J)c Ira Dei, illustrates particularly strikingly this fight against the God of the philosophers. He uses the same wholly rational terms, taken from man's emotional life, as do his opponents, but raises them to a higher power, so that he makes God, as it were, a gigantic mind, quick with an immense vitality. But whoever in this way contends for the 'living God' is at the same time contending unwittingly for the ni\ine in God, that which cannot be reduced to Idea world-order, moral order principle of Being, or purposive will. And many of Lactantius's own expressions point of themselves to something beyond. Thus, quoting Plato, he says: 'Quid omnino sit Deus, non esse quaerenduin: quia nec rnveniri possit nec enurrari.'1 He is in general fond of emphasizing the 'incomprehensibilitas' of God: 'Quem nec aestimare sensu valeat humana mens nec eloqui lingua morta-lis. Sublimior team ac maior est, quam ut possit aut cogita-tione homini' »ut sermone comprehendi.'2 He is fond of the expression ' maiestas Dei', and blames the philosophers for flume, and once ltorn keeps alive of itself. . . . Only to a few men is the exposition of these things of any profit, and they only need a slight indication ( f them for their discovery.'

1 Kd. Fiitsche, p. 121: We ought not to a k what Ood is altogether; for it car. neitbetf be discovered by any nor stated in words.'

* Ibid., p. 110: ' Bod) whom the. human mind has no power toappraise, nor tongue of mortals to utter. For he is too sublime and too great to be gra«ped in the thought or the speech of man.'

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