Cartesian paranoia and the real quest for truth

Matt Segall gave his readers the following in his latest blog post:
“The Cartesian ego’s paranoid search for absolute certainty and formulaic Truth neglects the ambiguity of our world-in-process. The problem for the metaphysician, it seems to me, is not that Truth is ‘merely’ a fiction–that the real world is forever beyond our grasp–but that the world’s meaning is immense, immeasurable. There is too much meaning! It is for this reason that metaphysics has so often failed the polyphonic psyche and short-circuited its soul-making.” []

I wish we Christians would recover the awareness of ‘too much meaning’ at the heart of our fides quaerens intellectum (‘faith seeking understanding’). True theological apophaticism is premised by the dialectic between excessive meaning in God and the poverty of our senses, as Origen said, and among the ‘senses’ he included the intellect, the faculty by which the created mind ‘tastes’ and ‘sees’ the truth. We never gain more than a hint of its flavor, a glimpse of its beauty, but if we never cease in the quest (and live faith as hope), the glimpses and hints will grow.

I feel that a sort of ‘Cartesian paranoia’ pervades too much our doctrinaire Christianity, with the result that we sink into the illusion of having all the meaning we need, while meaning slowly leaks out of our narrowed minds.

About ashramdiary

Thomas Matus, who blogs this Ashram Diary, was born 1940 in Hollywood, California. Academics: A.B. in music from Occidental College (Los Angeles); S.T.L. in ecumenical theology from Athenaeum Anselmianum (Rome, Italy); Ph.D. in comparative mysticism from Fordham University (New York). Initiated into Kriya Yoga (by direct disciples of Paramahansa Yogananda) in 1958. Became a Catholic in 1960 and entered New Camaldoli Hermitage (Big Sur, California) as a novice monk in 1962. Lived for more than 30 years at the Monastery of Camaldoli in Italy. Traveled to India some 20 times; made frequent retreats at Saccidananda Ashram (Shantivanam) in southern India. Was in Brazil, off and on, from 1999 to 2006. Now back in California, he lives at the Hermitage in Big Sur and Incarnation Monastery in Berkeley, California. See:
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1 Response to Cartesian paranoia and the real quest for truth

  1. Jeff White says:

    Fr. Thomas,
    I really like what you are saying here. At some point we have to be ready to experience truth from the inside rather than classify it from the outside. When we are ‘inside’ we realize that this well of truth is inexhaustible while the Cartesian-minded folks are content with trying to fill up leaky canteens. The dialectic between the rational and the intuitive is something we folks in the West forgot how to do a long time ago. Hopefully the work of folks like you, Fr. Bruno, and others will help to remedy that.

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