Monthly Archives: November 2020

Two pinnacle questions – Husserl and Edith Stein

There are two pinnacle questions that drove me to study both Edmund Husserl, the father of modern day phenomenology, and his student Edith Stein. It is analogous to walking around a piece of art in amazement, trying to understand what is its essence, or perhaps listening in awe to a pianist elevate and unveil an unseen but very beautiful and very real substance that exists above and beyond us. 

Edmund Husserl developed a model of thought that purposefully, deliberately excluded facts. He loved science but found science’s claim to be a pathway to truth as absurd and circular in its reasoning. His model is, in his mind, the science of all sciences and one without which natural science can never achieve its stated goal. Husserl’s model is one of pure consciousness and apriori reasoning. For Husserl, reason directs science, not the other way around. That was the first of my pinnacle questions. Why?

His student Edith Stein, a Jewish atheist, assisted him in the organization of his work. She was transfixed on Husserl’s work. One day she came across the book St. Teresa of Avila’s Autobiography, who was the founder of the Discalced Carmelite Order. There is reason to believe that Edith read it overnight in one sitting. When she finished the book, she closed it and said, “This is truth.” That was my second pinnacle question. Why?

Why did two well-recognized philosophers believe that truth could be found through pure essence, pure consciousness and reason, such that it could even direct the natural sciences, and why did one of them, Edith Stein, close St. Teresa’s book and posit, “This is truth”?

These are my two questions, the answers to which I seek. Stein later would give me a clue. There is something, she said, that consistently is there, unchanging, in the flow of our life, something higher and toward which we move in space in time, something toward which each artist, each person, strives. Ultimately, she would fulfill her phenomenological mission. She would discover that this something toward which we move, toward which we strive, that we seek to unveil, is a Trinity of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.

Music and My Life Philosophy

Wanting to love music but not knowing how has been a lifelong struggle. Loving classical music seems daunting if one is not skilled or knowledgable about the subject. Yet, I do love it.

My regret always was that I felt I could go no further than my superficial emotions and sensory perceptions. I liked a particular piece because “it made me feel happy.” Of course, there is nothing wrong with liking music that makes one feel happy; however, I was searching for a much deeper and substantive connection. Perhaps I could engulf myself in the formal study of classical music? Alas, too daunting a task. 

Am I limited, however, to what I “know” about music? 

I have discovered a gateway to the world of substantive, essential love for music, including modern as well as classical genres. That gateway is not the one leading to formal academic knowledge but one journeying through my personal life philosophy. Looking at music across the panorama of my life project’s own syntax, order, and essence led me to the music matched for my soul. Rather, I would say that the actualization of my life philosophy was a call in the wilderness, a call heard by the music searching for me. Music came to find me, to rescue me, while I myself searched in vain through the dark forest for a music to love. Rather than conquering music, music conquered me! Music conquered me through the world of philosophy which itself seeks truth, beauty, and goodness through mathematical, ordered syntax. No wonder Plato’s school admitted none who did not know geometry. Philosophy and mathematics are inextricably linked, and the manifestation of that relationship is music. Music is the spiritual language emanating from philosophy and mathematical order. I love music and know that music loves me not because I “know” music but because I know myself.

Music conquers me. I do not conquer music. The moment I stopped trying to find music to love and simply allowed myself to be found by music that loves me, I found the “syntax” between myself and music.

What I have discovered is that more important than my love of music is my discovery that music loves me. I may not always know why I love a particular piece, but I always know when a piece loves me. That is the gift my life philosophy bequeathed to me – the gift of a mysterious but substantive relationship with music.

Composers and performing artists, I think, have no idea the extent to which they create these divine relationships for other people. They are guided by the hand of God as intercessory co-inspirateurs for the rest of us, even if they know not whom they inspire or how they connect. They compose and perform, while God connects their work with whom and through whom he designs.

The Monarchy as the social order of creation’s liturgy

The Monarchy as the social order of creation’s liturgy

The essence of the Monarchy is the divine order. Its telos is the structuring of human society in accord with the liturgy of the created universe. The cosmos themselves are part of the divine liturgical expression. Within this expression, the movement of the heavens, the earthly eloquence of the mountains, rivers, meadows and lakes, alongside the natural beauty of the wildlife inhabiting it, form one panorama, maintain one rhythm and melody, that is synchronized through the divine liturgy of the Mass. The Mass is the apex of the telos that draws upward all of creation’s liturgical affinities.

“1 In the beginning God created a the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit b of God was moving over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. 6 And God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.”

And so on through each day whereby the order, rhythm, and mathematical beauty of creation was informed and actualized.

Edith Stein emphasizes in The Hidden Life that Jesus reconstituted fallen creation to once again act in accord with its divine telos through the Mass as its crowning glory.  The Mass is the form and content that the created order seeks to actualize. Stein’s integration of her philosophy with her spirituality might be our own in “seeking first the Kingdom” across the threshold of the “knowledge horizon” from the natural philosophical to the supernatural spiritual. Monarchy is the visible manifestation of that transcendence from time and space to eternity.

“Blessing and distributing bread and wine were part of the Passover rite. But here both receive an entirely new meaning. This is where the life of the church begins. Only at Pentecost will it appear publicly as a Spirit-filled and visible community. But here at the Passover meal the seeds of the vineyard are planted that make the outpouring of the Spirit possible.”

“The wondrous form of the tent of meeting, and later, of Solomon’s temple, erected as it was according to divine specifications, was considered an image of the entire creation, assembled in worship and service around its Lord.”

“In place of Solomon’s temple, Christ has built a temple of living stones, the communion of saints.”

“…and finally also the inhabitants of heaven, the angels and the saints. Not only in representations giving them human form and made by human hands are they to participate in the great Eucharist of creation, but they are to be involved as personal beings—or better, we are to unite ourselves through our liturgy to their eternal praise of God.”

Stein, Edith. The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Text (The Collected Works of Edith Stein Book 4). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.