Education, revelation and wisdom
A “must-quote” here in connection with current investigations. Leo Strauss has been discussing the challenge of the literary expression of truth in “a society which is not liberal,” such as we find in many countries today and in the past. He writes about “exoteric” writing–attractive and accessible to the reading public on the outside, but containing truths that have to be dug out through hard thinking or reading between the lines:
The works of the great writers of the past are very beautiful even from without. And yet their visible beauty is sheer ugliness, compared with the beauty of those hidden treasures which disclose themselves only after very long, never easy, but always pleasant work. This always difficult but always pleasant work is, I believe, what the philosophers had in mind when they recommended education. Education, they felt, is the only answer to the always pressing question, to the political question par excellence, of how to reconcile order which is not oppression with freedom that is not license. [Leo Strauss, Persecution and the Art of Writing (Free Press, 1952, 1980; University of Chicago Press, 1988), 37.]
By philosophers he means Plato and Aristotle, primarily. The education he mentioned produces discernment, prudence, and wisdom, and presumes a level of intellectual and moral maturity as evidence of its effectiveness. That reminds me that Jesus did say, “Be perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) Perfect: “fully made or formed”, “mature”, “grown-up”, but like God. Jesus was teaching–this is the Sermon on the Mount, not just some offhand comments. But be like God? Who were his hearers? Beyond his disciples and a nameless crowd at the time, or intervening generations of people, most certainly you and I are his hearers today. We are to be like God in some specific ways. But he pronounced two key things, one at the start, one at the end: do what you know to do and profess to believe in order to show that God’s truth really lives in you (Matt. 7:26), and be sure you know you get nothing unless you see yourself honestly as spiritually impoverished, and needing clean intention, and so forth in the “Beatitudes” (Matt. 5:3, 8). Jesus customarily spoke in ways that required long, hard thinking and personal honesty in order to know personal liberation. Socrates probably would approve.
What about that “order which is not oppression”? I hasten to wrap up the present thought by quoting James Schall on the Trinity:
The trinitarian life of God is reflected in what is not God on the vastest of scales, the scales both of cosmos and of history. But the paradigm of the order that we encounter in the world is already found in the Trinity of Persons and their inner relation to one another. We are to imitate the divine order in all ways that it can be imitated–in making, in living, in thinking, in loving. But ultimately the point of contact is where Gift meets gift, where what proceeds out of the inner life of the Godhead meets the inner life of the finite persons who have, in the end, nothing higher to do than to accept a gift, the gift of revelation with its description of the inner life of the Godhead, that which we call the Trinity of Persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. [James V. Schall, S.J., The Order of Things, Ignatius Press, 2007].
I understand the Trinity much better from having read Schall’s chapter “The Order within the Godhead” and his book. Cannot recommend it highly enough. Blessings on you.