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Thursday, April 11, 2024


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It's "Przywara".


You're right! Thanks for the correction.

I think beauty can open for us a path to the Absolute - indeed, for me it's the most reliable giver of transcendent experiences, and interestingly no transcendent experience ever appears to be without a sense of its beauty (which is one reason why the now commonplace aesthetic disfigurement of the Mass is such a blasphemy).

The snare for the beauty-seeker is that if he is not careful he finds himself like the fool looking at the finger and not at what it is pointing to. If he has a subjectivist or relativist notion of beauty, as is widespread these days, that is what he will do unless he is honest enough to follow his experiences to their source - but that requires hard thinking, and as art is a great source of pleasure it's very easy to simply be trapped forever in a sensual snare. The 'aesthete' trains his sensibility but no matter how perceptive he becomes he hovers on the edge of the Absolute, and ultimately stops short of seeing it fully, then turns in on himself and praises *himself* for having such profound and sensitive feelings. So it seems like the beautiful in itself needs a correct disposition to be perceived accurately and that disposition might not be available without some degree of philosophical or theological reflection, at least outside a society in which certain spiritual values are so commonplace as to ground experience without question. Indeed, this realisation is one of the reasons I became a theist - and also why despite the arts being my primary interest in life, I find that I cannot explore them to their full without the aid of philosophy and (more recently) theology.

Hildebrand's essay 'Aestheticism and the True Disposition to Art' is excellent on the errors of the aesthete (in 'Beauty in the Light of the Redemption' - a very good and very short book, almost a pamphlet really. You would find the title essay of interest too I think).


I was thinking of you when I wrote the last three sentences of the final paragraph. Hence the pre-emptive concession. I have long held that there are five ways to the Absolute: philosophy, religion, mysticism, morality, and art. I don't write much about aesthetics because I haven't gone deep into it.

>>no transcendent experience ever appears to be without a sense of its beauty<< I agree! and with your parenthetical addition as well.

I also agree with all of the points you make in your excellent second paragraph. I would just add that philosophers, theologians, mystics, and moralists are also apt to fall into finger-focus folly. There are theologians who love their own theories more than they love that to which their theories point.

Philosophers have been known to lose themselves in ego-enhancing intellectual gamesmanship. Mystics are tempted to succumb to the lust for unusual experiences. Moralists often allow virtue-signalling to trump being virtuous.

I have read a lot of Dietrich von Hildebrand. An undergraduate teacher of mine, a red-diaper commie and atheist became an RC under the tutelage of Dietrich and his wife Alice. I have not read the book you mention; I will buy a copy.

Funny you should mention DvH. I am currently re-reading (for the third time) his *Jaws of Death: Gate of Heaven,* which I strongly recommend to you and to Vito C. I will post something about von H's views before too long re: faith and pragmatics.

Some philosophically-minded Catholic friends and I met today in London to discuss a chapter of DvH's monumental Aesthetics! Synchronicity?

I've just ordered 'Jaws of Death'. I find him a most congenial thinker.


I am happy you ordered *Jaws of Death.* Today I ordered his *Beauty in the Light of the Redemption.* I see he wrote a book on Scheler and his personality. But I saw it only in Spanish. Scheler was an RC but lapsed because of his 'sensuality' acc. to DvH. Or that's the story I heard.

This may interest you: https://merton.org/Itms/Seasonal/12/12-2Daggy.pdf

It is review of a podcast/tape by Alice von Hildebrand who was extremely critical of Thomas Merton.

Here is the podcast by Alice, but the audio I find too muddled for understanding: https://keepthefaith.libsyn.com/the-tragedy-of-thomas-merton.


There is also this: https://www.superflumina.org/merton_tragedy_2.html


I've found an essay by DvH on Scheler in English if you can get access:

Thanks for the links. I didn't find the audio of Alice's lecture too murky with headphones. It's worth a listen. The Daggy review is a travesty though. He completely misrepresents her lecture. AvH makes many valid points about Merton and she's charitable towards him - she thinks his final years were a tragedy because he fell away from his vocation and his faith. She repeatedly says how intelligent and talented he was (for example, he was 'extremely talented with languages'), how he was 'someone who had received great graces' and what honesty he displayed in 'The Seven Storey Mountain' (a book full of 'very deep remarks', 'some beautiful formulations', 'an amazing degree of self-knowledge' in which he shows 'a true longing for God'). There's no 'abusive' language. She does not say that psychoanalysis 'replaced the gospel in the United States' in the 30s, she says Freud (not psychoanalysis) had 'become a sort of secular Gospel'. She does not call Dr. Zilboorg 'Eelboorg'. She never says she doesn't know much about Merton. She doesn't say herself or Hildebrand reacted in 'horror' to his spiritual backsliding. I don't know why Daggy objects to her calling Daniel C. Walsh 'Danny' since she knew him personally and she doesn't say he was 'not a very good teacher', she says in fact that 'he was very, very good'!! She also doesn't 'dismiss him' but talks about what a 'very holy, very good sort of person' he was! She doesn't say 'Brahamachari or whatever his name was' she calls him by his name. There's almost not a single word of truth in that entire article!

From what I know of him and have read by him, which is admittedly not a huge portion of his oeuvre, I think what she says about Merton is fair, particularly about his later years.

Hector and Bill,

Thank you for the book and essay recommendations. I have ordered and look forward to reading Beauty in the Light of the Redemption and Jaws of Death: Gate of Heaven.


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