Thursday, December 16, 2021

Power, Loveliness, or Grandeur. Which will it be?

There are three aspects of nature that command man’s attention: power, loveliness, grandeur. Power he exploits, loveliness he enjoys, grandeur fills him with awe. It is according to how deeply man is drawn to one of these aspects that his particular way of knowledge is developed. Western knowledge of the last four centuries may be characterized by the famous principle of Bacon: Knowledge is power. The goal of that knowledge is neither to portray the beauty nor to convey the grandeur of the world, but to exploit its resources. Man, proud to be Homo faber, regards the world as a source of satisfaction of his needs. He is willing to define his essence as “a seeker after the greatest degree of comfort for the least necessary expenditure of energy.” His hero is the technician rather than the artist, the philosopher, or the prophet. Out of such a system of knowledge it is hard to find a way to the reality of God. Nature as power is a world that does not point beyond itself. It is when nature is sensed as mystery and grandeur that it calls upon us to look beyond it. Similarly, when nature is sensed as beauty, we become infatuated by her grace and look to her for answers to problems she is incapable of giving. It is when nature is sensed as mystery and grandeur that we discover that nature herself is the problem.

Significantly, the theme of biblical poetry is not the charm or beauty of nature; it is the sublime aspect of nature which is constantly referred to.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 355–56 (emphasis original)

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