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How is Holy Wisdom like a matrix of support for material Creation?
I picture Holy Wisdom as that form beyond material form, which consists of all the principles, or laws, to which Creation is subject. Derivative-from, and not wholly encompassing God, Holy Wisdom can be personified as a woman, or feminine principle in relationship to the ‘masculine’ or activating principle of God as Word , or as a potentiality-for-form into which God might speak the Word that becomes form. (Please note that it would be very misleading to go so far as to call Holy Wisdom a goddess! Those who do so are using the sense of personification in something of a political way, to justify other uses they want to make of the concept of ‘feminine’. We just have no real ‘hooks’ for something that is so far beyond us, and can only glance at this idea through metaphor.)
The laws and principles we are able to know from within Creation would, then, correspond to Holy Wisdom and be undergirded by her, as resonating with a higher Truth. As our understanding of them grows (as in quantum physics), we may feel we’ve ‘outgrown’ what was known, or even feel afraid we are entering a realm of thought that undermines the very reality in which we live. But we are climbing upward, outward on this invisible-but-substantial scaffolding, and need not fear any part of Truth will violate another (hard as it may be for our own minds to reconcile them perfectly).
For she is an inexhaustible treasure to men,
and those who acquire it win God’s friendship,
commended as they are by the benefits of her teaching.”
“For within her is a spirit intelligent, holy,
unique, manifold, subtle,
active, incisive, unsullied,
lucid, invulnerable, benevolent,
sharp, irresistible, beneficent,
loving to man, steadfast, dependable,
unperturbed, almighty, all-surveying,
penetrating all intelligent, pure
and most subtle spirits
for Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion;
she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things. (Wis 7:22-24)
How is the physical brain like the matrix of Holy Wisdom?
The brain develops, as material form, even before birth. As neural connections are made and enriched, the natural brain becomes the supporting matrix for the taking-in of Creation and for the supra-natural sense of Self. Though a brain-damaged person continues to have an eternal soul, he may not have, in his natural life, a fully realized, fully accurate, or fully coherent sense of Self, or of the world. This changes nothing about his personhood, or the dignity due to him as a human being. (In fact, it should really make you stop and think about the reality that, as you stand even before a person, even someone who seems ‘barely there’, you face an amazing, eternal creature whose enormous being is given place to be realized within God – every bit as real as you!)
The brain is, like Holy Wisdom, a potentiality into which Word is spoken. Every Created form is word, in this sense, as ideas from the mind of God have been spoken into being as forms. Fr. Giussani says that the ‘I’ begins with this encounter with reality. By Word, the brain is organized to support all-that-can-be-known of the ‘I’, of Creation, and of God. Verbal structures extend the capacity of the person to receive form, as Holy Wisdom wove a capacity within the being of God for form. The word ‘matrix’ is also translated, ‘womb’. Like a womb, the physical brain is the locus in time for the development of a being who is meant to lodge outside that place when he comes into greater fullness of life. He is fed, here, by encounter with everything in the world, through direct experience and through words.
Where is the soul if it is not resident in, or dependent on, or the same thing as the brain, or ‘consciousness’?
The soul is held in God, from its beginning and without end. The brain could not possibly contain, or explain it. There is correspondence, however, between Reality and the brain’s hunger to know. The more fully that correspondence develops, or activates the natural, physical brain, the more fully does the whole reality of the person’s being enter his possession. Or, you might say, the more fully he enters the territory of his own being to possess and use the powers of the soul. The soul never ceases to be wholly held in the being of God, but is more and more fully realized in the being of the person himself.
Note…Here are some of my thoughts on trying to explain the soul away with brain science.
How can the hemispheres of the brain serve as metaphors for Christ’s Lordship?
The brain’s right hemisphere processes information in an imagistic way that seems to be ‘darker’ or more dreamlike and less organized that the left, or verbal, hemisphere. In this sense, the brain seems a good picture for the emergence into darkness of the Light that is Christ, the Word. C. S. Lewis refers to pagan times and worship as ‘numinous’ and as the time of man’s groping toward the light. Through natural law, investigation of the created world, ancient stories, philosophy and growing self-awareness, pagan man was prepared to some degree for the coming of Christ in the fullness of time.
A baby’s brain does a lot of growing before he achieves mastery of words. His right hemisphere is filled with experiential and imagistic data, in what we call the ‘poetic’ phase of his development. Into that rich ground, the words and word structures (grammar) of the left brain put down roots and are nourished. Just as Christianity is indebted to the forms of worship and philosophies which preceded it (for insights and redemptive analogies, for discovering the limitations of man’s best attempts to reach God, and for keeping alive the sense of the sacred among fallen man) – particularly to the Hebrews who received and obeyed God’s verbalized Law – the left brain’s verbal prowess owes much to the pre-verbal development of the brain. Just as the verbal organization of the brain enables a vastly greater degree of correspondence to reality, Christ, the Word of Truth, came to raise man to a vastly greater degree of freedom.
The hemispheres are linked through the corpus collosum, which can be seen as the mind’s ‘seat of judgment’. The most balanced judgment must be informed by both emotional, imagistic, metaphorical and analytical, verbal, abstract logical information (right/left, or heart/head integration). In this way, the brain is an image of Christ as the just Judge, in whom justice is tempered with mercy.
If man invented language, or evolved the power of words, how can words help him know God?
We read ‘natural’ explanations for man’s capacity for language, sometimes written by people who want to explain it without reference to God. We might learn a lot about the neural organization of language, or which structures in the brain store verbal material, but none of that explains away the correspondence between man and God on this point.
I communicate myself in words. I store and organize my experience and ideas in words. Pure experience can be seen as ‘natural’ – even animals have interactions with the environment, and learned responsiveness to stimuli. Through the senses, information is collected and, to some degree, stored. But man has a supra-natural capacity to en-word his encounters with Reality (and God is also real, and may encountered!) and then to ‘explore’ the world in the mental microcosm within himself.
Since mathematics is also a kind of language spoken by God, it is to the point to think about how amazing it is that man could so far develop in this language that he can control, predict, and manipulate the created world using math as a tool. Only if he understand himself as made in the image of a God who creates by and who is WORD will his own power of words tell man anything about God.
What does memory have to do with the sense of self?
Oliver Sacks, in Musicophilia and others of his books, describes patients who suffer from various brain disorders. Among the saddest are those whose memory is incapable of providing them enough coherence over time to perceive themselves as a person, recognizable as ‘me,’ or as ‘self’. They lose the story of their own lives and so no moment can be invested with a history of meaning.
We’ve all had the experience of finding ourselves in a room, wondering why it is we went there. This brief amnesia quickly gives way as we walk back through the ‘story’ of small events that led up to a decision to go there for some purpose. How awful would it be to feel at every moment, “What am I doing here?” and have no narrative thread to lead us out of the maze!
The Bible speaks of a double minded man as one who is unstable in all he does. (James 1:8) Because he is disintegrated, his memory doesn’t keep hold of ‘self’ as he moves forward in time. Because his memory is weak, he dis-integrates and fractures into ‘pieces of self’. A person who looks in the mirror and, turning away, forgets what he has seen, is later in the book of St. James, compared to someone who listens to the law, but does not obey it. He is deceived, unfree, not blessed. (James 1:23)
The integrity of the person, his freedom, and his sense of self are all closely related to memory.
How can I strengthen my mind for encounter with reality?
My brain is strengthened by exercise, work, good stimulation. I must be interested in the reality before me – getting to know the people more deeply, digging into subjects that challenge me, asking questions about how things work in the world, trying to sketch what I see, reading excellent books, etc….
How does a child ‘find’ himself within others?
As a child develops, he begins to sort out where his body ends and other objects begin. He begins to notice a correspondence between his own being and the persons around him. We mimic his expressions, sounds and movements – he plays with his ‘power’ to move us. We look at him with love and our empathy with him is reflected on our faces, in our eyes. He realizes he is valuable to us, significant. We show displeasure, and he learns he can be held responsible for the effect of his actions. All this connection of act with effect is the basis for the freedom of the human person.
How does my ability to receive others within my own being affect me?
When the images of other people ‘enter’ my mind, my heart, I am affected – moved to empathy, love, unconscious imitation, and identification with them. If I take in everyone with no protective filter (parental judgment, or my own self-defenses), I may have difficulty sorting out what is authentically ‘me’ and what is ‘them’. There needs to be a healthy self-boundary.
But if that boundary is rigid – if I cannot open heart, mind, gaze to let in other persons – then my own personhood will suffer from being closed in upon itself.
How is being in Christ and His being in you moving you toward your destiny?
I am in Him – He holds the wholeness of my being, inviting me to grow up toward Him and to fully possess all of ‘self’. He is in me, a constant perfection against which my virtue is measured, a pattern toward which my growth is changed, and a power that works in me both to will and to do as He desires. (Philippians 2:13)