Before we get started on the next five indications of our transcendental awareness, it is worth noting that these reflections predate Christianity – going back to the time of Plato (circa 384-324 BC) and Aristotle (circa 384-322 BC).
Later, St. Augustine (354-430 AD) integrated these ideas into his Christian philosophy which influenced St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and the Christian tradition until this very day.
Here is the basic argument of most transcendental philosophers:
- You have the capacity to recognize imperfection in every manifestation of truth, love, goodness, beauty, and home (explained below).
- This gives rise to the question, “How can you always recognize imperfection without having some idea of what perfection in these five qualities would be like? How can you know the imperfect without in some sense knowing the perfect quality which the imperfect one does not measure up to?”
- Supposing that we really do have some kind of awareness of perfect truth, love, goodness, beauty, and home, then we must ask where and how we learned it. Could we have learned about perfect truth or love, etc. from the world around us? Clearly not – because there are no perfect manifestations of truth, love, goodness, beauty, and home in the world around us. They are filled with imperfections – and we recognize all of them. Our awareness of these five perfect qualities is beyond the world around us, and could not have come from it.
- Is our awareness of these five perfect qualities built into our physical – biological brain? Inasmuch as our brain is restricted in structures, operations, and activities, it can only reach partial answers and fulfillment. For this reason, we could not have learned perfection from it.
- So where does our awareness of perfect truth, love, goodness, beauty, and home come from? It must come from a cause which is capable of producing a perfect effect – namely, a perfect cause – a cause which is perfecttruth itself, perfect love itself, perfect goodness itself, perfect beauty itself, and perfect home itself. So what is that? Every philosopher from Plato to Aristotle to Augustine to Aquinas as well as Lonergan, Rahner, and Von Balthasar and many others in our time called it a divine cause — which is perfect in itself — God.
- So what does that mean? God – the perfect cause – must be present to all of us – producing our awareness of perfect truth, love, goodness, beauty, and home. God’s presence not only incites our awareness of, but also our desire for perfect truth, love, goodness, beauty, and home. His presence makes us continually curious for perfect truth, continuously yearning for perfect love, continuously questing perfect justice and goodness, continuously desiring perfect beauty, and continuously longing for perfect home. It incites us toward every form of creativity, every form of human striving and endeavor toward the perfect, and every form of self-sacrifice to make the world, the human community, and our future better and better.
This means that God is present to us, inciting us toward greater perfection, and inviting us into the fullness of life that only he can provide.
As St. Augustine noted in his Confessions – God has created us for perfect truth, love, goodness, beauty, and home, and only He can fulfill these desires within us. He writes, “For Thou hast made us for thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”
Our next post will take a more detailed look at our awareness of these five transcendental (perfect) qualities.