Metaphysics of the Divine Glance

Meaning and Purpose

In a single moment, a “divine glance,” one day in October of 2008, Our Lord and Our Lady imbued my soul with a preeminent and life-long devotion to St. Joan of Arc. It was a thunderous instance of meaning that struck like a lightning bolt and with the same intensity that Joan displayed in her short life on earth.

Walter Emerson

The first movement is that of grace through Divine Providence. In the language of Edith Stein, we refer to this as the “divine glance,” or an “unreflective certainty.” The Holy Spirit through the Immaculate Heart of Mary enlightens our consciousness in an instant. What we receive intuitively is “meaning”; however, the substance of this meaning is not self-evident. We recognize it only as “meaning.”

The divine glance, experienced as receiving “meaning without understanding,” can be likened to the Cloud of Unknowing; though, it is not clear to us that the two are different descriptions of the same phenomenon. Nevertheless, the Divine Glance presents three challenges we must address to advance a metaphysics of subjective devotion that is compatible with objective Aristotelian scholasticism in the Thomist tradition. These are: what does it mean that something is meaningful? What does the meaning we have received mean, i.e., what is it? What is the meaning of the meaning, i.e., why did we receive this meaning? The first is ontological in nature, the second is phenomenological, and the third is teleological.

We will define meaning as constituted by the following three parts – that which brings itself to the higher echelon of our intentionality, that which we desire, and that toward which we direct our volition. Through this “intentionality of desire and volition,” we establish the phenomenon prominently in our noematic field of meaning. Looking outside ourselves to the world, the noematic field directs our attention toward that which has meaning and away from that which is irrelevant. It establishes “focal points” of meaning; though, “focus” as a coordinated movement towards an end remains to be realized. The noematic field, scattered with disparate meanings displayed prominently across a landscape of irrelevances, will itself be constituted through phenomenology into meaningful relationships between these focal points of meaning. These relationships are then organized categorically by a directed noematic syntax leading to a pre-ordained gestalt expression which is the “meaning of the meaning.” This gestalt is taken as the actualization of the grace received in the divine glance, now a sharing in the mind of Christ, thus reflecting Our Lord and Our Lady’s will, the working out of which we merit as working in the father’s vineyard (Matthew 25:14-30).

This is the goal, that we receive the phenomenon of grace, desire it, contemplate its phenomenological meaning, and pursue the “meaning of the meaning” to its gestalt expression. The pursuit of the “meaning of the meaning” is what we will call purpose, and we can see now that we have differentiated “meaning” from “purpose.”

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