The fear of ignorance and the nature of true knowledge

I wonder whether, in ages of promiscuity, many a virginity has not been lost less in obedience to Venus than in obedience to the lure of caucus. For, of course, when promiscuity is the fashion, the chaste are outsiders. They are ignorant of something that other people know. They are uninitiated. And as for lighter matters, the number who first smoked or first got drunk for a similar reason is probably very large.
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, "The Inner Ring."

It is true that promiscuity today is as rampant as it is due to the desire to be on the "in" of things, whereby we feel like we are leading a full life, or at least whereby no one knows how uninformed we really are about the ways of the world. It is fallen human nature to ultimately desire to have some knowledge that someone else does not have, although we are even more afraid of not knowing something that everyone else seems to know (no matter how useless and mundane the information is). Like one of my former professors once said, purity is seen by society as a sign of immaturity: something we grow out of, not in to.

The problem with this kind of "maturity" is that it comes from sensual "knowledge," which only gives us knowledge of particulars, which become more particular the more we dwell on them. Such knowledge is only contained in feelings, emotions, sights, sounds, and the senses. Isn't an animal's experience the same?

True knowledge comes from knowing ourselves as human beings. Notice how mature people are those who don't give into their inclinations at every whim, but who hold back. Wisdom and strength are seen in people who, after suffering a tremendous loss, still truly empathize with others without being consumed by their own feelings. If such a person were to really run with the "experience" which results from giving the passions free reign, they would become so consumed in agony that they would lose perspective of everything that is good. Despair, or people who are close to it, do not gain "experience" or even wisdom from their suffering, but lose the essential knowledge of the truth that God exists, and that He desires their salvation (I'm not referring to the Dark Night of the Soul here, which may at times feel like despair, but it is guided by Grace: rather, to the lack of receptivity to Grace, which is the fundamental cause of true and complete despair). It is the very hope in God's mercy that makes it possible for us to know ourselves completely, whereas once we lose that hope, we no longer understand anything about human existence. Any experience that a person recovering from such a state does attain is in the act of rebuilding himself, piece by piece, and rediscovering the truth of God and consequently his own dignity as a human being. Therefore, there can be great wisdom and Grace in the experience of being rebuilt by Christ after being in such a state, for it is another "quality of mercy" that the greater the fall, the greater the Miracle of Redemption (consider St. Augustine). Nevertheless, the great danger and offense to God that comes from despair makes it a state to be avoided at all costs.

Controlling how we act in response to our emotions is not repression. Rather, the more we control how we act in relation to our passions, the more we understand them, their function in our spiritual and emotional growth, and the more we understand their role in our humanity. Repressive disorders are not caused by parents telling a little boy to not hit his sister when he is angry at her; it comes when the little boy is taught that it is wrong to be angry. The same applies to sexuality. A person is not a whole person because he has killed the desires of the flesh. A whole person is one who has learned to "die to the world" by acting despite the desires of the flesh; this is because the more we are receptive to the Grace of the Redemption, the more we grow closer to our state of preternatural humanity, where man had control over his faculties.

When Christians have the knowledge that virtue and self-control brings, who as St. Paul says, have "put on the armor of Christ," we find that they are the ones with the hidden knowledge of some secret that no one else has the "in" on. Yet, unlike people who hold on to sensual knowledge like they own it, Christians are not possessive of their privilege, but rather intrinsically desire to share it with the world.

1 comment:

sarah v said...

It's been awhile since I looked at your blog and what great reading!

I am going to link you from our little blog.


and here's an article you may have already seen, but if not, it may interest you as it is somewhat related to this post:
"From Father to Son--J.R.R. Tolkien on Sex"