Covenant of Light


This an an excerpt from my copy of D.B. Hart’s excellent The Beauty of the Infinite (Eerdmans, 2003, page 238)
The entire chapter, section and Book is worth reading a few - maybe 30 or so - times. :smiley:

But before modern subjectivity had fully evolved and emerged from the waters, a person was in-
deed conceived as a living soul…participating in the
being of the world, inseparable from the element he or she inhabited and
knew; and the soul, rather than the sterile abstraction of an ego, was an entire
and unified spiritual and corporeal reality; it was the life and form of the body,
encompassing every aspect of human existence, from the nous to the animal
functions, uniting reason and sensation, thought and emotion, spirit and
flesh, memory and presence, supernatural longing and natural capacity; open
before being, a permeable and multiplicit attendance upon the world, it was
that in which being showed itself, a logos gathering the light of being into it-
self, seeing and hearing in the things of the world the logoi of being, allowing
them to come to utterance in itself, as words and thought. The soul was the si-
multaneity of foro and intus, world and self, faith and understanding.

Perhaps such language seems, from the post-Kantian vantage, somewhat less than rig-
orous; but it certainly requires nothing so elaborate (nor so arbitrary and un-
convincing) as the Kantian architectonics of knowledge to sustain it. And what
was lost when the soul was forsaken for the self (however one interprets the
logic of the move) is the world that the soul could at once dwell in and reflect
within itselfi the immediate impress of beauty, splendor, otherness both famil-
iar and inviolably other, the desire this provokes, the overwhelming and
strangely articulate address of its radiance, its inviting transcendence. In real-
ity, subjective certitude cannot be secured, not because the world is nothing
but the aleatory play of opaque signifiers, but because subjective certitude is
an irreparably defective model of knowledge; it cannot correspond to or “ade-
quate” a world that is gratuity rather than ground, poetry rather than neces-
sity, rhetoric rather than dialectic. Every act of knowledge is, simultaneously,
an act of faith (to draw on Hamann’s delightful subversion of Hume); we trust
in the world, and so know it, only by entrusting ourselves to what is more than
ourselves; our primordial act of faith meets a covenant that has already been
made with us, before we could seek it, in the giving of the light. No one can
shut his eyes to that splendor, or seal his ears against that music, except as a
perverse display of will; then, naturally, knowledge can be recovered again
only as an exertion of that same will. But one then has not merely lost the
world momentarily, so as to receive it anew as “truth.” One has lost the world
and its truth altogether, and replaced them with a phantom summoned up out
of one’s need for a world conformable to the dimensions of one’s own power