A famous « mystic », possessed by « transcendence », – Ludwig Wittgenstein – , once wrote: « The meaning of the world must be outside it. In the world everything is as it is, and everything happens as it happens; there is no value in it – and if there were, it would be worthless. If there is a value that has value, it must be outside everything that happens, and outside any particular state. For everything that happens and every particular state is accidental.
What makes it non-accidental cannot be in the world, because it would be accidental again.
It has to be out of the world.
That is why there can be no ethical proposals. Proposals cannot express anything superior.
It is clear that ethics cannot be expressed. Ethics is transcendental. (Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same thing).
How the world is, this is for the Superior perfectly indifferent. God does not reveal Himself in the world.(…)
There is certainly something unspeakable. It shows itself, it is the Mystic.”i
Starting from these radical phrases, I come to aspire to a kind of exit, an exodus of thought from the world, a rush to the elsewhere – not a suspension of belief, like Husserl and the phenomenologists, but a sudden plunge upwards, an incredible angelic leap, a Pascal-like flight (« Fire! Fire! »).
The Unspeakable interests me, like a higher point. Of the Unspeakable, nothing can be said about it. But one can at least say that it cannot be silenced. We can at least say this: « It shows itself ».
It’s meager, but it’s a beginning, tiny, and somewhat tangible.
You have to hold on to this hold, start climbing, initiate the climb, without a guide or a rope.
All religions, all of them, are based in their origin on something that, one day, « showed » itself.
It is useless to prioritize today the ancient outpourings of meaning, which made them so confident in their destiny. It is even more useless to use them, these same outpourings, to justify long afterwards the hatred and the self-stated difference that their followers « show » to “others”.
However, in order to show what was « shown » then, and what is still « shown » now, words are not completely useless.
But words are not enough. To attempt an anthropology of the sacred, which would cover a vast space of time, we must also rely on the clues found in the caves of the Palaeolithic, add to them the concomitant revelations of Akhenaten, Zoroaster, Hermes Trismegistus, Moses, Buddha or Jesus, and integrate in addition the dreams of a universal religion, the intuition of the emergence of a “Noos-scene”ii.
If nothing unspeakable is indeed to be found in the world, humanity as a whole has, however, for at least a million years now, been welcoming in its bosom continuous evidence of the subtle monstration of who cannot be designated otherwise than by this epithet.
Reality is therefore not « nothing », it is not « empty », without any « value ». It is, to be sure, very short of its own meaning. But it is also capable, fertile breast, warm belly, of welcoming what is decidedly not speakable. Reality is easily pierced by the presence of an absence, or only its signs.
Karl Barth once had this rather arrogant formula:
« I hold the analogia entis for an invention of the Antichrist.”iii
To refuse the « analogy of being » is to refuse the essential principle of medieval theology, that of believing that an « analogy » between nature and the supernatural, the lower and the higher, is possible.
Karl Barth thus reveals the essence of his own soul: he is a « Gnostic », – like so many other so-called « modern » thinkers, moreover.
A brief reminder: for « Gnosis », the world is separated, divided. The « good », the « evil ». The « chosen ones » who know, and the « rest », blind and doomed to nothingness. No links, no possible analogies. Relentless cut, a metaphysical wall.
I, myself, am not a Gnostic. I don’t believe in Gnosis.
On the other hand, it seems to me as clear as a thousand Milky Ways, as luminous as a million Orions, that if the world does not contain any meaning in it, and does not seem to have any, it nevertheless incarnates, in spite of itself, by its existence and its entirety, a hidden evidence.
i Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus logico-philosophicus (6.41, 6.42, 6.432, 6.522)
ii Cf. The work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
iii Karl Barth. Dogmatique de l’Église protestante. T.1 (1953)