Tonight, I’m in my philosophy class and we’re talking about Plotinus. Now in the midst of this, I have a few hundred ideas going on in my head and at any time, I can often think up a problem and say “That’s one I haven’t resolved yet” and think on it. I was thinking about one such as our professor talked about how Plotinus believed in a “One” that was unknowable through rationality ultimately and you really couldn’t say anything about it. (Which is something you can say about it. Those kinds of things are always difficult.)
How is the One known? It is known through mystical experience. Philosophy is seen as a way to get you closer to that experience. Plotinus did have this experience a few times in his life. It would not be wise of us to deny such. The question we could ask though is, “Can that experience tell us about reality external to it?” That’s not my topic tonight however.
Instead, my mind was ticking on to another thought. The church today is fascinated with experiences. It’s understandable. If someone talks about an angel visiting them everyone thinks “Wow. It’d be really cool if one visited me.” Of course, some people then will take any event and interpret it as an angelic encounter and then there’s another story going on. Now I believe in angels and I’m not saying they don’t visit us at all. I’m saying though we can breed experiences simply because we long to have these experiences that others are having.
I wonder then how many of us are making the experience the end goal. Experience should never be that though. Think about the other experiences you have. Why are some of you reading this blog? I hope it’s an experience on a quest for knowledge. You are reading this blog hopefully because you think I have some knowledge and you want to partake of that.
Let’s suppose you are having a meal as you read this blog. Why? You are doing that for the sake of nourishment. It seems that when you focus on eating though simply for pleasure, which isn’t the main end for which eating was established, then you get gluttony. This is an important point. There are accidental ends that go along with intended ends. The final cause of eating is to receive nourishment. That food often tastes good is not necessary to its nourishing you. It is what we call an “accident.”
One of the best examples of this though is in sex. (Some of you already knew I’d go there.) I’ve come to a conclusion in my thinking about the topic. (And dreaming and hoping and longing and, well, you get the picture.) It seems that when we say that we want sex, many of us I don’t think are saying we want simply an experience.
What is sexual intercourse after all? It is the joining of two bodies. Note that! You need another body. This is something that can’t be done alone. That body is the body of a person. It is part of who they are. I said earlier that if you used the food just for pleasure and made that the final end, it’d be gluttony. You do that with sex and it becomes lust.
Consider it this way. Are you using the experience of sex for the deeper knowledge of who the person is, or are you using sexual intercourse in order to come to a deeper appreciation of the other person? How you answer that question will be very revelatory about you. I’m not saying don’t enjoy the experience, but realize the purpose of the experience. Persons should not be used in that way.
What about the church? Are we really seeking knowledge of God or just an experience of him? Is God being used as a way to get to a divine experience? I’m not against having an experience if it happens like the beatific vision for instance. I’m simply wanting to make sure we have our priorities right. God won’t take anything seen as greater than him and that includes an experience.