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Three Philosophies of Life


How many possible philosophies of life are there? 

doorsinwallsAnswer # 1: In the beginning, there is only one philosophy of life.  For all authentic philosophy begins in wonder.  All three of the founders of philosophy, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, said that philosophy begins in wonder.  But there are three kinds of wonder:

  1. Wonder begins in surprise.  This is wonder in the emotions.  We go on to questioning wonder, which is the second kind of wonder, only when something surprises us or strikes us — when the seas of our emotions are troubled by something thrown into them unexpectedly from outside: a stone, an angel, or Moses — something that parts our inner Red Sea, which is our heart.  Our "why" (wonder #2, questioning wonder) is provoked by our "wow" (wonder #1, emotional wonder).  I do not wonder why another student comes through my classroom door, but I do wonder why a gorilla comes through.

  2. This second kind of wonder — questioning — is wonder in the intellect, guided by the will (the "will to truth", which is far from automatic).  When we are surprised, we then wonder about the what and the why of the surprise.  We wonder (# 2) about the wonder (#1).

  3. Wonder is consummated in contemplative awe.  This is wonder in the deepest heart.  We marvel at the truths we have understood: at the design of a mosquito under a microscope, of the order of the physical universe under the mental microscope of a mathematician, and above all at ourselves, at our good and at our evil, under the moral microscope of conscience and that most dangerous and wonderful of spiritual adventures, absolute honesty.

Philosophy not only begins in wonder (#1), it also proceeds by means of wonder (#2) and ends in wonder (#3).

This book is about the third kind of wonder.  Answer #2: When you think about it logically, there are two and only two philosophies of life.  For either there are or there are not doors in the walls of the world.  Either there is Nothing or Something outside Plato's Cave.

That sounds very abstract and philosophical.  Let me make it very concrete.

Two people are walking down a street together.  There is an old stone wall on their left, too high to see over.  As they approach an intersection, the sidewalk and the wall curve around to their left.  As they approach the curve, the first walker is absolutely certain that when they turn the corner they will not see an angel walking through the wall.  The second walker is not.

Which walker are you?

Which would you like to be?

A wall is a limit.  A door in a wall is a way of overcoming that limit, a way out of the place confined by the walls.  The walls here symbolize the physical universe.  The doors symbolize escapes from that limit, "morenesses", transcendences.  The point of this book is that there are many doors through the walls of the world, many Jacob's Ladders through the sky.

The most famous passage in all of philosophy, at the heart of the Republic, is Plato's Cave.  In this myth ("myth" means "sacred story" ), Plato says that we are all born into a little, dark cave.  The cave is the mind that sees only appearances and does not question what they are the appearances of.  We are prisoners there, and our necks are chained so that we cannot turn them around, and all we see are shadows on the walls in front of us, and we think that is all there is.  But there is much more; and the point of philosophy, for Plato, is to unchain our necks so that we can see the "more".  The shadows on the walls of the cave are real, but they are only real appearances that are cast by more-real, more-solid things.  At first we do not see these things because they are behind our backs.  And there is still more: these things cast shadows only because there is a fire in the cave that makes the light, but we don't see that, either, because we can't turn our necks around; so we just take the firelight for granted.  Finally, there is a road that leads out of the cave into a whole other, larger world outside.  But we don't believe it leads anywhere, and besides, it's a hard road to travel, being narrow and rocky.  But if we do turn our necks around and see that there is more even in the cave (that seeing is what physical science does), we might wonder what is outside the cave (that wondering is what philosophy does) and actually escape.

We ourselves are the prisoners, and the walls of the cave are time and space and matter.  The things we see in the material world are real, but they not only have shadows (on the cave walls) but also themselves are only shadows of something more.  They are the epidermis of reality, like the surface of the sea, the surf-face.  Plato's point is that what we see is relative to what we do not see, as shadows are the shadows of, and relative to, something more real, more absolute, than themselves.  There are not only more things in heaven and earth than we dream of in our philosophies, but there are more kinds of things than we dream of.

In fact, there are more things than just things.  There are, according to Plato, also essences, the natures of things, such as Justice Itself or Beauty Itself or Humanness Itself.  The beauty of a woman's face is relative to Beauty Itself, and not, as we usually think, vice versa.  The justice of a righteous act is relative to Justice Itself, and not vice versa.  A human is relative to and judged by his humanness, not vice versa.  Material things are changeable, and our ideas are fallible.  Our ideas of beauty and justice and humanity may be wrong; they are mere subjective ideas, mere opinions in our minds, and they are relative to the objective material realities we see; but the "Platonic Ideas" are not ideas but Ideas, not subjective opinions but objective immaterial realities, the absolutes to which both material things and our ideas are relative.  That is why our subjective opinions and material things can match: because they match the same things, the Ideas or Essences or Forms.  The same Justice exists both in a just law and in a true idea of the justice of a just law; that is why the idea can be true.  Both things and thoughts (ideas) participate in the same Idea.

So there are not just one or even two but three "worlds" or kinds of reality: objective material things, subjective ideas, and absolute, timeless objective Ideas, Truths, Essences, or Forms.  (Forms, "whats", not just shapes.) Material forms (shapes) are in both space and time.  Our subjective ideas are not in space, as material things are, but they are in time; we change our minds as often as we change our clothes.  But Platonic Ideas are timeless as well as spaceless.  Wisdom consists in knowing them.

Materialism radically disagrees with this.  It says these trans-temporal essences are not Ideas but only ideas, in fact, fantasies, fears, and follies, myths, fairy tales, concoctions of our imagination, mere shadows of material things.  Plato's philosophy turns this inside out and says that the things we see are the shadows, and these invisible things are the realities that cast them.  Materialism says that the most real thing is matter and that matter, in our brains, produces the false idea that there are minds, spirits.  Materialism is really the idea that there are no such things as ideas, only atoms.  Plato's philosophy says that the most real thing is spirit, or mind, and that matter is a shadow of spirit, not vice versa.  We are in a play, and although the ideas in the minds of the actors are shadows or copies of the things and events in the play, the things and events in the play, in turn, are shadows or copies of what is in the mind of the playwright.

Materialism says that life is not really a play at all, but a chaos on which we impose subjective order by inventing a play.  In other words, that life is "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".  The meaning of life is nothing; there is merely the meaning of matter.

Answer #3: We have seen that in one sense (Answer #1) there is only one philosophy of life (wonder) and that in another sense (Answer #2) there are two (materialism and spiritualism).  We can also say that there are three philosophies of life.  Let's call them moreness, lessness, and sameness.  For either there are more things or fewer things or the same things in heaven and earth (i.e., in objective reality) as the things dreamed of in our philosophies (i.e., in our subjective ideas).  We could also call these three philosophies mysticism (there is more), reductionism (there is less), and rationalism (there is the same).  No one of the three has ever been proved or disproved to everyone's satisfaction by science, logic, or the events of history.  That is why you still meet people who believe all three of them.

The first and truest one is Shakespeare's, which he puts into the mouth of Hamlet when he says to Horatio (who is astonished to have just seen a ghost): "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Most great writers, poets, artists, and philosophers, and all the saints and sages, have believed this philosophy.  All premodern cultures did.  All children do, until they are "educated" out of it.  (Some never are, like Shakespeare and Plato and Dante and Dostoyevsky.)

The second philosophy is that there are not more but fewer things in heaven and earth, that is, in objective reality, than are dreamed of in our philosophies, that is, in our subjective minds and beliefs.  That is reductionism, materialism, cynicism, nihilism, relativism, and subjectivism.

The third philosophy is that there is the same number of things in heaven and earth as in our philosophies; that, as Hegel put it, "that which is real is rational and that which is rational is real."  In other words, we are know-it-alls: what is inside our mind and what is outside match pretty perfectly.  To believe that, you have to be either a genius, or very arrogant, or both (like Hegel).

The three philosophies disagree both about the world and about us.

About the world, the first philosophy tells us that the world contains more than we think; the second tells us that it contains less than we think; and the third tell us that it contains no more and no less than we think.

About us, the first philosophy tells us that we are fools because we believe too little; the second tells us that we are fools because we believe too much; and the third tells us that we are not fools but very smart.

Historically, the first philosophy is traditionalism, or premodernism, the third is modernism (rationalism), and the second is postmodernism (irrationalism).

Every culture in history has believed the first philosophy except one: the one in which you are now living, modern Western civilization, which is now deeply divided between the old philosophy (the first, traditionalism) and the two new philosophies (modernism and postmodernism, or rationalism and irrationalism).

The purpose of this book is to turn back the clock on both new philosophies (which are not really new but old and decrepit) and to sing and shout and blow a trumpet to announce the Good News that the old philosophy is alive and young; that there are doors in the pitiless walls of the world; that there is More, not Less, than we think or imagine, or even can think or imagine; to invite us to come out of our little wombs and be born again, to come out of Plato's Cave into an amazingly larger world of real glories, dangers, and adventures, real heavens, hells, and purgatories as great as those of Dante; to meet many kinds of "extraterrestrials".

These are not mere myths.  Or, if they are myths, then they are myths that are real, myths that are not a flight from reality but a flight to reality.  Like The Lord of the Rings.  That is the most basic reason for the power and popularity of that book: its sense of reality.  When you turn from that book to your apartment, you do not get the sense that you have turned from unreality to reality, but exactly the opposite.  That "mythic" world is real, though its details are of course invented fictions.  Our culture is unique because it is demythologized.  This book calls for a remythologization.

Myths are stories about what is outside the wall: The Absolute Good, Platonic Forms, God, gods, angels, spirits, ghosts, souls, Brahman, Rta, Nirvana, Tao, "the will of Heaven", The Meaning of It All, Something that deserves a capital letter.

Every culture teaches its members their identity by a story.  Our present culture's story is that we have evolved into the smartest people who ever lived because we invented Science, and Science knows more about the stones in the wall than ever before.

What it does not know is whether there are angels that can come through the wall.

There are.  There is osmosis.  The world is a semi-permeable membrane.  There are extraterrestrials among us: messengers from another world, undocumented aliens that slip under our artificially erected borders, visitors from across the great sea that separates this little island universe (not mere galaxy but universe) from the many larger continents of reality that are invisible to us most of the time.

The difference between the three philosophies is not about science.  All three philosophies accept science in its account of the wall.  What they differ about is the angels.

We moderns still have myths, but we believe they are only artifices, fictions, like Alice's Wonderland or the land of Oz.  They are not part of the real world.  When we look at the real world, even when we look up, we no longer look up at "the heavens", we look up at "outer space" — not fullness, but emptiness.  We no longer hear "the music of the spheres"; we hear "the sounds of silence".  We no longer live in Middle-Earth, midway between Heaven and Hell; we live on "the third rock from the sun", midway between Venus and Mars.  We no longer live in a world that is a cathedral.  The medievals did not build their cathedrals as fictions, as escapes from the world, but as accurate pictures of the world! But we live in a stuffy little ranch house with a low ceiling about seven feet high.  The difference is not measurable quantitatively, for the difference between seven feet and 13.7 billion light years is only relative, after all, only a matter of degree.  The great question is: Is there a different kind of reality?

That's the shock of Plato's Cave: outside it there is another kind of reality, not just subjective spirit and objective matter but objective spirit.  That's the main point.  Plato's particularly Platonic version of what is outside the Cave is not the only one, for the Platonic Ideas are not the only things that make up the "more", especially if you interpret them, as most philosophers do, as mere abstract universals, reified concepts.

Before you were born, your mother's womb was the whole of reality to you.  (That's why we are arrested by the story of the escape from Plato's Cave: it is our universal autobiography, inscribed in our collective unconscious.) Now that you are born, you can turn around and see your mother as only a small part of a much wider world, a different kind of world, a world that is not just a bigger womb.  You were always in that wider world, even when you were in the womb; you just didn't see it.  Isn't it possible, in fact, isn't it likely, that this will happen again at death?  That you are living even now in a much larger world than the womb of this material universe, but that you will see it only when you die, when you are expelled from this second womb, this big, fat mother that you call the universe?  Isn't it possible that nearly all the great saints, sages, seers, prophets, and poets were right, that all the wise men and women were really wise rather than fools?

But that's not scientific! Of course not.  How could science prove that what science cannot prove cannot exist?  Is that logic "scientific"?  Isn't it self-contradictory?  Can the scientific method detect the nonexistence of things that are not in principle detectable by the scientific method?  In fact, can it detect the nonexistence of anything except a logical impossibility, a self-contradiction?  Doesn't certainty about a universal negative require omniscience?  Don't you have to have knowledge of everywhere to know that there is no X

The difference between these two philosophies is not just a difference about whether there is anything more than ordinary life; it is also a difference about ordinary life itself.  One of Sartre's characters (Roquentin, in Nausea) complains that he has "never had any adventures.  Things have happened to me, that's all."  If the first of these three philosophies (traditionalism, or mysticism) is true, then life is an incredible adventure.  In fact, it might be a cosmic love story.  The point of living might be something like falling in love with something like God.  That would be such an adventure that it would make even boring things fascinating.

Before Romeo fell in love with Juliet, he probably found ladies' clothing boring; but after falling in love, whatever Juliet is dressed in is fascinating.  Suppose Romeo falls in love with a larger Juliet that is the whole world.  Suppose the whole world is Juliet.  Or suppose that our Juliet is God and that what God is dressed in is other people.  (These two suppositions are not identical, but they are closely related.) Suppose we are all essentially rooms for God to fill.  A mysterious and interesting God, of course; not Milton's proper, Puritanical moralist, but someone more like Tolkien's wizard Gandalf, inviting us hobbits on a crazy adventure that is simultaneously a war story and a love story.  Before she fell in love with Romeo, Juliet probably found men's battles and business nothing but boring buffoonery.  But whatever Romeo does is wonderful because Romeo is in them.  Now suppose that to Juliet the whole world is Romeo.  She has emerged from her cave.

I have called this "moreness" "something like God".  Another word for this premodern philosophy is "religion".  But religion is a nut inside a shell.  The shell looks something like law or politics or moral rules or institutionalized business or philosophy, but the nut is romance.  The shell is an organization, but the nut is an organism.  It is alive, like a tiger.  The point of religion, the point of all the creeds and codes and cults, is something like sex.  Transcendent sex, vertical sex.  An invitation to an unimaginable, incomprehensible, ineffable, invisible, incommunicable, eternal spiritual orgasm.  That is what the "experts" in religion, the saints and mystics, all say.

Why do priests hear more sexual sins in the confessional than any other kind?  Why is lust harder to overcome than any other temptation?  Because it's interesting.  Well, suppose the secret of life is something like sex?  Suppose it is something that is related to the sex we experience as sex is related to a tickle?  Suppose all of life is foreplay for that.  No lover was ever bored by foreplay.  That's why the medievals built cathedrals.

Do you want to be out of your mind or inside your mind?  Crazy or conventional?  Creative or comfortable?  Nuts or nice?  Passionate or proper?  Do you want to live for ecstasy or for equality?  Do you want blood in your veins or water?

Do you have shining eyes?  If you believed the philosophy of this book and of your remote ancestors, you would.  You would have the eyes and the heart of a child.  It is often said that we live in a youth culture.  It's a lie.  We live in an old culture.  We idolize youth because we are old.  We are tired and bored.  Ancient cultures respected the old because those cultures were young.  They were not bored.  (The very word "boredom" is a modern word! ) When Arabs, Africans, Russians, or Greeks come to America, they are stunned by how nice we are, how polite and passionless and boring.  Like old fogies.  They think: "Where's the beef?  Where's the passion?  Are the terrorists and drug addicts the only ones who have any?  Why are you more fascinated by your villains than by your heroes?"

How do we become young again?  How do we step out of our culture?  By stepping out of our world.

We can do that.  There are doors.

It's time to turn back the clock, which is the most progressive thing you could possibly do when the clock is keeping bad time because it's slowed by old dust.

We must begin with discontent and with a refusal of reductionism, which is the mistake of both of the other two philosophies.  The formula for this reductionist philosophy is "nothing but".  It's nothing-buttery.  Love is nothing but lust.  Minds are nothing but brains, and brains are nothing but soft computers.  Souls are nothing but psyches.  Heaven is nothing but dreams.  Justice is nothing but negotiated power.  Man is nothing but a lucky evolutionary accident.  God is nothing but a projection.  And the whole universe is nothing but a very large quantity of material energy, or perhaps, in the last analysis, nothing but a very, very complex mathematical equation.

To eat real bread with our butter, we must begin by refusing this nothing-buttery.  Instead, we must embrace Moreness (which is simply what "transcendence" means).  Reality is far, far more than we can see or think or imagine.  This is true even in science: most matter is "dark matter"; most energy is invisible; and the structure of everything is radically different from what appears to our eyes and to our imagination.  As one great twentieth-century scientist said, the universe is not only greater than we have ever imagined, it is greater than we can imagine.  If this is true even of the material world, how much more must it be true of Everything?  This book is "escapist".  It is about doors in the walls of the world, or the walls of the Cave, through which we can escape our imprisonment.  And when you hear people condemn "escapism", ask yourself who hates the concept of "escape" the most?  The answer is: jailers.

But this vision is not "escapist" in any negative sense because it does not diminish the world but enlarges it.  The world is not evil or illusory.  It is real and good, but there is more than the world: that is the good news.  Our world is more because it is less, less than all; it is more because it is a reflection of a far greater reality.  This is not escapism; it is supernaturalism.

"Natural" and "Supernatural"

This book is about the supernatural, the "transcendent", the more-than-this-world, the stuffoutside Plato's Cave.  But this is a tricky concept.  One source of confusion is that even thinking and willing, which are natural to us, are in another sense supernatural because they transcend the nature of matter.  They are not supernatural just because they are invisible, for not everything invisible is supernatural — physical energy is invisible but is not supernatural — and not everything supernatural is invisible, for miracles are supernatural even though they are visible.

You are probably confused by now.  Let's try to get these two terms clear, the "natural" and the "supernatural".  If you are not confused about this, perhaps you should skip this section.  It might make you more confused.

The life of a human being, body and soul, material and spiritual, visible and invisible, is natural life, life that is natural to us.  The word for natural life in Greek is bios.  Z ¯o ¯e, in contrast, means supernatural life, more-than-natural life.  Since different kinds of things have different natures, what is natural or supernatural is relative.  Life is supernatural to rocks but natural to plants; sensation is supernatural to plants but natural to animals; reason is supernatural to animals but natural to us; God is supernatural to everything else but natural to Himself.  He has a nature: He is good, not evil or indifferent; wise, not foolish; living, not dead, etc.  This does not make Him finite, because each of His attributes is infinite.  But they are positive attributes.  He has a nature, a character.

From our human nature (bios) come natural thoughts, natural faith, natural hope, and natural charity.

Natural thoughts, like 2 + 2 = 4, come from our natural human equipment, human reason.  Supernatural thoughts, like "God is a Trinity", do not; they come from divine revelation.

From our human nature (bios) also comes natural faith, prudential faith (e.g., "Pascal's wager" ), but not supernatural faith, saving faith, faith that is a gift of God.

From our bios also come natural reasons for the natural faith that consists in believing in the existence of a supernatural Something that is usually called God.  Five of the most famous of these natural reasons are Aquinas' "five ways".

But supernatural faith, hope, and charity, which invite God into your soul, are a gift of God and are supernatural not only regarding their object, which is God, but also as to their origin, which is also God: they are not only about God and toward God but also from God.  They are gifts, graces.

Natural love, friendship, affection, or compassion, even when it motivates sacrificial and altruistic acts, is from our natural but more-than-biological instincts, and so it is also natural, that is, part of our nature, our bios.  But charity (agape ) is supernatural.  No amount of natural affection will produce it.  Sartre, quite consistently, denies the existence of this thing (charity), for example, in No Exit and in Nausea, because he sees that if it existed, it would be supernatural.

This is the distinction between natural and supernatural that is inherent in the New Testament's use of the Greek words bios and zoe.  The terms, remember, are relative: what is natural to us (e.g., language) would be supernatural to animals, and what is natural to animals (e.g., feelings) would be supernatural to plants; and what is natural to plants (growth from within) would be supernatural to inorganic matter.  So because bios and z ¯o ¯e are relative, human souls, though natural in themselves and in relation to anything greater (God, angels, Heaven), are also supernatural in relation to anything less, for reason cannot come merely from the material world or organic life or animal instincts.  Reason (which in the broad, ancient sense includes moral will [free will] and moral feelings like guilt and joy) transcends the material universe.  No amount of complexification of molecules can be the sufficient cause of the reason that knows molecules.  No amount of life is the cause of the knowledge of life.  No animal instinct knows and judges and chooses which instinct to follow, as a piano player chooses which key to play.  The player is not just one of the keys.

Here is another argument for calling human reason relatively supernatural.  First Premise: By reason we know truths about the whole universe (e.g., E = MC ² ).  Second Premise: But the knower must transcend the known.  The knowledge of a thing cannot be merely one of many parts or aspects of the thing known.  Conclusion: Therefore, reason must transcend the whole universe.  Thus we can call reason "supernatural".  C.  S.  Lewis, in his famous argument against naturalism in Miracles, uses human reason, not any divine miracle, as his primary evidence for the existence of what he calls the supernatural.  This is true, but confusing, because Lewis is calling "natural reason" supernatural, or miraculous.

To reconcile both legitimate senses of the words "natural" and "supernatural", we need to make a distinction.  Let's call reason and the things that come from reason (e.g., deliberate free choice and the appreciation of beauty) "relatively supernatural", and let's call God and the things that come directly from God "absolutely supernatural".  Thus we speak of human reason as part of our "natural" human equipment, and we distinguish it, and what it does, from absolutely supernatural things like miracles, salvation, mystical experiences, and the knowledge of the things about God that reason cannot discover, fully understand, or prove, for example, that God loves us or that God became incarnate in Christ.  We know these things only by divine revelation and our faith in it.

Just as there are both natural and supernatural versions of faith and love, there are also both natural and supernatural versions of hope.  The hopeful yearning for something more than we can get or even imagine getting in this world, the longing the Germans call Sehnsucht, is part of our nature, though its object is supernatural.  So that is a natural hope.  But our "yes" to God's revealed promises — our hope in them — is supernatural, both in its object (God) and in its subject or origin (God).

This book is about things that are absolutely supernatural, i.e., supernatural not only in relation to matter but also in relation to human nature.  "The walls of the world" in which we find doors do not merely refer to the material world outside us but also the natural human world within and among us.  It is God, the absolutely supernatural, who comes through these doors, though usually anonymously.

I hope this has made things clearer.  If not, do not despair; this book will be interesting and profitable even if these two key terms are not as clear as they ought to be.

Books are boats.  Come aboard this boat as it allows the currents in the river of reason and inquiry and investigation to carry it around unpredictable curves of the river and into undiscovered countries and, finally, into an immortal Sea.

Life as a Great Story

This book will not be an abstract philosophy of eternal truths and values but a story and a journey, because it is about the meaning of human life, and life is a story and a journey.  Story is the most basic of all human arts; all human cultures cultivate the art of storytelling: it is the surest cultural mark of the human.

In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo and Sam, trudging across Mordor on their perilous and almost impossible heroic quest to destroy the Ring of Power, put the greatest of all "existential" questions, the formidably abstract-sounding question of the Meaning of Life, into wonderfully concrete terms: "I wonder what kind of a story we're in."

Life is a story.  That is obvious to anyone but an academic or an ideologue.  But what kind of story?  The only way to answer that question about stories is by stories: little stories that are images of or analogies to the Great Story.  So here are ten little stories.  Some of them are from writers far greater than I; some are my own.

The idea that life is a story implies that there is a Storyteller outside the story.  So the story is a Door to More, a More Door instead of a Mordor (to put it in terms of The Lord of the Rings).

Every story, whether real or fictional, whether spoken or written or acted, has five dimensions.  To be a great story, a story must be great in all five of these dimensions, just as in order to be a morally good act, an act must be right in all three of its dimensions: the act itself, the motive, and the circumstances; and just as in order to be a healthy human body, a body must be healthy in all of its organic systems: the nervous system, the digestive system, the muscular system, the reproductive system, the circulatory system, etc.  The five dimensions of every story are:

  1. The plot
  2. The setting
  3. The characters
  4. The theme
  5. The style

If human life on earth is a story, it too has these five dimensions.  And in each of these five we find Moreness, we find Transcendence, we find doors in the walls of the world, pathways out of Plato's Cave, Jacob's ladders to Heaven.

The five most important human enterprises, the five subjects that are the most important to learn, the five things that distinguish us from animals, are

  1. History (which is about the plot of our story),
  2. Physical Science (which is about the setting),
  3. Psychology (which is about the characters),
  4. Religion and Philosophy (which are about the theme), and
  5. Art (which is about the style).

(By the way, psychology cannot be an exact science or a merely physical science because its objects [we] are neither exact nor merely physical.  For that reason, one learns much more psychology from good friends and good novels than from textbooks and from contrived experiments, useful as these may be.)

Each dimension is more than it seems; each is an example of Hamlet's philosophy of life, that "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy."  Each is a window in the hard, pitiless walls of the world.  And through each we can see Something More.

They are more than just windows: each is also a door, an anticipation of the great door through which we will all walk at death.  Because of these doors, we can begin to live the life of Heaven on earth.  In fact, we had damn well better do just that (I choose my words carefully) because if we don't have any Heavenly roots here, how can we be transplanted There?

Here are some travelers' tales of a far country that you have never seen but that is at the end of the road on which you are now traveling.  Is this "escapism"?  Is it "escapism" to have a windshield as well as a rearview mirror?



kreeft1Peter Kreeft. "Three Philosophies of Life." from Doors in the Walls of the World: Signs of Transcendence in the Human Story (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2018) :7-25.

Reprinted by permission of Ignatius Press.

The Author

kreeft1kreeftPeter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College.  He is the author of many books (over forty and counting) including:  Doors in the Walls of the World: Signs of Transcendence in the Human Story, Forty Reasons I Am a CatholicYou Can Understand the Bible, How to Be Holy: First Steps in Becoming a Saint, Fundamentals of the Faith,  The Philosophy of Jesus, The Journey: A Spiritual Roadmap for Modern Pilgrims, Prayer: The Great Conversation: Straight Answers to Tough Questions About Prayer,  Love Is Stronger Than Death, Philosophy 101 by Socrates: An Introduction to Philosophy Via Plato's Apology, A Pocket Guide to the Meaning of Life, Prayer for Beginnersand Before I Go: Letters to Our Children About What Really Matters. Peter Kreeft in on the Advisory Board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.

Copyright © 2018 Peter Kreeft
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