A combination of readings has given me food for thought over the past couple of months. David Hart’s essay “On Butterflies and Being” preceded an epiphanic moment reading Timothy Gallagher’s Spiritual Consolation: An Ignatian Guide for Greater Discernment of Spirits, to which I referred in a previous post, and this has been further rounded out by Vol. I of Balthasar’s “Theo-Logic” entitled, Truth of the World.
Recalling the occasion of a spiritual exercitant’s experience of God’s overwhelming love while contemplating scripture, Gallagher remarks that “He is aware of the disproportion between his own efforts in prayer and the magnitude of this deeply spiritual consolation.” I will leave aside the refutation this implies for the suspiciously ubiquitous “centering prayer” which amounts more or less to a direct proportion between one’s efforts in prayer and the effects generated by the method. What struck me like a thunderclap was the similarity between this spiritual consolation and the experience of beauty; namely that the event of beauty is precisely that experience of the disproportion between the apperception or act of contemplating some object and the resultant experience of being overwhelmingly grasped by the same object, which is to say the subjective experience of simultaneous intimacy and distance in the state of reverential awe. Continue reading