Monk In The World

To be a monk is to have time to practice for your transformation and healing. And after that to help with the transformation and healing of other people.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, September 8, 2012


photo credit: Walter Schels, Hamburg

I'm reading an introductory book on Karl Rahner's theology and came across this yesterday morning. I'm just wondering if this is another finger pointing to the same moon. It's my imposed title to this selected piece of writing from the book.

Form and Formlessness in Karl Rahner's Theology?

Another, rather more technical, way in which Rahner often formulates his basic vision of human beings is by means of an opposition between transcendental and categorical experience. Strictly speaking these are not two different experiences but two different dimensions of all our experiencing. We have only one, unified experience, but it has two sides to it. Categorical experience is our experience in so far as it involves us with the finite, with particular real people or objects, with things that can be put into categories, with things to which we can apply concepts, of which we can use language. To transcend means simply ‘to go beyond’, and so our transcendental experience is the experience we have of going beyond all the things which we know and choose and love, even as we are knowing and choosing and loving them: transcendental experience, in Rahner’s words, is the experience which ‘consists precisely in the transcendence beyond any particular group of possible objects or of categories’. And since when we go beyond all the things of this world what we go towards is God, transcendental experience turns out to be, most fundamentally, the experience we have of God in all our ordinary experience. Though transcendental and categorical experiences can be distinguished, they cannot be separated. Rahner insists that transcendental experience does not occur apart from categorical experience – we do not have an experience of God neat, all on its own, but always only in our experiencing of the concrete, categorical realities. Transcendental experience is not, however, just an accompaniment to categorical experience, a kind of added bonus. It does more than just make our ordinary experience a little bit richer. According to Rahner it makes our ordinary experience possible in the first place. Transcendental experience, Rahner maintains, is a condition of the possibility of categorical experience, that without which we would not be able to have any experience at all. There is another, and very important, way in which the two layers in our experience are related. Transcendental experience, Rahner maintains, always needs in some way to articulate itself, to express itself, in categorical experience. By definition, of course, transcendental experience is that realm of experience where language fails, since we have language for objects, for distinguishing one thing from another, but not for that which in principle cannot be an object, not for the infinite horizon within which all this distinguishing takes place: 
The horizon cannot be comprised within the horizon ... The ultimate measure cannot be measured; the boundary which delimits all things cannot itself be bounded by a still more distant limit ... (TI IV 51) And yet, in spite of all this, transcendental experience cannot simply remain totally inarticulate, but must always seek to be expressed, if always inadequately, in the realm of the categorical. Or to put it differently, we must always try to express our transcendental experience. The expression can take place in language – in philosophy or poetry – or through other means – art, music, religious symbols and actions.3 The attempt to articulate always in some way fails – the articulation can never be adequate to the original experience. But the attempt must nevertheless always be made. Furthermore, the attempt itself is important. The very expression of the experience, Rahner maintains, is always a shaping moment in the experience: what is experienced is partly determined by how this experience is expressed.

 Kilby, Karen (2005-04-19). The SPCK Introduction to Karl Rahner (Kindle Locations 336-355). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition. 


1 comment:

Mystic Meandering said...

Fascinating... especially the last paragraph, where what we experience needs to be expressed. Yes, I experiences that... In some sense it feels like the Self/Beingness needing to express ItSelf, as well as the mind trying to understand what it has experienced...