When St. Bonaventure spoke of the itinerarium mentis in Deum, St. Anselm of fides quaerens intellectum, John Bunyan of the pilgrim’s progress, and Orthodox writers of deification, I take these all to be phenomenologies of True Life, that is, life in Christ, analogized by Goethe who spoke of das ewig Weibliche which zieht uns hinan (which I think can defined for use by Christians, remembering that there is indeed a feminine aspect to God, just as there is a feminine aspect to the male—it is the matter of order and dominance of the aspects where orthodoxy disagrees with egalitarianism). All believers must acknowledge (because they live in it) this vital, active character of life in which one grows in grace and knowledge from lesser to greater, impelled by fear, desire, and love–perhaps summarized well in chaste eros–to seek the face of the Lord.

 

This requires openness to him, but openness considered in itself has nothing to do with this, or perhaps one should better say that there is no such thing as openness without context or object. It is a very common mistake, I believe, to manipulate concepts abstractly, apart from clean reference to the reality to which they refer (in Christianity this means reference to God in Christ).

 

When I was in graduate school I met a chap who was preparing a dissertation on the concept of Offenheit—openness. Once when in his cups and it could be winkled out of him he told me he intended to show that openness defines human being, in fact being the “phenomenology of true life,” preeminently Christian life, and that he was taking his cues from Heidegger. I doubted the latter, for Heidegger was much cleverer and less vulnerable than this lad appeared to be. If I read the philosopher correctly, human openness, such as it is, is an unavoidability hedged about with the beckoning dangers of inauthentic existence. It cannot be treated either as the definitive quality of Dasein (humanness), much less a virtue, but my drunken companion had fallen into the trap of thinking of it as the first and treating it, in accordance with what he believed to be Christianity, as the second. As I recall he departed to his home country without the doctorate. When this happens at the stage he was at it usually means the faculty had serious doubts about his ability to pull off whatever it was he was trying to do.

 

These memories and reflections were set off by someone who accused me of lack of openness to a point of view I believe to be false, as if lack of openness was itself a fault. This cannot, in the present intellectual fog, be denied too emphatically or too often.  As Chesterton observed, “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” And one might explicitly add what is implied, “something wholesome.”  Only a madman is open to the injurious, only a fool to the false, and only the promiscuous to every point of view.