Conservative believers fixate on the culture wars, religious liberals preach social justice, and neither leaves room for what should be a central focus of religion — the quest for the numinous, the pursuit of the unnamable, the tremor of bliss and the dark night of the soul.
Nice words, even if they are borrowed from everyone else, but what do they mean?
Numinous (pronounced /ˈnjuːmɨnəs/, from the Classical Latin numen) is an English adjective describing the power or presence of a divinity. The word was popularised in the early twentieth century by the German theologian Rudolf Otto in his influential book Das Heilige (1917; translated into English as The Idea of the Holy, 1923). According to Otto the numinous experience has two aspects: mysterium tremendum, which is the tendency to invoke fear and trembling; and mysterium fascinans, the tendency to attract, fascinate and compel. The numinous experience also has a personal quality to it, in that the person feels to be in communion with a wholly other. The numinous experience can lead in different cases to belief in deities, the supernatural, the sacred, the holy, and the transcendent.
It may be viewed as "the intense feeling of unknowingly knowing that there is something which cannot be seen." This "knowing" can "befall" or overcome a person at any time and in any place — in a cathedral; next to a silent stream; on a lonely road; early in the morning or in the face of a beautiful sunset. Similarly, unpleasant or frightening scenes or experiences can lead to a sense of an unseen presence of ghosts, evil spirits or a general sense of the presence of evil. Visions or hallucinations of god, gods, the devil or devils can also happen.
I get it now. Numinous means schizophrenic. You are overcome with feelings that you are not alone, you are being watched by someone or something either all good and holy or or all unimaginably evil. Because you are filled with terror at the thought of evil supernatural creatures or ecstasy at the thought of an all-powerful creator or supernatural spirit, you are full of fear and trembling or rapture and trembling.
Why on earth would anyone yearn to be filled with imaginary fears? Why would the sight of beauty and wonders inevitably lead to a sudden belief in supernatural creatures and events? What motivates someone to make the leap from natural beauty to supernatural Hand Of God? What is Douthat looking for?
Our kind of [Earth-bouond] mysticism is more likely to be a pleasant hobby than a transformative vocation.
Douthat doesn't like a religion that concentrates on the here-and-now, the human experience between fellow men and women. He wants a transformative experience that will change his entire world, as he is too weak to change it on his own.
Most religious believers will never be great mystics, of course, and the American way of faith is kinder than many earlier eras to those of us who won’t. But maybe it’s become too kind, and too accommodating. Even ordinary belief — the kind that seeks epiphanies between deadlines, and struggles even with the meager self-discipline required to get through Lent — depends on extraordinary examples, whether they’re embedded in our communities or cloistered in the great silence of a monastery.
Incredibly, with the ultimate example of Jesus's sacrifice constantly before him, Douthat can't find a reason to live by His example. The last sacrifice to end all sacrifices is not enough for him to feel God's presence. He needs more to summon up the fortitude to give up sandwiches for lunch or turn in his assignments to earn his generous paycheck. He needs-----transcendence!
Transcendence (religion), the concept of being entirely above the created universe.
Not for Master Ross Douthat is this too, too solid flesh. He must be above the entire world, like a balloon made of skin and filled with the gas of ecstasy, floating about everything, pure and unsoiled and untouched. But why? What drives Douthat to seek this magical, mystical state of existence?
Without them, faith can become just another form of worldliness, therapeutic rather than transcendent, and shorn of any claim to stand in judgment over our everyday choices and concerns.
Ah, we need transcendence to remind ourselves of sin and judgement. Speaking of Judgement Day, when we meet our Creator and are either admitted into God's Country Club or are rejected and tossed into God's Garbage Can, isn't Douthat forgetting something here? God still holds the whip hand, whether we transcend or not. He holds the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and there is no way through except through Him. What does Douthat want, an engraved invitation?
Are we sure that Douthat is Christian? He seems to frequently forget major aspects of his own religion and its teachings. That must be why he needs transcendence; he has developed Godnesia, the forgetting of most of the basic tenets of one's own faith.
What's the point of this transcendence anyway?
Without them, too, we give up on what’s supposed to be the deep promise of religious practice: that at any time, in any place, it’s possible to encounter the divine, the revolutionary and the impossible — and have your life completely shattered and remade.
Douthat wants a new world order. He wants to be broken down, his personality shattered and discarded, and remade in a purer, more perfect form. And he wants to do it all while sitting in his New York apartment or suburban split-level, surrounded by wealth, safety and abundance. He doesn't give everything up and follow Jesus. He doesn't renounce wealth, power, privilege or position. Douthat chooses to work and live in the wealthiest, most elite circle possible, as far as possible from the modest lives of ordinary men and women. His own life is anything but shattered, and he deliberately made it as far removed from Jesus's humble life as humanly possible. Perhaps that is why he feels so alienated from his Father and Savior. It's not that The Common Man lives a life that is bourgeois and aimless. It's just that Ross Douthat has too much money to actually live up to his own standards.
Get thee to a nunnery, Ross Douthat! Renounce your riches and save your soul! Who knows, fear, hunger and pain might even make him hallucinate that he is communing with God, just like he wants.