Discursive and intuitive knowledge of divinity

If the only acceptable ways of knowing God are scientific or philosophical, then almost none of the major founders of world religions and very few of their major followers knew God in an acceptable way. To argue for this strikes me as a dead end, and so I’m left having to argue that there can be a knowledge of God prior to science and or philosophy.

One response to argue for “religious experience” or an intuitive sensus divinitatis. Science and philosophical proof are discursive, but not all knowledge is, and so we will place the knowledge of God in the intuitive as opposed to discursive domain.

But this response might skip over different modalities of discursive thought. Certain conclusions can be more and less immediate and formal, with some being very quick and half-unconscious and later being fully conscious and rigorous. But if we view philosophy as relating to the pre-philosophical in this way, then we claim that what the ancestor understood imperfectly we understand perfectly. But it does not seem right to describe the knowledge of great religious founders as simply philosophy waiting to happen, or imperfect philosophical awareness. So we return to the idea of mystical experience again, which seems to be te only way of having a perfect knowledge that is non-discursive.

But mystical experience cannot be simply intuitive either. No one has ever suggested that the sensus divinitatis is an awareness of some new class of object in the world, the way that the evolution of pit-viper senses would make us aware of new sorts of EM waves. The sensus divinitatis allows for common belief but not a common experience.  The Catholic liturgy, for example, does not consist in a bunch of persons having a common experience but in making a common judgment about the things they are experiencing. It’s not the case that if an atheist came to mass with me, that he experiences something different from what I do, even though I remain convinced that there are more realities present there than he would admit. Again, I and a deer behave differently in the presence of bright orange, it’s because of a different experience and intuition, but the differing behavior and actions of myself and the atheist/muslim/ protestant can be explained in the same way. If it were, it seems like the difference between us would be a merely physical difference, reducing to some disposition or presence of an organ.

And so I’m backed into the idea that our knowledge of God can be neither discursive  (since then it would be imperfect outside of the perfection of discursive reasoning in science or philosophy) nor simply intuitive, since it seems to require some sort of inference from the experience of the world.

%d bloggers like this: