Two passages from Hugh Nibley about the meaning of life

Temple Square Christmas!
Temple Square at Christmas
(Wikimedia Commons)


We are pushed onto this earthly stage in the middle of the play that has been going on for thousands of years; we want to play an intelligent part and, in whispers, ask some of the older actors what this is all about—what are we supposed to be doing? And we soon learn that they know as little about it as we do.
Who can tell us the plot of the play? The sophic mind assures us that the play is simply a product of lighting, rocks, and wind and has no plot aside from the plots we invent for it. In that book things just happen—and there is no way of proving that that is not so. The mystic makes a virtue of the incomprehensibility of the whole thing; he submerges himself in the darkness of unknowing and wallows in his self-induced and self-dramatizing mood of contradictions: he is strictly a sophic, not a mantic, product.
The mantic admits that the play is incomprehensible to people of as little knowledge and experience as ours and insists for that reason that if we are to know anything at all about it, our knowledge must come from a higher source, by revelation. According to the mantic way of thinking, things do not just happen—and there is absolutely no way of proving that that is not so. The same starry heavens that have supplied the mantic with irrefutable proof since time immemorial that things do not just happen have always been the most self-evident proof in the world to the sophic that things do just happen. 
“Sophic and Mantic,” CWHN 10:370-71

Literature and art can help us enjoy or endure the play (of life), but cannot, by their own confession, tell us what it is about. Science as such confines itself rigorously to examining the props on the stage—measuring and describing tangible objects. It renounces the goal of comprehending the play as a whole. Philosophy would like to tell us what the play is about, but will not allow itself to run out of scientific bounds; it remains a scavenger in the camp of science. Religion alone can, if anything can, tell us the plot of the play from beginning to end—the eschatology without which it has no meaning. Even the layman cannot be indifferent (because):
a) We were made that way; we cannot rest until we know what it is all about (Aristotle, Augustine).
b) Indifference to eschatology is the mark of sterile societies, and can even be dangerous (Avicenna).
c) It is the unknown that appeals most: science and art can only promise more of the same; religion alone has the excitement of infinite possibilities (Whitehead).
Eschatology is not philosophy, ethics, or aesthetics. It deals exclusively with things that really happen. 
“Eschatology,” 1-2
 

Posted from Salt Lake City, Utah

 

 

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