Descending into Chaos

The medieval Christian conception of the great chain of being, so ably described and analyzed by Arthur Lovejoy and E. M. Tillyard, has been one of the most resonant concepts addressing mankind’s unique position in the cosmos. Situated between the divine and the earthy, the angelic and the bestial, the spiritual world and the physical creation, the human being is understood as a hybrid being consisting of a “higher” nature and a “lower” nature in perpetual conflict with one another. It is a metaphor that makes good explanatory sense. Thus, we are tugged in two antithetical directions, toward reason, order and imagination on the one hand and envy, resentment and malice on the other, toward the tablets on the mountain above and the calf in the wilderness below. The gravity of degradation, alas, is always stronger than the upward flight of intellectual clarity and moral commitment. This will never change, but the choice and struggle between the angel and...(Read Full Article)
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