FAITH
Abstracting and transcending
by Fr. Roy Cimagala

WE have to be more aware of these spiritual operations that are involved in our thinking, judging, reasoning and, of course, in our praying, desiring, wishing, etc.

We actually have responsibilities toward them, since we need to develop and use them properly. We just cannot take them for granted and presume that everything would be fine simply by following what we consider as ‘what comes naturally’ or thinking and reasoning that are based more on feelings and emotions, instincts and social trends around, than on anything else.

These spiritual operations have requirements that have to be met, and they can be tough, considering our human condition that is wounded and weakened by sin. They also need appropriate dispositions that have to be developed, and they can be difficult to acquire, given a general atmosphere that is unfriendly and unhelpful to such dispositions.

They have their proper source and end that obviously can only be God. And again, considering the way things are in the world at present, this proper source and end may not be known and properly appreciated. In fact, there are signs that it is ridiculed.

To abstract is to discern the essence of things from their external incidentals or the sensible and tangible properties of these things. That’s what we do whenever we say, for example, that something is a chair when we see something that looks like a chair and is used as a chair. When we abstract, we get what is the universal principle behind things, removing it from the particularizing or singularizing properties and qualities of those things.

In other words, we consider things as they are in their ultimate status and identity, without getting unduly entangled with their properties, qualities and other incidentals. When we properly do the process of abstraction, we avoid what Christ warned us about with respect to judging things through appearance alone. “Do not judge by appearance,” he said, “but judge with righteous judgment.” (Jn 7,24)

To transcend is to go beyond a certain level without necessarily leaving that level. In this article, I refer to going beyond the material to enter into the spiritual world without leaving the material, or going beyond the natural to go into the supernatural without leaving the natural.

This power to transcend has something to do with what Christ once said: “Do not store for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and stead, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven...” (Mt 6,19-20)

These spiritual operations are crucial for us to get in touch with the ultimate dimensions and causes of what we consider to be reality, and of course, in the last analysis, to get in touch with God.

Our problem is that we fail to go deep and wide enough in our consideration of things. We get stuck in some shallow levels—the sensible, material or physical, or at best, the social and cultural, etc.

I am afraid that the younger generations today have practically lost these capacities to abstract and to transcend. Many people are mainly guided only by their senses, their feelings and primitive instincts. They do not seem to have been weaned from that level.

That is why we can observe many irregularities in their thinking, judging and reasoning. If it’s not rash judgments and all kinds of fallacies that they fall into, it’s biases and personal preferences that shape their thoughts and desires.

Nowadays, many are trapped by the allurements of the new technologies that instead of liberating them from the limitations of the previous generations are giving them with a new form of slavery and bondage. From time-savers, these technologies have become time-wasters.

Thus, they easily fall into narrow-mindedness and bigotry in their thinking, and rigidity in their ways. They are into a free-fall into self-indulgence. It goes without saying that they find no value in praying and in cultivating a life of piety. They are at the mercy of the worldly things. They have lost the sense of the sacred.

It’s a big challenge to parents and teachers and to any authority, including the Church people, to recover these crucial human powers. I would say that nothing less than a miracle is needed here. Thus, we need to do a lot of prayer and sacrifices for this intention, begging God to intervene in a more dramatic way.

In the meantime, it would be good for individuals to appreciate once again the value of abstracting and transcending, and for families and schools to create the proper environment and systems that would facilitate the learning of these basic human skills.


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