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Record Type: Review   ID: 345

In the Throe of Wonder: Intimations of the Sacred in a Post-Modern World

Miller, Jerome A.

 Philosopher Miller takes a postmodern existential approach to human conceptions of God, which are based on experiences of wonder. He criticizes modern philosophy for subjecting questions inherited from tradition to reason’s dictates without living anew the experience of wonder that initiated the question. For each generation, "the only appropriate way for us to inherit a question is to let it lead us into territory not yet explored by tradition which left it to us. Only then does it become questionable in a way that has never occurred before, so that, instead of being in our past, it becomes the unknown future into whose throe we are drawn by our very being as questioners" (p. 167). Reason and logical argument have become privileged, when it should be the experiences that necessitate the use of reason that should be viewed as the most important. And such experience is, to say the least, exceptional. The experience, if we put it first, will serve as the wave that will carry us to the answer, using all our sensory and rational faculties to keep afloat, but the latter are useless in setting the direction itself. As guides, reason and our senses can but take us to the edge—they cannot transport us to the other side. Only an EHE can do that, and once it has, looking back, reason and the senses can build a bridge back to the starting point. The problem is: People then assume the bridge was always there and is the only thing needed to bridge the gap. That may be after an EHE has bridged the gap, but in regard to the next abyss one comes to, once again, it can only be crossed initially by an EHE. Reason and senses can only follow after. Thus, in order to advance we need to embrace the seemingly irrational. This is the only sensible thing to. As Miller puts it: "To be fully rational requires surrendering unconditionally to the throe of wonder instead of clinging to the given; it means allowing oneself to be cast into the abyss of the unknown instead of trying to find a way to secure oneself from that vertiginous possibility. ... There is no way to rehearse this spirit or plan ahead of time how one is going to practice it. All one can do is surrender to the throe of the unknown and let it transport one wherever it will" (pp. 6-7).
Publisher Information:Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992. 222p. Chap. notes: 199-216; Index: 217-222
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