Marcel analyses the issue of a union of a finite consciousness with an infinitely transcendental consciousness. He tries to look at the way we look at how others do and live and we try to comprehend and think in terms of how we think and how we unite our thinking in solution of problems and that of others. He tries to look at a situation when one is in a dilemma in trying to look at the union of thinking between him and others. At the same time he looks at the opposite of what he expects when dealing with others so as to have a union of a finite consciousness with an infinitely transcendental consciousness. In the selected passage by Gabriel Marcel, in short, he says that when we think of union, we think of what is closely related to us, to what is like us and in the image of us. However, in the case of a praying consciousness, the union of the praying consciousness is not as naturally conceivable, is can only be possibly comprehended in the experience of mystery through merging into something that infinitely transcends.
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In this passage, Marcel deals with the issue of a union of a finite consciousness with an infinitely transcendental consciousness, yet somehow one’s immanence also radically transcends the infinite. He says that one can only conceive an immanence transcendental union with others that are of the same finite nature as one is. First, he attempts to deal with this issue by treating it as a problem that needs to be solved in an aim to illustrate the implausibility of arriving at a solution of the issue by approaching it as a problem. If this issue is tackled from a scientific perspective, it would only affirm the impossibility to conceive of a transcendental union in prayer. A problem can be explored analytically from the outside. This presupposes that although problems can be intrinsically solved they are subject to empirical evidence.
On the other hand, he chooses to treat this union as a mystery and states that mysteries as opposed to problems cannot be intrinsically solved. Although, mysteries are not solved or comprehended from external analysis or empirical evidence, they have to be experienced from within in order to be comprehended. Therefore, he determines that this union is a mystery. For Marcel, in order to understand the different mysteries, one is not to try to solve them because they are not to be solved, but to be participated in. Some examples of other mysteries are love, hope, freedom, evil and the foundation of all mysteries is being itself (Class notes 12/10).
The act of merging one’s consciousness through prayer with the radical transcendental infinite is the mystery that arises from the phenomenological approach. This approach begins from a methodologically defined immanence. This is about the idea is that transcendence that can only be given in immanence. From the immanence of one’s praying consciousness is from where one can experience the infinite transcendence of union. However, in order to be part of, or to experience the infinite transcendence, one has to act, or participate in something. For it is only through some sort of participation in something that the transcendental union can be experienced. Therefore, two key points are that it all begins from within in the immanence of one’s consciousness, and that through the active involvement in a mystery is that how one can radically transcend and understand the mystery.
Marcel is also contrasting two modes of transcendence. In the first half, it’s a mode of transcendence that is about what is akin to people namely, other people. Other people transcend the immanence or awareness of one’s self. One can have the presentation of other people and a representation even of their interiority in as much as one is able to empathize with them, and understand them, but their own interiority will never be given in its originality. This mode of transcendence is precertification according to Husserl (Class notes 12/10). In this mode there is a primordial level of experience which is one’s own immanence, and then there will be something transcendent given in that immanence. This mode of transcendence belongs to the mode of empathy which is about the encountering of other people. This is relative transcendental because it only appears in one’s own immanence of the self.
Similarly, the same order or logic applies to the radical transcendence found in the second part of the passage. However, now a paradox emerges. The issue with radical transcendence that makes it seems impossible to conceive such a thing is that it is not apparent at all in immanence. Its essence is radically and completely transcendent. It follows then that the paradox is that only from within immanence the radical transcendence is given; only from one’s own perspective. From one’s own primordial and immediate experience can something that can never in principle appear having sense at all within this immanence. The interesting paradox that Marcel leaves the reader with is that from the very radical interiors of immanence, can radical transcendence only take place.
Although, Marcel does not solve the mysteries, or the problem of the odds of the immurement transcendence, he leaves clear distinctions or ways to better grasp and visualize the different phenomenological issues and contrasts. It is interesting that he describes all the pieces to the puzzle so well that one can clearly see where the mysteries are, and understand the inconsistencies of the paradox between radical immanence and radical transcendence, but yet one cannot comprehend them unless one is involved with them.