An Intelligible Universe

June 19, 2014


The practical result of all this is the ordering of a society according to this transcendent order. The world becomes intelligible—bristling with meaning and purpose. From wonder and the sublime come those philosophical—as well as religious and aesthetic—considerations that are the basis of civilization.

Photo of the Prague Castle by Ratolest.

Photo of the Prague Castle by Ratolest.

Thus, the search for the sublime cannot be restricted to pure speculation or contemplation. Medieval man acted upon this quest by trying to construct the world accordingly. Looking at things symbolically, his goal became not only arranging his material well-being but elaborating a marvelous culture, art, or civilization based on the consideration of these perfections. The result was a life with a certain happiness on this earth, a foretaste of eternal happiness in Heaven.


This explains the intense artistic sense and the appreciation for quality of those times. Because of his uprightness and innocence, medieval man experienced a disinterested joy in seeing anything perfect, beautiful, or well done—even in things not his own. He strove to make and create these things as a means of surrounding himself with earthly marvels from which he could imagine heavenly ones.


Medieval man also made this same search inside his own soul. He sought to discern the ideal of those qualities inside himself that he could develop and then reflect this order in his soul. He acted upon this discernment by constantly “constructing” his soul to make it ever more according to that ideal likeness of God that he felt compelled to reflect.



John Horvat, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go (York, Penn.: York Press, 2013), 318-9.


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