Aldo La Fata’s expression, taken from a recent conversation, may come as a surprise in certain academic circles. However, the fundamentals of metaphysics support such a formula.

Already, as a language, metaphysics proposes that which is most transparent to the intelligence, so that concepts are the most ultimate, with no possible subsequent interpretation, and, above all, with the sole purpose of the mind passing from concept to conceived thing, and thus from concept to silence. Thanks to the ultimate expression of things, we can move from the conceivable to the intelligible. This is an overcoming in the sense that the conceptible keeps the thinking subject and the thing-thought separate, while the intelligible unifies, as it were, the thinker and the thing-thought. Such an experience, so common that it is not always distinguishable, leads de facto to the silence signalled, a silence beyond words and associated concepts, failing to fall back into the realm of the expressible conceptible, that, as it were, “splintered”, of the conceived subject and object.

Of course, this experience of the intelligible is by no means an ontological unification, but simply a cognitive identity: the intelligibility of the real is united with intelligence, which is the sense of the real, in the same way that saltiness is only meaningful for taste (Borella). This fundamental receptivity of intelligence is the mirror (speculum in Latin) in which the Ideas are reflected (Plato), which is why intelligence comes “through the door” or “from outside” (Aristotle).

Now, if we’re willing to consider the human tripartition: body-psyche-spirit, we’ll try to look beyond the psyche, in which we’ve just distinguished the reason that handles concepts from the intelligence open to the intelligible, which thus exceeds it, not to say transcends it.

Before we get there, we need to return to the two options of observation and search for causes. In the first case, the existence of physical matter is established, its cause is assumed to be unknowable, and it is deduced that matter sui generis produces its progressive complexifications. However, we can neither deduce from an unknowable cause its non-existence, nor refuse to search for causes, science being, by definition, “knowledge through causes”. In the other case, we agree that everything that exists is governed by a principle that is superior to it, and that necessarily possesses all the qualities that could possibly appear. In the words of Aristotle, things are in potency before they can be actualized. For the founder of science, the First cause is as self-evident as what is (the being), and metaphysics is the science of which these are the two objects.

If we follow the path of causes (and of one or of the cause), we arrive, with Plato, at a hierarchy of knowledge, distinguishing that which handles concepts and hypothetico-deductive reasoning by discursive reason – he calls this knowledge dianoia – from intuitive knowledge by dialectical ascent of the intellect – which he calls noèsis – ; that is, the intelligible, the semantic, which we receive in the intellect without ever being able to generate on our own, is a world beyond the concrete world, on which the latter depends. To the “external” eye, which seeks the cause of the physical it encounters (Aristotle), responds the “internal” eye, which discovers what its intellect receives, which, by virtue of its capacity to receive it, seems to function “by recollection” (Plato).

Just as any cosmology can only ever be a “plausible myth” (Plato), all human cultures (Africa, the Americas, Europe, Asia…) have developed mythologies, even metaphysics, of this cause of the world.

Religions, which name this Cause God according to their own “revelations”, have also formulated metaphysics of this Origin and its associated finalities, whether in terms of terrestrial life or individual and collective eschatological perspectives. Here, metaphysical language takes the form of the religion that develops it, and these metaphysics, as such, converge little, even if the metaphysical approach, a contrario, is common to them. The metaphysical and the supernatural come together – the supernatural, which we should call the ante-natural, i.e. that which precedes nature, while the metaphysical is, of course, “beyond” the physical, but also “after” (“meta” has many meanings), in the sense that the metaphysical is determined after discovering the physical.

Mention of the supernatural – that which is similar to the metaphysical – brings us back to this human tripartition: body-psyche-spirit. This spirit, which, in Christianity, some have called the “tip of the soul” or others “the Spirit of the Father and of the Son and ours” (S. Augustine) or still others that it is “uncreated and uncreable” (Meister Eckhart), is quite distinct from the psyche, in which we previously distinguished reason and intelligence. On the other hand, it is analogous to intelligence in terms of pure receptivity: we do not manipulate spiritual forces; in Christianity, in particular, we say that the “Spirit bloweth where He listeth” (Jn. 3:8), even though He is promised to all from all times: “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall become prophets” (Jl. 3:1 – Joel is from the 5th or 7th century BC).

If He is willing to “blow”, then we can speak of the pneumatization (or spiritualization) of the intellect. In terms of knowledge, we speak of gnosis. The intelligible and the noesis associated with it are already difficult to express without falling back into the conceptible, so metaphysics has become the language of silence, or rather the language toward silence. What then can we say about the language of a pneumatized intellect?

Thomas Aquinas, whose “intellectual” work is colossal and unrivalled, could say that it is straw compared to gnosis, of which he would say nothing.

So, if metaphysics is the language of silence, it’s because metaphysics is self-effacing once it has taken us into the world of the intelligible. There, there is no longer a subject per se manipulating linguistic concepts, but this cognitive union that no longer has words because they have become useless. There, in the hope of a blow of the Spirit, there’s hardly anyone left. If the Blow is operative, then there is a pure relationship of contemplation, and this relationship has primacy over both the contemplator and the Contemplated.