The five points in the phenomenology of devotion to Joan of Arc

We refer in the Philosophical Foundations to the phases, steps, methods, and ontology of our devotion to Joan of Arc. Collectively, they describe the movement of grace in our soul and therefore can be followed only passively.We can cooperate but never force, save for the force of our contrite heart. However, we find it helpful in the Foundations to break this “phenomenon” into its constituent components, step-by-step, in order to bring clarity to this graceful movement and that we might pass it on to others. That is its purpose. Here, we add one more component, that is, the context by which we might better communicate it and avoid misunderstandings.

We identify the following points around which to develop this context.

The first point is phenomenological. Our devotion to Joan is actualized by what we call a “divine glance” as referenced in the Foundations. There is no way to describe this work of the divine other than through the lens of Phenomenology, thankfully handed on to us by Edith Stein. This is a moment when by the divine glance we encounter Joan as who she is in the Kingdom of God and not merely as who she was as a historical figure. It is a “phenomenon.” Beyond our own subjective psychological forms, she becomes real to us in the arena of eternal forms in the mind of God. We “come to the knowledge” of Joan without first applying a rational process of deduction or induction. This knowledge of her does not come from a process premised on the knowledge of other things; it simply comes. This is that to which we refer as the “phenomenological” in the Edmund Husserl and Edith Stein framework. In accord with Husserl and Stein, we understand that the phenomenon is objective and not merely a subjective creation of the imagination through the intellect. It revealed itself to our intellect but did not come to us through the operation of the intellect; therefore, it cannot be a creation of the subjective intellectual mind.

The second point is spiritual. We come to “understand that which we formerly did not understand,” a process described by Edith Stein as “knowledge.” Now that we have knowledge, the phenomenon of our encounter with Joan of Arc becomes a deliberate search for the fullness of that knowledge, a process Stein calls “spirituality.” Edith Stein uses the analogy of seeing a mountain on the horizon and experiencing the inner call to discover what that is in the distance. “There is something over there – what is it?” Now, a mountain of sorts has come into view on our horizon, that is, the person of Joan of Arc. We walk toward it, wondering, “what is it?” This is what we describe now, using Stein’s definition, as a “spiritual journey” through, and to, the heart of Joan of Arc in the distance. Grace has purposefully actualized us for what is now not simply an encounter. The phenomenological has become the efficient cause of our actualized movement toward “what is it?” and therefore now constitutes something more, a “spiritual encounter.”

The third point is philosophical. Now on a journey of discovery, we realize that what has become a spiritual encounter with Joan of Arc requires a new set of glasses, that is, a new set of paradigms. The journey of “there is something over there – what is it?” can be fulfilled only by taking the path the other followed and accepting the paradigms they accepted. We must “believe as they believe” in order to follow the grounds they followed. We must “be bested” by the understanding and the conclusions of the other, or, we must best them ourselves and reject them, as Edith Stein explains. Thus, we move toward “what is it?” by accepting Joan’s point of view. In so doing, we add one more development. We become spiritual brothers and sisters with Joan. What began as “knowledge” now blossoms in this third step as both spiritual and relational with Joan through the efficient action of grace. We not only have “knowledge” but now are her spiritual kin because of our philosophical alignment with her. We come to know Joan as we never did before the first encounter.

The fourth point is analogical. Now that we follow Joan as her spiritual brothers and sisters, we communicate with what is eternal through the use of the analogical in the material realm. Edith Stein suggests that the finite mind can know something that is eternal in one of two ways, by analogy with what we know in the sensible world or by its effect on the material world. Thus, we know Joan as she is in the Kingdom of God, the eternal, through the analogy of her world, the Kingdom of France, and through the impact Heaven made on her through her celestial revelations. Through the historical Joan, we have the analogy and the effect to which Stein refers. From the analogical, then, we begin constructing our phenomenological world from the individual, to a-priori concrete intuition, then to general concepts (the process Stein outlines for us) leading us from the finite to an understanding of the eternal. Joan of Arc has communicated to us objectively, by the action of God’s grace, through her own relationship with the eternal Kingdom of God.

The fifth point is theological. The phenomenological journey to “what is it?” actualized by our initial encounter with Joan through grace requires the surety of faith. There must be a firm foundation upon which to develop our new world view. We must base our most foundational premises on the solid rock of certainty. Our journey toward “what is it?” must not lead us into danger. We must avoid the cliffs, chasms, wild animals, and loose-footing that might give way and cast us into the ravines. Edith Stein refers to “getting into the grounds” of the other in order to understand not simply what they believed but why they believed it. We must not chase the distant “what is it?” with reckless abandonment. We do not reach it “as the crow flies.” It requires specific paths with signs and directions. This is the theological, where we understand, as Stein again concluded, that our phenomenological construction, our new understanding of the Kingdom, requires that we begin with faith in God. If it begins in our own subjective minds, we must reject it, as even Edith Stein did with regard to her mentor Edmund Husserl’s assumption about the foundation of the phenomenological process of understanding. The certainty of faith in God was, by the way, Joan’s own foundation.

For additional insights, I offer the following: