The first proper object of our knowledge is the Creator. He made it all, including my organ of knowing, and this “all” that He made is the Garden. The entire world here below is the Garden, seen from from far away, in exile.
Normally, we observe the world via reason but we do not know it in the fullest sense, because reason is observing from an objective distance, a spatial point where any other reason (any other at all) can stand and repeat the same observation. This detached, repeatable observation we call science. It is the spectatorship of exile. It yields useful information, through which we master and improve the world.
By definition, science excludes all cognition that others cannot share. The observation is repeatable or it is not valid. So if I hold my epistemological position always on this detached, objective vantage point – which allows my reason to see – I cannot have unique knowledge. I can validate the results of experiments.
If we hold that the deepest knowledge is what happens between two people, then science, for all its utilitarian glory, yields no knowledge of this sort. (I do want to stipulate that science, the gift or reason, is an adornment on the human race. What science has given us is…magnificent. I write nothing to devalue it, in method or in substance. But I want to talk about love.)
None of this makes sense to you unless you were raised listening to bible stories, which imprinted us with the true cliché that to “know”, biblically, is a wholistic experience between persons, often used of the intimacy between husband and wife. Biblical writers don’t think of us looking out on the natural world and “knowing” nature. We behold nature. But we know a lover.
Full knowledge is participatory love. Our knowledge of God is in the act of love, but is often called “mysticism” when a writer is trying to catch in words what, of love, impinges the knowing faculty.
Our knowledge of The Garden, then, is not an act of analytical reason, but can be as we love The Garden, in an artistic work. An exercise of loving the warm light as it kisses the molecules. What we discover in art is never a means to any end, even though we might be able to capture in words. Knowledge is useful, but the lover is indifferent to its usefulness.
So knowledge, in this biblical sense, is interpenetration; or participation in “the inner essences of created things” (I believe this is an expression from the Philokalia. Think also of the poet Hopkins’ “inscape”.)
So, the artist seeks to befriend The Garden. I love prose and poetry infused with the love of something – a landscape (Bronte), a country (Pasternak), a countryside (Cather). Please, please, love something. In words, or pictures.