The Gothic Cathedral / Origins of Gothic Architecture and the Medieval Concept of Order pages xvi - xvii
. . . The physical world as we understand it has no reality except as symbol . . . Maximus the Confessor, a thinker we shall meet again later, actually defines what he calls "symbolic vision" as the ability to apprehend within the objects of sense perception the invisible reality of the intelligible that lays beyond them . . .
. . . The modern mind has severed the symbol,the image, from all metaphysical moorings; . . . The Middle Ages perceived beauty as the "splendor veritatis," the radiance of truth; they perceived the image not as illusion but as revelation. The modern artist is free to create; we demand of him only that he be true to himself. The medieval artist was committed to a truth that transcended human existence.
As Catholics, we recognize that the seen and touched world about us is not illusion, but allusion. What we grasp is not only the concrete reality of the objects we see and touch, but likewise a reality that cannot be grasped except by the immortal soul.
The poetic of rhythmic diminution exists in both the concrete of spaced columns and such, but fully exists in the comprehension of the relation of euclidean space.
For the modernist, reality is only that which can be grasped by mechanical measurement.
So that in turn, when symbol can be grasped by mechanical means, symbol is assumed to be the underlying concrete existence. Number has become substance, and actual substance is without meaning because it cannot be apprehended qua substance by mechanical means.
For the modernist, signs are likewise an intrinsic part of life he recognizes and makes use of, but as opposed to those signs that are intrinsic to nature, the modernist's signs are conventions.