Monday, July 20, 2009

Christian Fertile Eggheads Unite!

Concluding our little plunge into the world of John Scottus Eriugena, AKA the world, or totality of interacting objects, forces, and events, both exterior and interior, vertical and horizontal. You know, the cosmos.

In fact, there is no question that he could have called his work "One Cosmos Under God." I just can't believe that rank and file Christians typically don't know about this stuff, and probably wouldn't care anyway. It reminds me of how so many black ballplayers don't even know who Jackie Robinson was.

But I think it speaks to a kind of intellectual impoverishment that has taken place within Christianity. As for why this degeneration took place, I suppose you could blame Kant, but how many people read Kant? The real problem was that religion thought that the only way it could save itself from the depredations of scientism was to leave knowledge to science and preserve faith as the province of religion. But faith without knowledge -- without the possibility of knowledge -- is just stupid.

Indeed, faith is supposed to be a subtle mode of knowledge, so to yield epistemology to materialism means that there is no longer any real and accessible "object of faith" to be known.

Here's one of the ironies -- and this is brought out by Gairdner in the highly highly recommended Book of Absolutes -- the pursuit of pure science has led back to an idealistic view of the cosmos that is entirely compatible with traditional metaphysics.

Even more ironic is the fact that in the 19th century, it was the physicists who were the reductionists and materialists, whereas the biologists tried to cling to some romantic version of elan vital against the grotesque idea of reducing man to a machine.

But now the situation has reversed, precisely: because of advances in quantum physics, it is no longer possible for any thinking person to maintain a materialistic view of the cosmos. To do so is pure superstition and ignorance.

And yet, this is exactly what radical Darwinians such as Queeg do! They imagine that they are the most sober and scientific, when they are actually operating out of a silly, outmoded metaphysic detached from the primary reality. Science presumes that biology is reducible to physics. That being the case, then life cannot be a materialistic process. Someone like Queeg is simply a "fanatic advocate of the impossible," of something that cannot be and never could be, not in this or any other cosmos. He is a Darwinian Truther.

More irony: at the end of our 300 year long materialistic bender the West has been on, here is John Scottus Eriugena -- or Maximus Confessor, the designated driver -- soberly waiting for us with the coffee and aspirin, asking "what took you so long?"

So again, for Christianity to abandon the field of epistemology and ontology to the pagans, heathens and other assorted infrahumans is worse than a crime. It's a blunder. And the consequences for our civilization are beyond tragic, because it is doubtful that any civilization can survive in the absence of a spiritual center that unifies people around a grand (and accurate) vision of reality in both its horizontal and vertical dimensions.

Along these lines, C.S. Lewis wrote that "For my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that 'nothing happens' when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand."

Here again, this is precisely my attitude in posting. This is never a mere intellectual exercise, even though we deal with highly abstract ideas. Rather, I am aiming for that nonlocal vector where heart and mind intersect -- where the mind "sings" and the heart "thinks."

Christ is, among other things, the hidden unity of the cosmos: "the incarnate Word unites both the whole of the intelligible [vertical] and sensible [horizontal] worlds in himself..." (JSE). This is also a harmony: the harmony of part and whole, in both space and time.

But since this wholeness (from which healing is derived) takes place in time, it is a melody, or rather, a harmelody of adams forged from within stars. Thus, JSE "often speaks in terms of the growth of the total Christ, the vir perfectus who is the goal of all history" (McGinn). (If I understand my Latin, vir perfectus would mean the erfect-pay an-may.)

Do you see the point? Just as John the Scot is waiting for us up ahead -- or above -- so too is Christ, in the sense that time is the time it takes for the timebound (i.e., crucified) Christ to realize the eternal Christ, if one my put it thus without promulgating a misunderstanding. The seed that grows into the kingdom of heaven is of the same substance. To "imitate Christ" is to recapitulate this journey from crucifixion to resurrection. But only every moment, for this movement an "infinite unfulfilled fulfillment" (McGinn).

For "the Word stands at the beginning and end. But the end is different from the beginning," as the creation "realizes" itself, which is to say, God. This is to bring the creation back to God, to its divine source and destiny. With ribbons. On a silver platter. Right down the middle of the plate. It is a union, but a union in difference, and that makes all the difference.

That is, if I understand things correctly. You have no idea how delicate is the balance between abandoning myself to automatic writing and fidelity to orthodoxy! All the more reason to revisit old posts and clear up misunderstandings.

Our "crucified part" is not so much "lost" but "absorbed in the higher," so that it may "become one with [the] higher nature" (JSE). This is none other than theosis, the never-ending and ever-rending process through which "we may now be deified by this likeness through faith and afterwards will be deified in vision" (JSE). Through participation in the mystery of Christ, we become sons through adoption. Or you might even call it in vitro fertilization, which is to be a fertile egghead on this side of eternity.

The intellectual nature... does not rest until it becomes a whole in the whole beloved and is comprehended in the whole. --John Scottus Eriugena

11 Comments:

Blogger robinstarfish said...

I believe that many who find that 'nothing happens' when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.

Ah, so that's it - I was missing the pipe!

As for the 'intellectual impoverishment that has taken place within Christianity', just visit a so-called Christian bookstore and try to find some real meat among the racks of fuzzy devotionals, self-helps, and figurines.

7/20/2009 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

That's why they make Orthodox bookstores.

Harder to find, but worth it...

7/20/2009 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

I've been looking for a way forward. Bob, you stated the obvious. I need to keep reading.

Thanks

7/20/2009 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"As for why this degeneration took place, I suppose you could blame Kant, but how many people read Kant?"

ME!

Oh... you mean besides me?

Ummm...

Well... Ayn Rand got around that issue in a speech at West Point with a question,

"You might claim-as most people do--that you have never been influenced by philosophy. I will ask you to check that claim. Have you ever thought or said the following?..."

, which, leaving out some of the iconoclasm, she handled this way,

"...Or: "It may be true for you, but it's not true for me." You got it from William James. Or: "I couldn't help it! Nobody can help anything he does." You got it from Hegel. Or: "I can't prove it, but I feel that it's true." You got it from Kant. Or: "It's logical, but logic has nothing to do with reality." You got it from Kant. Or: "It's evil, because it's selfish." You got it from Kant. Have you heard the modern activists say: "Act first, think afterward"? They got it from John Dewey.

Some people might answer: "Sure, I've said those things at different times, but I don't have to believe that stuff all of the time. It may have been true yesterday, but it's not true today." They got it from Hegel. They might say: "Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." They got it from a very little mind, Emerson. They might say: "But can't one compromise and borrow different ideas from different philosophies according to the expediency of the moment?" They got it from Richard Nixon--who got it from William James.
""


Wham!

7/20/2009 11:07:00 AM  
OpenID kaffepaus said...

Ah, a pipe! What an excellent accessory for a true Christian gentleman. One day I must have one too :)

/Johan

7/20/2009 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

But faith without knowledge -- without the possibility of knowledge -- is just stupid.

Indeed, faith is supposed to be a subtle mode of knowledge, so to yield epistemology to materialism means that there is no longer any real and accessible "object of faith" to be known."

Amen, brudda!
Faith without knowledge is hollow.

7/20/2009 02:32:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Robin -

>> . . just visit a so-called Christian bookstore and try to find some real meat among the racks of fuzzy devotionals, self-helps, and figurines<<

Yup, same with contemporary Christian music, which is annoyingly derivative, often cloyingly sentimental and shallow. Meanwhile, modern classic composers are still so sicklied over with "modernism" they won't touch a genuine spiritual/religious theme (with the exception of some E. European composers)

Sad, because bad art makes for bad religion.

Bach, Beethoven, the venerable greats . . . that's where the meat is.

7/20/2009 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

I am aiming for that nonlocal vector where heart and mind intersect -- where the mind "sings" and the heart "thinks."

That is beautiful, Bob.

7/20/2009 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Petty consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Just to correct Rand and all.

7/21/2009 06:40:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Ricky said "Petty consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
Just to correct Rand and all."

Actually, Emerson's line was "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."(from Self-Reliance), and I think he was more speaking to those who cling to repeating what has been consistently repeated before, rather than seeking or admitting what the truth actually is.

Rand I'm sure took it as '1 + 1 = 2, only vaAary leetle minds would value an inconsistent answer!'

If you ever heard her pronounce the word 'mystic' ('uhmmMeeesss-teeeKk') you'd get her point of view, she cut and dried assessed them as deliberately making an assault upon the Truth, and so sentenced them to the gallows forthwith.

Like any good acid-washing product, one must be careful in applying it, but if done properly, the resulting clean shine is very satisfying.

;-)

7/21/2009 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Oops, I mean River, not Ricky... poetic justice!

7/21/2009 11:03:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home