Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Surfing the Laws of Nature to the Father Shore

I'm going to continue free associating along with Being as Communion, even though it's not generating much interest. Hey, it's interesting to me.

Yesterday we left off in hell, of which Zizioulas writes that "condemnation to eternal death is nothing other than a person's being allowed to decline into a 'thing,' into absolute anonymity, to hear the terrifying words, 'I do not know you.'" It's like being addressed by Travis Bickle, only forever: You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? I'm the only one here. You talkin' to me?

Now, it seems to me that this notion in Christianity of "divinization," or theosis, is about as important as it gets. But if that's the case, why did it take me so many years to hear about it? It's like studying yoga but not learning about moksha, or Buddhism and not hearing of nirvana, or Islam and somehow missing the part about killing infidels.

I consider this is very poor marketing. Either that, or there is some disconnect between what the original Christians thought vs. what contemporary ones think (or at least emphasize).

I'll use divinization instead of theosis, because it connotes the process involved. It is "participation not in the nature or substance of God, but in His personal existence." As we have said many times, the Raccoon path is a descending one. Just so, in Christianity "the goal of salvation is that the personal life which is realized in God should also be realized on the level of human existence" (emphasis mine).

Therefore -- and this is a critical point -- salvation "is identified with the realization of personhood in man." The goal is to become a proper person, and all this implies. The rest shouldn't concern us, and can take care of itself.

The Fathers used the word "person" in a very specific sense, and it is obviously to be distinguished from our mere biological or psychological manhood. Nature and culture give us these, respectively. Man is an open system both biologically and psychologically, which maintains his physical and psychic life.

Obviously it is possible to fulfill one's four score of genetic duty without awakening to one's true personhood, which can only be conferred from above -- again, as we have mentioned in the past, this latter transformation is also the result of an open system, only a vertical one.

For the Fathers, it is the person who is the image and likeness of God. To put it another way, God is the true person. This should be a rebuke to those who imagine that God is merely a psychic projection of the human being, a "man write large." If this were the case, God would be like a man, not a person. And for many religious people, God is frankly more like a man.

Let's begin with the problem of our natural endowment, i.e., the manhood that is conferred by mere existence. The existentialists are correct that we didn't ask for this existence, but rather, are simply tossed into an impossible situation that is full of constraint and necessity. Indeed, there's really no way out short of suicide.

In this way of looking at things, offing oneself would truly be the one outrageously free act, the one complete rebellion against our existential "thrownness," a spit in the eye of Darwin, or whoever you want to blame for this mess. As Camus said, "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide."

Or, even if one chooses to stick around, it is just a vain "immortality project" rooted in the Denial of Death (a very good book, by the way, for at least it doesn't flinch from the reality of Death, and draws out the ultimate implications of the existentialist project).

At any rate, our happy existence as raging animals within a dying carcass is bestowed by Mother Nature. It is "interwoven with a natural necessity and therefore lacks ontological freedom." And everything we think and do takes place in the shadow of Death, the ultimate necessity and last word. All meaning is just a chess game with Death. The game may be brief, or it may last awhile, but you lose every time.

For the Fathers, Christianity throws open a vertical escape hatch from this ontological necessity. It "leads to a new mode of existence" and to a "regeneration" through which we are able to surf over the laws of nature instead of being drowned in them.

You might put it this way, which I did in the Coonifesto: we don't want to discount the importance of our natural existence, for it provides the stable boundary conditions for the emergence of something higher. After all, if existence were not subject to necessity -- i.e., if it weren't stable and predictable -- it couldn't produce anything higher.

Take the analogy of language. We are all born into a language that we did not create, and which constrains us. But it is only because of these constraints that we are able to constantly say new things. Looked at this way, rules of spelling are the boundary conditions for the emergence of words; words are the boundary conditions of sentences; sentences of paragraphs; paragraphs of plot; plot of theme; theme of something perennially true.

Just so, man is a kind of parenthetical boundary condition for the possibility of divinization: he is ( ) for the purpose of (↓↑).

Note that this is the order presented in Genesis: man is first formed from "the dust of the ground." That is natural man. Only afterwards does God breathe into him "the breath of life" (pneuma), so that he becomes a "living being." Looked at esoterically, these two phases should be kept separate, because there are plenty of dust devils blowing around who are not in-formed by that vertical breath of life.

You might even say that our fallenness results in a descent from deity to dust, so to speak. Conversely, divinization results in the reverse journey, from dust to back to divinity. Isn't this the ultimate meaning of the Christ event -- of divinity becoming dust so that dust might become divine? But in order for this to become operative in horizontal man, he must be "born 'anew' or 'from above.'" His horizontal birth must be complemented by a vertical one, so that he may transition from man to true person.

Yeah, it requires a leap of faith, but don't do it half-heartedly. Rather, you should joyously throw your whole self into it, body, mind, and spirit. You know, like a child. But watch out for your neighbor, too. We don't need a lawsuit.

21 Comments:

Blogger Alan McCann said...

"Either that, or there is some disconnect between what the original Christians thought vs. what contemporary ones think (or at least emphasize). "

Perhaps even the idea of the possibility or desirability of divinization/theosis has gone by the wayside.

We are all called to be saints, but who the heck wants to be a saint these days (at least by what we understand as sainthood)!

You (rightly) point out the right here/right now-ness of the goal of Christianity but much if it seems to be focused on being "good enough" now so you can achieve the afterlife. Again, I guess it is a difference in emphasis.

7/21/2010 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"even though it's not generating much interest."

Maybe not much interest in many, but much in lil' ol' me. WhatamI? Chopped liver?

Carry on...

...and back to the post..

7/21/2010 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

:) - what Rick said.

After all, if existence were not subject to necessity -- i.e., if it weren't stable and predictable -- it couldn't produce anything higher.

Going back to musical analogies, while out and about yesterday I had my playlist shuffling, and up came one of the tracks from Sidewinder. I've been enjoying the album, along with a lot of the instrumental jazz standards, in an exoteric way for a while; a confluence of small differences yesterday put me on the inside instead. Hard to describe the distinction, but the interplay of grounding structure and free flowing vertical creativity took on an extra dimension in my head. No matter how freewheeling the notes, they would be meaningless noise without the stable and predictable form underlying their flight.

7/21/2010 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Grant Maher said...

I agree with Rick. I am interested in the topic.

This post covers the vital question:

What is the primary goal in life?

Live a virtuous life to gain salvation in an afterlife, even if it makes life a little bit constrained and rote (plan 1)

Enjoy life as much as possible now, even if virtue goes by the wayside sometimes, and take your chances regarding salvation (plan 2)

Embody, reflect, and carry out the will of God here and now, as best as you can understand it, and never mind enjoyment or salvation (plan 3).

Or, escape into oblivion or Nirvana ASAP, never mind enjoyment, service to God, or salvation.(plan 4)


Plan 3, which is the descending path described by Bob, is preferable to the others, because enjoyment and salvation occur as natural adjuncts to service.

Plan 4 carries the drawback of not participating in life, which is a real wet-blanket killjoy attitude.

7/21/2010 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

I've been reading the posts, just had nothing to add that seemed intelligent. Just been trying to learn something from it.

I believe that we are works in progress and that God is creating SOMETHING with us, but I don't know what the end result is supposed to be. To think of myself in the process toward divinization, makes my little heart think "YIKES", that that might be taking it a little too far, and that kind of widespread thought could cause a God complex in a lot of people. Look at rich atheists, as an example. Or Tom Cruise, and his Scientology Messiah complex. And that kind of thought drives them crazier the older they get. Instead of "growing up" they tend to downward spiral.

Maybe the realization of divinization is given to people who are ready for it, but it appears to me, that even people we consider saints, like St. Francis, etc, remained humble and had no idea of their importance and what impact their lives and writings would have on future generations.

About being allowed to decline into a "thing" or "blob" - I think that's way we are given hardships - or why the dynamic of human existence is set up the way it is - to poke us with a stick and make us think and act beyond what we think we are capable of. If humans did not experience discomfort or dissatisfaction, we wouldn't be challenged to exert ourselves, and would probably turn into blobs. Which is probably why the Bible says God knows it's hard, but if we hang in their it will be worth it.

Also, not sure if I read this in the Bible or someplace else, but that the gates of hell will be locked from within. You can certainly see that from the militaristic stance of atheists who want to destroy Judeo-Christian thought, like just because they don't want to participate in it is not enough - it must be destroyed.

7/21/2010 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Oh, goody - now I can add something :)

To think of myself in the process toward divinization, makes my little heart think "YIKES", that that might be taking it a little too far, and that kind of widespread thought could cause a God complex in a lot of people.

Frankly, I think the people for whom that is most true will find some way to falsely elevate themselves no matter what.

I do see your concern though. I suppose the distinction here is that there are some pre-existing truisms that are a part of this, but aren't mentioned explicitly in this post. First, a real progress toward divinization can't begin until one realizes in a profound way just how much one is not god. The Raccoon way is one of humility, not self-aggrandizement. Second, as any true seeker gnos, the closer one gets, the farther one realizes one actually is from the Absolute.

The distance between God and man is literally infinite and unbridgeable - except that, indeed, God became Man. Why? Because God is Communion. We may choose to participate or not, but when we do so we experience Christ in us and us in Christ. How else to describe such an elevation from our merely matter-of-factness to an innerstanding of the facts of the matter, than as divinization or theosis?

7/21/2010 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Take the analogy of language. We are all born into a language that we did not create, and which constrains us. But it is only because of these constraints that we are able to constantly say new things. Looked at this way, rules of spelling are the boundary conditions for the emergence of words; words are the boundary conditions of sentences; sentences of paragraphs; paragraphs of plot; plot of theme; theme of something perennially true.

Just so, man is a kind of parenthetical boundary condition for the possibility of divinization: he is ( ) for the purpose of (↓↑). "

O... very well put.

7/21/2010 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

grunt maker said “plan 1... plan 2... plan 3... plan 4...”

Coongratulations grunt, your record of consistency in completely missing the point remains unbroken.

7/21/2010 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think the institutional strictures that prevent divinization from devolving to narcissism are so severe as to render it a non-issue. Indeed, that's what distinguishes it from some kind of new age thing. Just try reading the Philokalia, which you might say is the handbook for theosis. It's heavy duty stuff.

7/21/2010 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger Dianne said...

LOL @ goody now I can add something. :)

What I know, is that the more I understand, the more I feel closer to God.

I don't know about all that the closer, the farther kind of stuff, so maybe I'm not as far as that yet.

But I know all about some humility. :)

7/21/2010 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

What I know, is that the more I understand, the more I feel closer to God.

Yes, that's true, too - but you don't feel like you are closer to being God, right? In fact, as you just said you're quite wary of any such thing, and rightly so. That's what I was referring to.

7/21/2010 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Dianne said...

Julie - Oh, I absolutely know that I'm not God. In fact, I'm so glad to leave everything in His hands, because by now I would have smote a lot of people, and who knows how that would have screwed up the dynamic. :)

7/21/2010 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

lol - I can think of a couple I'd love to smite. Probably a very good thing it's not my job, either...

7/21/2010 04:15:00 PM  
Blogger Dianne said...

This is WAY OT, but it's so funny, I have to share it.

From http://www.imao.us/ : Just bear with it til the end. LOLOL!!!

We may not have adequate border patrol, but luckily the Mexican government is on the ball. They found a man trying to smuggle eighteen monkeys in a belt around his waist. That’s like a bomb belt for a suicide bomber, but instead of a bomb it’s monkeys! Think of what would happen if you were on a bus and a guy stood up and opened his jacket to reveal a belt of monkeys and then he released them all over the bus! I’d be like, “Why am I on a bus?! I own a car!”

7/21/2010 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger Jason T. said...

Bob wrote..."Yesterday we left off in hell, of which Zizioulas writes that "condemnation to eternal death is nothing other than a person's being allowed to decline into a 'thing,' into absolute anonymity, to hear the terrifying words, 'I do not know you.'" "

Seeing this I can't help but think about Aurobindo's "Savitri," in which the goddess made flesh does battle with Death, the Abyss, Unconsciousness, and the total ignorance of Nothingness again and again. She knows in her Heart what she was put on earth to do, and when she is robbed of it (in the form of her husband Satyvan's death) she stands firm in her will in facing the utter loneliness of hell to recover it. It is not just a complete act of faith that God exists in the formless-form of the Eternal Absolute, but a conviction that she is one with such Reality, and therefore has MEANING in her person.

Knowledge of the Absolute--which is Meaning--confers meaning upon the embodied individual; however, the embodied individual in not only a superconscious Soul but Matter, Inertia, and a conglomoration of subconscious infernal entities. Facing this with the fullness of one's faith imparts not only the experience of Unity, but the complete sanctification of the relative (meaning material and conditional) aspects of the Holy Trinity. At least that is what I took from the tale.

Therefore, when cornered off in the aloneness as a spiritual seeker, it is not punishment being handed out from above, but an attempt by the soul within to recover its original state within the time-bound structure of the Momma-Matrix-MatterMachine by calling forth into the awareness the already present limitations.

7/21/2010 07:08:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I just watched The Chronicles of Narnia on TV (never read the book), and it's obviously very much the same idea....

7/21/2010 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger Grant Maher said...

Van:

Good heavens man. Can't you see we are cut of the same cloth?

We are warriors. We are more aggressive, more practical, and more testosterone driven than the average run.

An dammit man, the world needs that.

So don't fight me. Address my plans.

In what way do they miss the point?

And what is your plan?

If you want to lead, offer someting better.

7/21/2010 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger black hole said...

The hole respectfully requests a return to political content, with insults and pans directed at leftist figures.

That kind of stuff is fun for me.

The pure philosophic content stuff leaves me a little out to sea.

Help. Help.

7/21/2010 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

grunt maker said "Address my plans"

grunt, you are undressed.

My plans are not hidden and are on full display at my site.
Followers are of course welcome, but don't complain about my leading you to the truth - not my fault it burns.

"The pure philosophic content stuff leaves me a little out to sea."

Those of us with three masted schoOoner's are loving it.

7/22/2010 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Diana,

Divinization is quite real, as Peter says, 'Be ye partakers in the Divine Nature.'

The loop in the circuit is that humility is the basis of all true virtue: any virtue which is done simply to be lauded by one's self or another is no longer a virtue. Therefore, there is a clear disconnect between the experience of saint and how they interpret it and the experience of people who knew the person.

Becoming God, as the Fathers would have it, can only occur to those who do not feel they are worthy of it, since this corresponds to the truth. One credits God with all things not because there is no human actor, but because all of the parts - including the 'me' are provided by God, circumstances, etc, even if he only permits them to arise. The power of God is such that he requires no command for his will to be fulfilled; he can get what is his pleasure without coercion. The wisdom of God is the foolishness of men.

And certainly the saints will judge even the angels - but only insofar as they are able. I myself have little capability to judge the ripeness of an orange, much less the condition of a soul.

7/22/2010 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Grant,

You're missing plan 5:

Embody, reflect, and carry out the will of God here and now, as best as you can understand it, which is true joy and salvation.

Maybe you just need a copy editor ;)

7/22/2010 10:56:00 AM  

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