Monday, July 19, 2010

Taking Existence Personally

To review where we left off Friday, we were just saying that the ultimate nature of ultimate nature is ultimately Communion (which I think I'll capitalize to keep it distinct from any colloquial meaning).

This is one of the revolutionary insights of the early Fathers, who were attempting to reconcile revelation with the best that Greek philosophy had to offer. Come to think of it, Pieper made the point that when you get right down to it, Christianity may be reduced to two elements: Incarnation and Trinity. Everything else, you might say, is commentary.

Could this be true? Could be. I'd have to think on it. The former comports with various Fathers such as Clement and Athanasuius who said that God became man so that man might become God -- i.e., the doctrine of divinization.

What I believe this means is that the Incarnation wouldn't necessarily mean much to humans unless it implied its corollary, which is theosis or divinization, not through our own nature, but through participation in Christ.

And just how is it that we are able to thus participate in that divine nature? Why, because that nature must be Communion, which leads directly to Trinity. If the nature of God were not Communion, then we couldn't participate in God "from the inside," only as external spectators, so to speak.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. In the absence of Communion, there would be a kind of radically inaccessible wall between God and man. The only way -- the only way I can think of -- for God to eliminate this wall (for man could never do it unaided from his side of manifestation) is to leap heartfirst into his own creation, and to even "submit" to its constraints. In so doing, he is able to demonstrate in the most vivid way imaginable that those constraints no longer constrain, again, because of the reality of Communion, which bridges God and man, life and Life, time and eternity, etc.

According to Zizioulas, the divine Communion of which we speak is an ontological category, not reducible or prior to anything else. Just as God only exists as Communion, so do human persons only exist as such.

Our genetic endowment and merely biological being cannot cross the ontological bridge to personhood in the absence of Communion. In the course of writing my book, I did some research on the few feral children who have managed to survive without human contact, and despite the best efforts, could never be brought into full communion with the human group (cf. The Forbidden Experiement).

Zizioulas points out that Greek thought created a lovely concept of Cosmos, i.e., "of unity and harmony, a world full of interior dynamism and aesthetic plenitude, a world truly 'beautiful' and 'divine.'" The problem is, it had no real place for man except as a kind of tragic afterthought.

Only the radical change in cosmology ushered in by the Fathers links the being of man to the being of the cosmos -- and of God. In so doing they "gave history the concept of the person with an absoluteness which still moves modern man even though he has fundamentally abandoned their spirit."

To put it another way, man becomes a person -- and therefore infinitely valuable -- only when he is seen to be linked to God through Communion. Otherwise, he's just an animal like any other, with no intrinsic value.

Zizioulas goes on to say that "The person is no longer an adjunct to being, a category we add to a concrete entity once we have verified its ontological hypostasis. It is itself the hypostasis of the being." Therefore, our being is not traced back to any kind of abstract Being, much less to any concrete substance, "but to the person, to precisely that which constitutes being, that is, enables entities to be entities."

Again, person "is the constitutive element of things," the ultimate metacosmic fact. This understanding completely inverts the cosmos -- which is to say, puts it back right-side up -- and helps to explain various otherwise inexplicable and unsolvable mysteries.

Zizioulas suggests that in Western theology -- and I have no idea whether this is a fair and accurate generalization -- theologians tended to start with a kind of unitary divine substance that is then "divided," so to speak, into the three persons.

But again, he says that for the early Fathers, Communion was the substance. Person comes first, and person means Communion. Therefore, God is "Father," even before he is substance: "That is to say, the substance never exists in a 'naked' state," i.e., without a "mode of existence." To imagine otherwise is analogous to trying to separate you from the real person you are. If you could succeed at this, you would be the same substance, but no longer a person.

Again, person is the ultimate reality: if it "does not exist in reality, the concept of the person is a presumptuous daydream. If God does not exist [as person], the person does not exist."

Furthermore, with this understanding, "love ceases to be a qualifying -- i.e. secondary -- property of being and becomes the supreme ontological predicate. Love as God's mode of existence... constitutes His being."

So perhaps we can reduce Incarnation and Trinity even further, to Incarnation and Love. Or maybe just Love.

26 Comments:

Blogger Verdiales said...

As usual, St. Thomas has interesting things to say about all this.

http://www2.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/gc4_26.htm

Another lucid exposition of Trinitarian thought is in Frank Sheed's _Theology & Sanity_. Eastern Christians will disagree (famously) on several points, but all agree that God is Triune, i.e. an infinite existence of loving persons which are creative of everything else. It's this infinite dynamic of love and creativity that makes, for me, the Trinitarian understanding of divinity so attractive and compelling.

In the center of the universe, so to speak, is a perpetually radiant act of love. To varying degrees, you're either aligning yourself with that action, or fighting it by indifference, envy, or rebellion.

Simply bracketing the issue doesn't solve anything. You have to take it personally, at some point, or wander in a doomed parenthesis.

7/19/2010 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, either the Parent thesis or parenthesis.

7/19/2010 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"gave history the concept of the person with an absoluteness which still moves modern man even though he has fundamentally abandoned their spirit."

I suppose it was ineveateapple. Again.

7/19/2010 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Adamn shame, it was.

7/19/2010 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger f/zero said...

Way resonant today. I've always cringed at the term relational Christianity (because of experienced connotations and not the truth of the matter) but have no such trouble with communion, a deep and replenishing well.

I've got it! What I need is a red cover for my pocket Bible with Communionist Manifesto embossed on the front. And maybe a funny hat with a red star. Of David.

Off to the workshop.

7/19/2010 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger black hole said...

I've got a friend who likes to be tied up and spanked really hard and dominated. Says it gives her a transcendant feeling to totally submit to the dom.

7/19/2010 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

To put it another way, man becomes a person -- and therefore infinitely valuable -- only when he is seen to be linked to God through Communion.

There's no Communion without O!, u and i...

The only way -- the only way I can think of -- for God to eliminate this wall (for man could never do it unaided from his side of manifestation) is to leap heartfirst into his own creation, and to even "submit" to its constraints.

That reminds me, it's probably about time to read Heart of the World again.

7/19/2010 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Verdiales said...

Speaking of communion and art:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpK_qugNHCM

"Seraphine," the story of a remarkable artist, and those who don't understand her, or think they do.

7/19/2010 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Her paintings remind me of the guy who did all the cats (without the creepiness factor). Was she schizophrenic?

7/19/2010 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Verdiales said...

Julie, I don't know, and don't know much about her. Wiki says she was admitted to a geriatric ward in Clermont for "chronic psychosis." I have no idea whether the diagnosis was accurate. I love her work and find the whole "naive" label unhelpful.

By the way, Seraphine's patron, Wilhelm Uhde, is played in the movie by a German actor named Ulrich Tukur. Turns out Tukur is also a singer and accordionist of Weimar-era material and has a skillful, evocative album on iTunes.

7/19/2010 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger Verdiales said...

So perhaps we can reduce Incarnation and Trinity even further, to Incarnation and Love. Or maybe just Love.

Jean-Luc Marion tries to rethink the ego according to what he calls "the erotic reduction" in Le phénomène érotique: six méditations. He argues that we are assured of our own selves (our 'ipseity') only through being loved, not through a consideration of our being per se or through various Cartesian exertions.

No, I can't rehearse the argument. Books at home.

7/19/2010 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger Dianne said...

BTW - rethinking my wisdom/intelligence comment on the Saturday thread.

Maybe it's one of those chicken or egg things. I don't freakin' know.

I guess I was just thinking that I find it hard to give a musician or actor a free pass because they are creative, but apparently as dumb as a box of hair in matters that REALLY count. Or maybe it wouldn't matter all that much if they were dumb about politics and philosphy, if they'd just keep it to themselves instead of trying to influence millions of people while petitioning the govt. to spend the taxpayers money on charity not of their own choice. Usually money that goes to benefit some dictator somehwere's swiss bank account.

7/19/2010 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Dianne said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/19/2010 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

If what your saying is true about Christianity being reducible to two things, that of incarnation and love (communion), than my life has literally been that as process.

As if said in the past, I split off in the first year, and have therefore experienced disincarnation to the extreme. Possibility bardo and some afterlife; from there incarnation was the only other option, which is to say, upwards and inwards. However, It's only recently that I'm starting to understand the other problem of communion, and only b/c there's an increasing potential capacity for communion b/c of personality's progress in the incarnation.

Would you guys say that marriage is necessary to fulfill absolute communion, as in some tantric sense? Or is it possible to just have relations with people in general, as do avatars or teachers? I will say that when I have a vision of the absence of the first, I get a little sick feeling, like wanting to reject or throw up existence. On the other hand, although people external (internally external) to myself may be brama (and increasingly so, kind of funny sometimes), what good is it if they don't know it? What good is it to me and my need to communion and grow in meaning? I just can't shake off the feeling that it isn't good at all, and that life will be struggle and suffering b/c of it.

What I wrote last time was related to everything that has been covered sense, of love and communion. This is turning out to be just as much a split as I've experienced in the first, well, my whole life. So you guys should be cuttin' me a little slack. Like I said, I never got it; and contrary to blackhole, I wasn't talking about sex. Sex is a declension of the thing most needful. To me, it's the phenomenal result of a noumenal fact and fruition. Without the noumena, you'd end up with comments like blackhole; and I ain't in to that.

So, so glad that shit's not in me.

If I bring negativity here, It's b/c I'm complaining about my grace. Sorry for that. My gratitude increases monthly also. I've been saved from the world.

7/19/2010 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/19/2010 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/19/2010 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

I can't comment b/c URI request is too large. WTF? There are so many times I've tried to post here and gave up out of frustration.

7/19/2010 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/19/2010 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/19/2010 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

Well, I'll continue the thread of thought, since I've learned more from talking to myself than anyone else. Might as well share. I think it's clear that I'm different, even here. Just part of the same old weight everywhere I go. Don't really care much for music, the past, or popcorn right now.

...

"Saved from the world": spotless, pristine, yet frozen and encapsulated (split). I was noticing today as I was starring out the window at the light reflecting on the ground (and on everything), about how this light (the sun) and who was looking at it were one and the same, at least in a certain way. I’ve seen this in the past, only then it was through an extreme schizoid-like episodic state of mind, but I’m finding that the more I heal the more this unitary vision of the light-physical becomes an everyday thing, which is to say it’s structuralizing. There’s just no music in it yet, though I’ve seen/heard that too. I expect that that will come with time, as assuredly as a mathematical point in space. This music is ananda also.

Now, this vision of the light-physical corresponds also with my capacity to love other people, b/c when I look up and see others’ eyes, the same phenomena occurs on the plane of consciousness. If I were to work through analogy, I would say that this phenomena is the emergence of a sort of proto-trinitarian vision wherein heat of love is the first physiological fruit. I’ve felt this in the heart. From this I take it that in order to love someone we have to first be conscious of other in the most inmost sense, so that through this foundation of interrelation, love can manifest in the in-between as a sort of incorporeal fiery substance, or something like it. In accordance with the above, the below soon follows as a development within time, and therein the meaning of life has the possibility of manifesting.

Because here on earth, where there is absence of the synergistic-organismic dynamic of consciousness, the lower dynamism of biologic impulse kind of penetrates in and up from beneath to fill the vacuum of sleeping deity; and while some may call this attraction love (it does make the world go round), it doesn’t make it grow up. It just gives rise…and then falls.

So that’s my problem right now. First, I still have years of karma to go through while this whole Thing/Person comes into view. And all the while, the world keeps turning, and people go on their way. I’m damned/blessed as a ‘single point’ of aloneness to watch possibilities come and go, and hence have the Hericlitian realization of “all is flux.” That’s what makes me want to throw up, literally. From this multiplicity enters the doubt that my reentrance into the world might be as difficult as my ascendance into unity, and good lord! Wtf! I never got a life! (Thank God?) I don’t really revel in this doubt, or wallow, but more or less continue through faith and hope, and the belief in synchronicity and the good. It’s just that I don’t see a female being able to go through what I’ve been through. I’m preternaturally endowed with more physical, mental, and spiritual strength than anyone I’ve ever met. I’m a tran-cerebral mesomorph, and it’s only getting worse!

I will say that I have the ability to cry, and have multiple times for myself and the world, so at least my stoicism’s wearing off. Was just yesterday…it’s all just ouch! Now the question that still arises is does the bodhisattva have to be grounded through a female in order to reenter the world? I would say yes, and that this is the true meaning of tantra. But the world is fragmented and dispersed, and if salvation hinges on communion with our synergistic-organistic opposite…it just doesn’t make me feel very comfortable. I know that I will have to turn her away time and time again. Have been tempted multiple times, and as always, she becomes external, internally. Perhaps this is part of the No! of narcissist infant? Or it could be healthy. It’s just a big f*cking mess. I can only just wait and see.

7/19/2010 08:20:00 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

I would say yes, and that having kids is part of it.

Not much longer now (year or two) and I'll disappear from here. I'm already invisible to normal people to the extent that I reveal myself. I'm getting my own brain.

7/19/2010 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Apropos the post, a couple of weeks ago an uncle of mine died after a seventeen-year Alzheimer's-induced decline. It's been almost that long since I've been out to see him and his family, but I had a lot of good memories of times at his farm, and sent a card saying as much.

He was the patriarch of a very large Catholic family, and I understand his funeral and wake were incorporated into a summer family reunion. Getting to the point, today I received a copy of a letter sent out to everyone who contributed something, even if only a memory, to their celebration of his life.

To the relevance:

All of you present both physically and spiritually, contributed to a bountiful experience of what it feels like to let go of our feelings of separateness and bask in the love of our unity. Dad's genetic family alone could not have generated the rich and complete communion that was present at these events.

***

It was expressed that this event was not only important for our family but for our community. Many people have extended their condolences and kind words about our father. In several of the cards received the common sentiment was "we hold you in our heart." There is no doubt that this collective experience of love and gratitude has had a ripple effect. The physical location of the wake and funeral were in [Hometown], yet the emotional and spiritual dimension of these events had no borders.

There is a quote that hangs on the refrigerator at the [family] farm that says, "Heaven is where you are. Allow your Godself to lift the veil of where you think you are so you can recognize that you have always been home."

7/19/2010 09:36:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Furthermore, with this understanding, "love ceases to be a qualifying -- i.e. secondary -- property of being and becomes the supreme ontological predicate. Love as God's mode of existence... constitutes His being."

So perhaps we can reduce Incarnation and Trinity even further, to Incarnation and Love. Or maybe just Love. "


Or even reduce it down to One, but either way, you wind up back at three.

Weee!

(Yes, the 'o-u-i' is tempting to play off of... but it's french... so... Nee!)

;-)

7/19/2010 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Oui?! Dang - I didn't even notice that one. Good catch, Van!

7/19/2010 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

My thoughts this morning is that the inverted trinity hides in projective identifications, while the true is a superphysical relation that includes and illuminates identifications.

7/20/2010 06:03:00 AM  
Blogger black hole said...

Dustin:

For godsakes man. Bang first and ask questions later.

Go get a massage at the very least.

You have to work the lower stages first. Trust me on this one.

7/20/2010 05:02:00 PM  

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