You Aren't Small Enough to Fill His Shoes!
For example, it is a rather remarkable thing that in the United States there are still roughly two self-identifying conservatives for every liberal, despite the fact that liberals control the news media, academia, entertainment, professional organizations, and so much else.
I know from personal experience that to be a liberal requires nothing more than to passively assimilate the psychocultural environment. In contrast, to become a conservative requires a conscious act of will, at least in most milieus, and certainly in mine, i.e., my city, my county, my state, my education, my extended family, and my profession.
There are obviously places in America where the reverse is true -- that it requires a more conscious act of will to become a leftist -- but even then, the most red state is still blue in the face with ABC-NBC-CBS-CNN-MSNBC-NY Times-Washington Post-Time-Newsweek-Hollywood, etc.
There was clearly a time, not too long ago, that religiosity required no real act of conscious choice. Rather, religion was so a part of the surrounding culture that it was simply assimilated along with everything else. However, properly speaking, this is never supposed to be true of Christianity. Rather, in order for the latter to become operative, one must make a conscious decision -- not just "once," of course, but in every moment, so to speak.
But we're getting a little off course here. I mention the above to highlight the difficulty in reconciling one's faith with everything else -- by which I mean everything else, when everything else in our culture so opposes a religious metaphysic.
The result is that, in our culture, although most people are still "religious," their religiosity can be a kind of veneer over the deeper structure of a pervasive secular materialism; or, it is a kind of reactionary refusal that defines itself and derives its energy via opposition. Any sane person will say No! to the infrahuman elements of our culture, but it is much more important to say Yes! to the properly human -- not just to run away, but toward.
It's a little like speaking Chinese in a nation that speaks only English. In such a case, one can demand that the rest of the culture learn to speak Chinese, but this is not going to happen (although the ACLU will keep trying). One can perhaps settle into a little marginalized ghetto and live with fellow speakers of Chinese, but this kind of insularity results in a closed-ness that is not conducive to further evolution or wholeness -- or, one might say to unity in time and space, respectively.
This is one of the obstacles we face in any discussion of LIFE, which is so monopolized by the scientistic worldview that it is almost impossible to discuss it without being misunderstood. Interestingly, in Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity, I was surprised to discover that he regards the question from the same perspective I do, which essentially comes down to not conflating life and biology (perhaps I should say Life [as such], to distinguish it from the the mere "life sciences" that deal only with effects, not causes).
In fact, in order to better understand where we are coming from -- and from where we came -- it is also necessary to uncouple Evolution-as-such from the mere natural selection of metaphysical Darwinism. I have done this in many previous posts (not to mention the book), so I will not make a rehash of the argument here.
The point is that "history" is not something that only suddenly and inexplicably occurs after 13 billion years or so of "prehistory." Rather, to say "cosmos" is to say "history." Our own history, at every level, is nested in a cosmic history that "begins" (i.e., in time) with creation, whether one calls it the "big bang" or something else.
Please note that there is nothing in this view that contradicts any strictly scientific finding. To the contrary, the application of a rigid scientism creates all sorts of temporal ruptures, ontological discontinuities, and logical absurdities in and to the coherence of reality. Anyone can draw an arrow that leads from matter, to life, to mind to spirit. The difference is that our arrow moves forward, whereas the scientistic arrow necessarily moves backward.
That is to say, scientism by definition pulls everything subsequent to matter back into matter, regardless of how shocking or significant. Therefore, whatever "evolves" is really just "more of the same," i.e., an iteration of genetic copying errors and environmental selection, and then whatever purely physio-chemical laws underlie that. It engenders a kind of breathtaking cosmic cynicism, but sometimes it is difficult to know whether the cynicism is a cause or effect. Either way, cynicism ensures a kind of blind but omniscient stupidity (think of Bill Maher).
Ratzinger speaks of a deeper sort of cosmic mutation represented first by Life, and then by post-biological evolution. The latter represents the leap to "a quite different plane," which is no longer subject to bios, but rather, "makes use of it," so to speak -- not dissimilar to how words make use of letters, sentences of words, paragraphs of sentences, etc. One doesn't build a novel out of letters (Stephen King is the exception that proves the rule). Rather, one enlists the letters entirely unconsciously for the higher purpose of revealing artistic truth and beauty. One could say the same of musical notes, or of the play of form and color, or of my exotic dancing.
The "choice" alluded to above regarding religious faith, is really a cosmic mutation. In the words of Ratzinger, it is no longer a biological stage per se, but rather signifies "the end of the sovereignty of bios, which is at the same time the sovereignty of death." It opens up "the realm that the Greek Bible calls zoe, that is, definitive life, which has left behind the rule of death."
Here is the deeper point: "The last stage of evolution needed by the world to reach its goal would then no longer be achieved within the realm of biology but by the spirit, by freedom, by love."
To say that this does not and cannot fall under the auspices of "natural selection" is rather obvious, but it is equally obvious that this further evolution is not something man could ever accomplish on his own. Clearly, man cannot "transcend himself" unless there is a prior Being who transcends man. Otherwise, any so-called transcendence will be just another iteration of man, another one of his biological possibilities, ultimately reducible to a trick of the genes.
Recall our statement above about how, in order to spiritually evolve into the higher Life, one must declare one's independence from the culture -- which, ironically, since it is rooted in Darwinian biology, is a culture of death.
Note that the Being referenced above was (is) the quintessential individual destroyed by "the dictatorship of the milieu," which is to say, "public opinion": the Individual vs. Mass Man (who always frightens us, but not the liberal; conversely, liberalism fears the individual, hence its embodiment in various groups, e.g., blacks, [cultural] Jews, homosexuals, Hispanics, transgendered, greedy geezers, et al).
Thus, "Precisely because Christianity wants history as a whole, its challenge is directed fundamentally at the individual; precisely for this reason it depends on the single individual in whom the bursting of the bondage to the forces and powers took place" (Ratzinger).
Yesterday I mentioned the "face" at the top of the cosmic mountain and at the end of history. The face is a kind of spiritual fingerprint, as no two are alike, plus the dance of the soul plays across the face, which cannot help revealing the Who that is behind it. For human beings, the face is the exterior gateway to the Great Interior.
Ratzinger: this metaphysic "is committed to the principle of 'the individual' in its most radical form. Here lies the intrinsic necessity of the unheard-of scandal that a single individual, Jesus Christ, is acknowledged as the salvation of the world. The individual is the salvation of the whole, and the whole receives its salvation only from the individual who truly is salvation...."
Thus, in a way, if Christ didn't exist, we would have had to invent him, which is what the scientistic person will essentially believe Christians have done in one way or another.
Scientism -- in fact, any serious philosophy at all -- also seeks the whole. But in so doing, it specifically excludes the individual as completely irrelevant. Is this real wholeness? We don't think so. Nor are religions "whole" that deny the centrality of the human individual and his relation to the whole of cosmic history.
Indeed, for us, history is a part of the same reality as the individual. History is not "truth," as Marxists believe. Rather, Truth is in history, in sometimes -- no, always! -- shocking ways. For it is the last thing one would expect to find in a dead and meaningless cosmos. Instead, it is the first and last thing we find, alpha and omega.
"To put it another way, the result is that God, the first principle, the Alpha of the world, appears as the Omega, the last letter in the alphabet of creation, as the lowest creature in it." God appears as "completely insignificant, actually, a pure nothing. One could cite in this connection the series of Earth-Israel-Nazareth-Cross-Church, in which God seems to keep disappearing more and more and, precisely in this way, becomes more and more manifest as himself...."
Thus, "the cosmic Nothing is the true All."