Friday, June 01, 2012

Reasons for Cautious Optimysticism

Balthasar writes that "When Paul [in Rom 8:19] refers to an indefinite and tense straining of all nature, it means in the first place that nature unconsciously strives toward man" (which I believe should be interpreted as the fullness, or fulfillment, of human nature.) There Paul speaks of the suffering -- the groans, the labors, the birth pangs -- that will -- we hope -- end in liberty, in redemption, and in peals of glory hahalogos, when the last laugh shall be first.

This is because creation as such is not an exercise in futility, but is infused with an otherwise superfluous and inexplicable hopefulness, the latter of which, on the human level, might be described as a kind of persistent "evidence of things unseen." It is the temporal shadow cast back by the fulfillment we hail from afar. Or so we have heard from the wise.

In the absence of this evidence of things unseen, progress would be impossible because unthinkable. Hope and change always go together, except in the faithless liberal who forgets that beneficial change is only a hope, not a certainty, and certainly not something man can accomplish unaided (if you don't believe me, just look at his grisly track record of trying).

If Obama had proclaimed "faith and love" his message wouldn't have been as popular, at least among his target audience whose immanentized and absecular hope is evidence of things unsane.

Simianly, think of the poor primate proto-human, sitting around and hoping for things to get better. But in a strictly Darwinian framework, what is he hoping for -- or, more specifically, for what does our aloftreeous furbear have any right to hope?

One thing: a random mutation that doesn't weaken, sicken, or kill my ass, but somehow results in a beneficial change. However, the fundamental change cannot have actually occurred in him, but only in his genetic predecessors, in an infinite regress. Which is why Darwin "jotted down as a stern reminder to himself the note 'never use higher and lower'" (in Purcell).

Which is also why intellectually consistent Darwinists would be the last to say that a Darwinian is somehow higher than a creationist -- unless the former are more successful at getting their genes into the next generation, which is not the case, otherwise the erstwhile Christendom of Europe wouldn't be undergoing slow motion demographic death. Supernatural selection in action!

Now this business of becoming human -- of evolving -- the thing about it is, unlike any other creature, it cannot just happen on the species level, as if the species does all the dogged, trial-and-error work of evolving, from which we passively benefit. No other animal has to learn how to be that animal, notwithstanding a limited repertoire of tricks the mother might pass along to her brood. And certainly no other animal needs to be born twice in order to undertake post-biological evolution.

But for human beings, each generation needs to fulfill the human journey anew. In the old days, philosophers and metaphysicians spoke of man as the microcosm who mirrors the macrocosm. That's true as far as it goes, but it implies a kind of static view, as if man is a once-and-for-all fact instead of a constantly evolving being.

Here again, Clarke's idea of reality as "substance in relation" is helpful, for with it we can posit the microcosmology of man in more dynamic terms, as a movement or action which is in turn the self-revelation of being. Therefore, evolution itself redounds to the self-revelation of being. Who knows what goodies lurk in the heart of being? Even time takes time, to say nothing of eternity. Or, time takes an eternity to get it all out.

Bearing in mind the above, when we say that man is the image and likeness of O, it means, in the words of Clarke, that "all finite beings, which are imperfect images of the Source, bear within their very natures this same divinely originated dynamism of active self-communication to others." In this way, we are simultaneously rich and poor -- or, contra Darwin, high and low -- in that

"every finite being insofar as it is... rich, pours over to share its perfection with others; but insofar as it is poor, deficient in the full plenitude of being, it reaches out to receive enrichments of being from others, sharing in their riches" (ibid.).

This is just another way of saying that man is an open system, both vertically and horizontally, and that God, the Absolute, O, the toppermost of the poppermost, must be understood in the same onederful way.

For what is the Incarnation but God "making himself poor," in which context we may understand certain paradoxymorons regarding the meek inheriting the earth, the last being first, and the blessedness of holy poverty.

Now, this interior activity of the Godhead, how to describe it?

Sorry, can't do that. That's well above our praygrade. We can, however, undescribe it, which we might symbolize something like (↓ ↔ ↑) to convey the total circulation of metacosmic energies in the perpetual now.

But if I were to reduce it to mere wordlings, I don't think I could do better than Schuon:

"If by 'science' we mean a knowledge that is related to real things -- whether or not they can be directly ascertained..., religion will be the science of the total hierarchy, of equilibrium, and of the rhythms of the cosmic scale; it takes account, at one and the same time, of God's outwardly revealing Manifestation and of His inwardly absorbing Attraction (emphasis mine), and it is only religion that does this and that can do it a priori and spontaneously."

Amen for a child's job.

12 Comments:

Blogger mushroom said...

That's true as far as it goes, but it implies a kind of static view, as if man is a once-and-for-all fact instead of a constantly evolving being.

I never saw the "creation groans" in quite that light. Now it makes a whole new kind of sense. Thank you, again.

6/01/2012 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I'm having trouble getting through the post because it keeps sprouting stuff. Now I'm thinking of Jesus saying that He came that we might have life and that life more abundantly. The only thing that is really eternal is that life as it becomes fuller and more abundant. Cool.

6/01/2012 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Pardon a little creative Vandalization, as I put this,

"In the absence of this evidence of things unseen, progress would be impossible because unthinkable. Hope and change always go together..."

, together with this,

"... Clarke's idea of reality as "substance in relation" is helpful, for with it we can posit the microcosmology of man in more dynamic terms, as a movement or action which is in turn the self-revelation of being."

Carry on.

6/01/2012 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

"nature unconsciously strives toward man" (which I believe should be interpreted as the fullness, or fulfillment, of human nature.)

Interesting.

Another way to read Paul here is to see this phrase in the light of Genesis before the fall, when humanity is conceived as being in harmonious relation with nature because it is also harmonized with the divine. Once the latter relationship is broken (sin), the relationship with nature similarly suffers. And yet (and this is where Paul's phrase is intriguing), nature is still there, same as it ever was, waiting for humanity's reconciliation. Nature awaits the birth of that spirit.

19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God;
20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope;
21 because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;
23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
(RSV)

Redemption when, at the End Time? or whenever we say YES to God, and live humbly, chastely, and obediently?

6/01/2012 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

De Lubac expresses it well in this book I'm working on:

"Reason, liberty, immortality, and dominion over nature are so many prerogatives of divine origin that
God has imparted to his creatures. Establishing man from the outset in God's likeness, each of these prerogatives is meant to grow and unfold until the divine resemblance is brought to perfection. Thus they are the key to the highest of destinies."

6/01/2012 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

(Finally, seems I'm caught up with slack enough to have something to say; for the moment, anyway. Of course, whether it's worth anybody else reading is another matter entirely...)

This is because creation as such is not an exercise in futility, but is infused with an otherwise superfluous and inexplicable hopefulness, the latter of which, on the human level, might be described as a kind of persistent "evidence of things unseen." It is the temporal shadow cast back by the fulfillment we hail from afar. Or so we have heard from the wise.

Going back to that aloftreeous furbear and Darwinism in general, it seems to me that present-day humans, at our best, practice many behaviors which are completely at odds with the whole concept of "survival of the fittest." We take extraordinary measures to ensure that not only the fittest, but even the unfittest among us not only survive, but as much as possible thrive. Such behavior is only possible because creation as such is not an exercise in futility. In other words, it has meaning and purpose beyond mere happenstantial existence; otherwise, the age-old practice of murdering (or simply permitting the death of) anything that can't fend for itself would be the only rational way to behave - just as virtually every other species behaves.

For all that humans as a whole behave so abominably, we ought to be much worse than we are, even at our worst. It is only because creation is infused with hopefulness that we are able, even if only briefly or incompletely, to recognize the inherent value of a life, no matter how fragile or futile it may seem. It is only because creation is hopeful that we may have justice. Indeed, it is only because creation is full of hopefulness that so many people can even delude themselves into regressive behavior more suited for mere animals, in the hope of achieving some sort of transcendence. Their hopes are misplaced, of course, but that those hopes exist all all speaks to the truth of the nature creation.

6/02/2012 03:19:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Julie, great to have you back.
That is an excellent point about justice being hopeful. It prepares a future. Whereas a revenge's telos is to end someone else's.

6/02/2012 05:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Funny how atheists, existentialists, and other sophisticates like to pretend existence is hopeless and futile, but they never behave or live that way. To the contrary, they are so confident in their unsane hopes that they even want to impose them upon us by force of law!

As usual, they accuse believers of exactly what they engage in, while denying it in themselves. "Projection," I think it's called....

In fact, you could even contrast it with evangelization. To evangelize is to "spread the good news," to expose the person to an alternate point of view, in light of which they can make a sensible ontological decision. But leftist evangelization involves forcing you to accept their version of good news, e.g., "free health care." "Acting out," I think it's called....

6/02/2012 07:46:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Off topic, byt this is kind of an important article, because I think it's true that Americans have no idea how few homosexuals there actually are. The meme of "one in ten" is insanely exaggerated by at least a factor of ten. The only way you can get close to that figure is to include every conceivable homosexual behavior as opposed to true and fixed homosexual identity.

For example, I'll admit that back when I was on the high school baseball team, I patted a guy's butt to congratulate him after he scored a run. But I don't think that makes me gay. Not that there's anything wrong with it.

I have no idea how many patients I've seen over the years. I've been shrinking heads since my first internship in 1985. Because I do a lot of one-time only evaluations, it's possible that I've seen four or five thousand. But in all that time, I can almost remember the homosexual patients individually, that's how infrequent they are. For example, there have been none so far this year.

I might add that, of those I have evaluated, I don't believe there's been a single one that had what I would call a normal psychosexual development. Again, just because I support traditional marriage, it hardly means that I have some sort of animus toward homosexuals. That's such an apples-and-oranges argument.

I do know that if homosexuality is widely regarded by our culture as completely normal and indistinguishable from heterosexuality, we will see a lot more of it, just as was the case in ancient Greece. I'm guessing that for a tiny minority of male homosexuals, their identity is relatively fixed, but there is a huge gray area of sexual fluidity to which people can fall into for any number of reasons -- narcissism, sexual trauma, sadistic father, seductive mother, etc. It is anti-intellectual in the extreme to assume that homosexuality is monocausal, or "homocausal," as it were...

6/02/2012 08:04:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'll also admit that if all women were Gloria Allred, I'd be gay in a heartbeat.

6/02/2012 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Shotgun!

6/02/2012 08:16:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

To the contrary, they are so confident in their unsane hopes that they even want to impose them upon us by force of law!

Heh - yep. Bloomberg's latest plan to control soda sizes is a case in point.

6/02/2012 09:14:00 AM  

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