Friday, November 16, 2012

Man: Putting the Quest in Question

I know, I know, enough with the throat-clearing. Let's get on with it!

The problem I'm having is that I don't yet feel qualified to discuss Rahner, since I keep thinking that I'm going to get his overall point, which will then organize the hundreds of pages I've slogged through already.

But it's not happening. In Bion's terms, there is no PS <--> D.

What is PS <--> D? That refers to a critical psychopneumatic process whereby a mass of seemingly unrelated material suddenly discloses its inner coherence, and the outward "many-ness" resolves into an internally related One. Or, it could just mean you're paranoid.

It's complicated enough when you're just dealing with space, more complex when you toss time into the mix, and even more so when you're talking about what amounts to hyper-dimensional chess.

Or again, think of what we were saying about a person who spontaneously produces all those musical notes while simultaneously searching, so to speak, for their interior unity.

For those of you who are new to the incoondescent luminareum, blah blah blah, this is what I was attempting to do in the book of the same flame.

In short, we moderns are aware of the fact that everything is situated in history -- that history didn't just begin when we started writing stuff down, or when man split off from the Homo Yelverton branch of protohumans and began thinking for himsoph.

Rather, we now know -- or at least think we know -- that history has been going on for 13.7 billion years -- next month, if my calendar is correct. This means that it isn't just possible, but really necessary, to tell OneStory that encompasses the whole existentialada. To do less than this is to approach the task in a completely arbitrary manner.

For example, think of contemporary Darwinism. It is certainly a historical science. And yet, it arbitrarily starts its history with a bright line between organic life and its cosmic matrix.

As I wrote in the book -- and I wasn't kidding -- who's to say that biological life isn't just what we see in a sufficiently mature cosmos? I mean, there are very good reasons why it couldn't get going more than 3.85 billion years ago, because the cosmos simply hadn't reached puberty. Once it did, the planet became a hotbed of biological activity.

As it so happens, this is precisely the approach Rahner takes. You can say that Christianity starts with the Resurrection, or the Incarnation, or in Genesis, but each of these presupposes an awful lot of stuff that we need to take into consideration, at least if we want to go beyond a mythopoetic understanding.

Again, the latter is fine, except it won't necessarily speak bo diddley to a modern mind rendered barren by scientism, college, and TV.

Anyway, Rahner is trying to do this, but I'm not sure he's succeeding. Again, it seems to me that he's putting it all out before having completely digested and assimilated the material, so that too much work is required on the reader's part.

Nevertheless, we'll try, dammit. At least we'll try.

He writes in the preface that the purpose of the book will be to "try as far as possible to situate Christianity within the intellectual horizon of people today." As such, he doesn't "begin with a faith in which everything is completely settled and simply repeat what is in every catechism." That's an entirely different task which has already been done thousands of times, so there's no need to do it yet again.

This task is a more difficult one, and "is going to require some rather strenuous thinking and some hard intellectual work." He even warns off the looky-losers and spiritual thrillseekers: "Anyone who is just looking for religious inspiration and shies away from the demands of patient, laborious, and at times tedious reflection should not enter into this investigation."

Think of all the disciplines and subdisciplines one must deal with in order to do justice to such an endeavor: "philosophy of knowledge and the philosophy of language," "sociology, history, phenomenology and philosophy of religion," not to mention biology, cosmology, anthropology, neurology, psychology, and more. And let's not even talk about the fragmentation within theology, nor the extrinsic fragmentation produced by awareness of other faiths.

Who but a metaphysical b'atman would be brash enough to even try! Readers who are not up to the task can "only be referred to the church's catechism and told that they should simply believe what is taught there and in this way save their souls" (which he is by no means trivializing).

In short, Rahner wants to provide "an intellectually honest justification of Christian faith," one that is again geared toward modern sensibilities (or prejudices, if you want to be less charitable).

First of all, the task might not be as daunting as it appears to be at first blush, because although many people in the modern world have convinced themselves that they are wholly rational and bow to the scientific worldview, absolutely nobody actually lives, or could live, in that cold and dark world. Every sane and decent person recognizes the limits of science, even if he pretends otherwise.

Rather, we always inhabit a human world, and religion is addressed to just this world. In other words, it is not addressed to animals, because they wouldn't understand it. It is not about the world of physics, nor is it about some other hypothetical cosmos. Rahner addresses the book to the person who is Christian or who wants to be, and who wants to situate his Christianity within "the totality of his own existence."

First of all, we must begin where we are, which is to say, in the human form. But what is a human?

Ah, good question! If you are intellectually honest, the first thing you will acknowledge is that man is a mystery to himself, period. Yes, we can learn more and more about ourselves, but this is a vessel that can never be filled.

Therefore, Rahner posits man as "the universal question he is for himself." You might even say that man is the original (?!), or the sacred WTF!

I mean, right? Isn't it obvious when you think about it? And isn't it immediately apparent that such godforsaken disciplines as evolutionary psychology and behaviorism are just so much whistling past the graveyard, just fairy tales the tenured tell themselves so they can sleep at night?

To jump ahead more than a bit, Rahner later suggests that Christianity is first and foremost the mysterious Answer to the mysterious Question that man is.

And in fact, we can jump even further ahead, and suggest that the figure of Jesus will represent both the Question and its Answer in the same being. But we will first have to do a lot of preluminary gruntwork to get there.

To be continued. Another entirely different kind of gruntwork beckons.

36 Comments:

Blogger mushroom said...

...that history has been going on for 13.7 billion years -- next month, if my calendar is correct...

We should have a party, and invite the Mayans.

Who but a metaphysical b'atman would be brash enough to even try! Readers who are not up to the task can "only be referred to the church's catechism and told that they should simply believe what is taught there and in this way save their souls" (which he is by no means trivializing).

I think you, Magnus, and probably others have brought this up before. That's all a lot of us need. It's a very small percentage of people who -- apart from some crisis -- ever get beyond "Jesus loves me, this I know." And there is, really, nothing wrong with that. I think the "lost people" are those who are too proud to accept a glass of milk and lack the teeth for a steak -- or are too lazy to chew.

11/16/2012 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

This is good. I've long thought that Christianity needed to provide a means of salvation for people of all intellectual levels or it isn't the real deal.

Go get 'em Bob! I'll just watch back here with this glass of milk. Mmmmm.

11/16/2012 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Yeah, John, the good thing for you and me is that we don't have to be smart to be good. The funny thing is that the more we practice being good, the smarter we get.

And it apparently works the other way, too.

11/16/2012 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

The problem I'm having is that I don't yet feel qualified to discuss Rahner, since I keep thinking that I'm going to get his overall point, which will then organize the hundreds of pages I've slogged through already.

Depending on how thoroughly he's done his job, that may be a task on a par with learning so much about weather that you can make an accurate prediction a week in advance...

11/16/2012 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The apostles wanted to call themselves ? and the Mysterians, but the name was taken.

11/16/2012 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

:D

I like that - the name fits.

11/16/2012 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Speaking of preferred names, I saw a church sign the other day -- BNC, "Brand New Church". It's bad when your whole congregation is a bunch of wise guys.

? and the Mysterians -- didn't they used to open for O and the Ones?

11/16/2012 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Completely off topic, has anybody here with blood sugar issues tried taking alpha-lipoic acid supplements, and if so what have your experiences been?

Thanks!

11/16/2012 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I took it for quite awhile, but I have no idea if it did anything. I doubt if there have been a sufficient number of controlled studies to prove anything.

11/16/2012 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Mayo has it listed as possibly helping with peripheral neuropathy. Then again, just because "they've been using it in Europe for years," that doesn't mean it's effective. Still, might be worth a try.

Thanks, Bob.

11/16/2012 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

There are much better things for that, e.g. Cymbalta or Gabapentin.

11/16/2012 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

OT, beg pardon [then again 20th c philosophers have been mentioned here of late] ..Anyone dip into Wittgenstein’s Mistress yet?

11/16/2012 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Thanks. I'll ask about those at my next appointment. I may hold off a bit, though - there's no pain, mostly just numbness; don't know if potential side effects would be worth the trade-off at this point.

11/16/2012 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Therefore, Rahner posits man as "the universal question he is for himself." You might even say that man is the original (?!), or the sacred WTF!

I mean, right? Isn't it obvious when you think about it? And isn't it immediately apparent that such godforsaken disciplines as evolutionary psychology and behaviorism are just so much whistling past the graveyard, just fairy tales the tenured tell themselves so they can sleep at night?"

Aye! Emphantically I might add.
It used to really bother me not to have all the answers to the mystery of I and the mystery of I Am.

Now, I have slowly begun to appreciate the mysteries and to gno that there's some answers I'm not ready for and that's Ok.

But more than that I have learned to trust the Mystery.

That, among other things I have learned from your book n' blog B'ob!
And there's more...?!
Thanks man. :^)

11/16/2012 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Bob, I'm currently using Gapapenten for PN. It does help but not always enough.

I didn't know cymbalta also is used for PN. Have the results been encouraging?

If so I'll ask my Doc about it.

11/16/2012 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Er, Gabapentin that is.

11/16/2012 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Ben: Gabapentin can be tolerated in huge doses, since it's pretty much a natural substance.

Cymbalta has been approved for neuropathic pain, and can be very effective. It's so much better than taking potentially addictive painkillers (which also lead to hyperalgesia, or more pain, in the long run). It is an excellent drug -- good for anxiety, depression, sleep, and various types of chronic pain. I recommended it to a patient just today.

11/16/2012 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks Bob, that's great news.
I hate taking morphine for the reasons you stated.

11/16/2012 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

OT, but not really,
Received this week the 2-disc, special edition of OFotCN ($1.84 on Amazon -- WhataCountry). Nice "The Making of" thing on disc 2 btw, Bob.

Watched it last night. A few new Bobservations, thanks B2Bob:

McMurphy (first scene) arrives in chains to the world of crazybelief. The scene Begins with a "kiss", which is to say, that's when "it all goes down".

McMurphy, hands at the wheel of the Cosmic Bus, (wink) - wide shot as the bus makes a "right angle" turn on two wheels - says, "Come on! It's easy!" (his yokes are pretty light).

McMurphy descends to satan's place to save the dead (the strangle scene) but doesn't perish there, only his early life is crucified.

There are open windows which McMurphy does not pass through. Not yet.

The indian rolls the stone through the window.

There are a number of scenes of McMurphy and his nine disciples around a table. He is in the center. He is often dressed differently then he is. Around the table he shows them and explains things to them; things in private (how to play cards, how to bet properly). He loses his patience with them often. After his crucifixion, Martini finally plays right (understands how a broken cigarette is not a dime nor two nickles; only a whole one is of value. Chief runs off into the world with McMurphy's spirit in him (says, "Let's go."); Chief is Christianity itself; the good news going forth.

After Billy is awakened unstuttering, Ratched crows a few things about where he comes from and the new shame is nothing but the old shame. Billy says he was made to do it. She asks for them to be identified. Billy betrays McMurphy and McMurphy is amazed.

No man spake as this man McMurphy did about the World Series and they see this miracle as he sees it.

At the end of the big funeral party there is an extended close up of McMurphy's face as he seems to meditate on what has happened to his disciples and downloads something Bigger. His face goes through several emotions in sequence. He isn't in the room for a minute as if almost in downlogue with the man upstairs, then he smiles, then closes his eyes as if "it is all over" and goes to sleep in his cloudhidden.

11/18/2012 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Very good.

Re your last observation, it's almost as if he's "accepted his cup," so to speak.

Also in that first scene, notice how there's an upward shot that makes it look like the inside of the cathedral. You can see a couple of patients looking down on the scene, almost like angels or something.

11/18/2012 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'm just thinking too of how no one even knows how to speak when McMurphy gets there. Harding just kind of bloviates in a vague, vaporous, and pretentious manner, not unlike the tenured, and the Nurse makes sure that truth can't be spoken in any event.

Also re Billy -- think of how he betrays McMurphy when the cock crows in the morning, a parallel to Peter.


11/18/2012 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And how about the fact that McMurphy wears that cap, which is like a yarmulke or other religious skullcap...

11/18/2012 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Cheswick is like the meekest of the bunch, and he's the first real disciple...

11/18/2012 08:27:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Breaking the window to get the cigarettes = going off on the moneychangers...

11/18/2012 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Putting booze in the IVs = water to wine...

11/18/2012 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yeah, this is pretty much what Petey says about the forthcoming "fold catastrophe," -- which will take us from the age of men back to the age of chaos. If it's not 12.12.12, it might as well be, if you're looking at it from a 14 billion year cosmic perspective....

11/18/2012 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Yes, the skullcap and IV's!
And the opening scene -- yes when the camera looks up -- the angels, that's it. One of them is giggling, but you don't see which.

Dr Spivey is Pontius Pilate and there are official councils with the other drs and high priests. McMurphy proves in a sort of "meaning debate" with one of them that he is smarter even than this one.

You might like "The Making Of..." disc, Bob. The screenplay writer is a raccoon I think. He talks about the "script of life" and he gets a bit choked up at the end.

11/18/2012 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Speaking of chaos, that's what Ratched maintains in the therapy sessions. When the disciples are all fighting with themselves; divided, then she looks pleased.

11/18/2012 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. the fold catastrophe, it occurs to me just now that while a great many people are in the habit of predicting The End of the World as we Know It™, especially by natural - or naturally man-made - disaster, very few seem to genuinely believe anything of the sort will happen. At the same time, many of those prophets of unlikely doom have been working diligently to bring about the conditions which will almost certainly bring about, well, The End of the World as we Know It™.

11/18/2012 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

-A brief off-wall comedic real-life situation i was in with the director Milos Forman & McMurphy Jack himself!:
Milos came to Telluride Film Festival #2 [2012 was 39th!] with Aurore Clément, the young starlet of Malle's 'Lacombe Lucien', which we had premiered at the Flick theatre in Denver where I worked p/t [owned by the Film Fest mavens]
I had driven to Telluride with a friend and we stopped in Vail on the way for lunch and to see his pal who was working the desk at some resort there. This guy relayed the strange fact that ex-Prez Gerald Ford was staying there and someone had left the briefcase sitting there in his office-- with Gerald's Valium prescription-- when checking in some minutes before. He asked us if we wanted any of his pills for our weekend and we said 'sure!'...and off we continued to the mountain town.

Well, the lovely Aurore, it turned out at one of the Q&A's, was hit with a toothache on arrival and was in pretty much pain; so afterwards I graciously-manically approached her & Milos with a midwestern 'Howdy!' and aksed her if she would like any of Gerald Ford's valium for her condition! [briefly sharing the story how i came to have the pills] She sensibly declined, :) But i did get to glimpse her up-close smile & receive merci's for the offer.

Now, I had taken some quarter z's of grass to sell for spending $, and on the last day, after Kenneth Anger* agreed to buy breakfast for anyone who stayed up all night and watched some of his rare old Fatty Arbuckle collection-- I think I slipped away late to snooze then got up early to attend! and I approached Nicholson's table [he was there alone at the cafe] and aksed if he'd like to get any! Otra vez I struck out sharing my toys but not for want of swinging!
Who else was there....? Buck Henry!

*had more run-ins w/ him there + in later years

11/18/2012 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

"Again, it seems to me that he's (Rahner) putting it all out before having completely digested and assimilated the material, so that too much work is required on the reader's part. "

My guess is that he needs to spend time as "A Nony Mouse" in a comments section in cyberspace and learn the true meaning of the Cyberspace Golden Rule:

"May your flames be witty, insulting, interesting,
paradoxical, funny, illogical, caustic, sarcastic, even inconsistent - but never,
ever, let them be boring. "

http://www.flayme.com/flame/04-psychology.shtml#Boring

Its the true aritst who can write a very long post and yet keep a captive Raccoon hungry for more.

Hi Bob! :)

On the internet, boring is death.

11/18/2012 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0011 said...

"Ah, good question! If you are intellectually honest, the first thing you will acknowledge is that man is a mystery to himself, period. "

So true. When we are 1 years old, we are astonished at those 2 flppy appendages (legs) that appear to be under our control... but even then not sure of that.

Likewise goes for dealing with the heat and pressure of an experience (such as understanding a concept you were supposed to know, but must now evoke .... something ... anything ... during a test you are taking on the subject) and drawing on those unknown deep reserves where suddenly the concpet is illuminated whereas before it was not.

11/18/2012 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

ge. Good story. So what did you end up doing with Gerald Ford's Valium?

11/18/2012 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

I mean, if you still have it you could donate it to his Presidential library, take a nice tax deduction.

11/18/2012 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

yowza---we could all use some tranks this month!

meanwhile a headline:
"Twinkies likely to survive, become a foreign import"
...Your local unions at work

11/19/2012 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Bob, watched it again this weekend with the boy. We haven't yet discussed the allusions..

Anyways, you'll headjoy this one. I can't believe I missed it. It was right there in plain sight:

What literally does McMurphy offer Chief when he nudges him two times?

Chief's replys each time are just as rich and perfect.

11/25/2012 08:46:00 AM  

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