Man: Putting the Quest in Question
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.