Theology vs. Theophagy: Shut Up and Let's Eat!
I don't always have time to post, and when I don't, I prefer one of these quickly dashed off stream-of-consciousness ones.
I finally gave up on Gregory's Unintended Reformation. Made it two thirds of the way through before he used the word "gendered" one too many times. The whole thing is a jargon-filled, name-checking swamp of monochromatic tenurespeak, with prose as melodious as the sound of a toolbox hitting the garage floor.
The one place where it almost came to life was in chapter two, Relativizing Doctrines. His point, if he has one, is that the contemporary tyranny of relativism may be traced to the crack-up of Catholic orthodoxy into hundred and thousands if not millions of doctrines and crocktrines, each as different as the person who believes it.
Ironically, reformists imagined that reliance upon sola scriptura would put an end to such disputes once and for all, but it had precisely the opposite effect: schism after schism after schism, each rooted in, and supported by, scripture.
In turn, because it then appeared that religion was whatever one wanted it to be, it was just a step to chucking it altogether. Most people implicitly obey the law of the excluded middle, meaning that truth claims are mutually exclusive. Therefore, if there are, say, 10,000 churches, which one is right? This in turn becomes a meaningless question, because not only is there no way to arbitrate the dispute, there's not even an agreement as to what would constitute a way.
The upshot is that religion just ends up looking stupid.
However, in its defense, there is something of this problem in every discipline, say, physics. Physics still "works," despite the fact that its models of the macro- and microcosmos cannot be reconciled.
In fact, the higher up the cognitive food chain we go, the more perverse the diversity -- say, psychology. Because there is no rational way to determine the winner, this leaves a vacuum for power to become the referee.
Here again, this is precisely what has occurred in psychology, which is a playground for politically correct bullies. History is just as susceptible, as is economics. Even biology -- which is just a few rungs up from physics -- is totally politicized by the materialist rabble. Chemistry too is politicized, for example, by people who insist on a rigid distinction between "natural" and "unnatural" chemicals -- as if none of the former are deadly, or none of the latter beneficial.
Ironic that Schuon regarded himself as an upper case Traditionalist, when his whole program is a way to cut through the thicket of modernity, into a post-critical unity of thought and being. His first major work, The Transcendent Unity of Religions, showed how it is possible to understand the deeper point of religion as such, instead of getting lost in particulars -- although he also emphasized the importance of the particulars, since that is how one practices a religion.
I suppose this is similar to the Aristotelean principle that we don't see universals running around naked without their particulars, or forms without substance. Thus, revelation is the (God-given) terrestrial form of a celestial substance, as it were.
In my marginal gnotes to mysoph, I posed the question: "What are the irreducible principles of Christianity?" -- those that define Christianity, and without which it is something else.
The first three that pop into my noggin are 1) Trinity, 2) Incarnation, and 3) Resurrection. Without the first, the second would be impossible (for God could not contain or "be" his own "other"), and obviously we can't have the third if we don't first have the second, because only God could transcend death.
But is it possible to abstract this trio even further? I think so. Let's start with the second principle, Incarnation: what does this really mean, or imply, about Reality? In other words, what is the principle by which it is possible -- that makes it more than just an ad hoc and unanalyzable point of dogma?
I believe it implies just what so many of the early fathers said it did: that God becomes man so that man might become god (or godlike). But perhaps that's still too "mythological" sounding. Purified of myth, we might just say that the Absolute becomes relative so that the relative might know, or be, or become "absolutized." Obviously we can never be the Absolute, but we can certainly move closer or further from it, vertically speaking.
As to the first principle, Trinity, this is said to be one of those ideas that man could never have discovered on his own, via reason, because reason inevitably leads back to the unity, or oneness of existence.
But I don't think this is narcissarily so. This first occurred to me back when I was writing the Psychogenesis section, and attempting to trace humanness all the way back to its origins. In so doing, I became 100% convinced that the very idea of a monadic, isolated human being is impossible in fact and in principle: it did not happen because it could not happen.
Rather, the laboratory of humanness can only be the mother-infant dyad, and then only with an infant neurology that is both incomplete and intersubjective. In short, he or she must intrinsically be an open and malleable system from the very ground. The orthoparadoxical psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott was quite correct when he said that there is no such thing as an infant. Or, as another analyst put it, "You [the mother] think, therefore I [the baby] am."
From this it was an easy step to the idea that the ultimate ground must also be a matrix of dynamic intersubjectivity. You can call it "Father-Son-Holy Spirit," but here again, one can demythologize -- or de-culture, or de-historicize -- those elements and try to see the more abstract principle, such as Source-Creation-Love, or something like that.
I mean, you don't have to. But I think it might be helpful to present it in this way to Outsiders, who are going to be intrinsically hostile to any myth that isn't approved by the New York Times, such as multiculturalism. Ironically, they don't know that the latter is a myth, but it is just another iteration of the ivory tower of babble.
I will conclude with another quickthought: that perhaps Jesus knew what he was doing when he left no written doctrine or book for pinheads to argue over. He did, however, leave an embodied act to perform.
Could it be that the abstract Doctrine is entirely embedded in this concrete act, in such a way that it bypasses all superficial arguments over doctrine? I cannot help but think of how the infant first experiences "love," in such a way that the experience of love is inseparable from the experience of milk. Thus, food is the first love, and vice versa.
Well, that was yesterday's post. What about today?
Not so easy, because having just read it, I'm now in the mind of yesterday's nous. The first thing I want to do is respond to the possibly rhetorical question posed by yesterbob in the last paragraph, "Could it be that the abstract Doctrine is entirely embedded in this concrete act?" -- referring, of course, to the sacrament of Communion.
Since I am not Catholic, Catholics will have to be patient. And since I'm revisiting a practice most Protestants have rejected as unBiblical, unnecessary, and frankly superstitious, they'll have to forgive me. But you have to admit it's a weird thing for God to ask us to think and do, i.e., "this is My body" and "do this in remembrance of Me." No one would invent such a preposterous request or inscrutable bequest.
Again: what could be the deeper principle involved here? One could consult the Catechism, but I don't think we'll find the sort of answers
we're I'm looking for, i.e., something that would explain it that isn't simply self-referential and self-authenticating. Well, let's take a peek anyway.
Blah blah yada yada, this seems important: how do we restore unity if we are so obviously housed in separate bodies, for starters? The Eucharist goes to the unity with each other (horizontal) and with God (vertical). And it is a truly "holographic" act, in the sense that it contains numerous aspects, depending upon how one looks at it: sacrifice, incarnation, salvation, mystery, gift, heavenly nourishment, resurrection, vertical memory, etc.
I think I'll take a left turn and look at the psychology of all this, the psychology of the Ground. But before that, I remind you that both our troubles and our salvation seem to be wrapped up in "food": eating the wrong thing results in expulsion from paradise, into duality and pain, while eating the right thing seems to reverse this disaster.
Let me yank down a couple of oldies from the shelf -- some things I probably haven't glanced at since graduate school, but which intuition tells me may be relevant. Here's one: The Mind Object, on the "pathology of self-sufficiency." It goes to what occurs when, either due to maternal insufficiency or other factors, the self fails to be an open system with the primordial m(o)ther.
When this occurs, a kind of split develops in the psyche, whereby the mind itself becomes a substitute for maternal care -- thus the "mind object" of the title. As Winnicott put it, the mind "becomes the nursemaid that acts as mother-substitute and cares for the baby in the child self."
I think that atheists almost by definition suffer from this ontological defect, imagining that they can be their own source of ultimate truth. Some of these patients "are narcissistic, some depressed, some boringly obsessive," but all of them are enclosed in their own private Idaho.
Nor can they "relax into being, but must be constantly stimulated and enlivened by something or someone outside themselves," since their being-ness does not flow with intrinsic intersubjectivity and slackful communion. When alone, they are literally alone.
Winnicott says that "the psyche of the individual gets 'seduced' away into this mind [object] from the intimate relationship which the psyche originally had with the soma" -- which again resonates with the "seduction" of Genesis 3 and the split between body and mind (which comm-unnion undoes).
And what is this pathological self-sufficiency but the striving to become one's own god, a la Genesis 3? One's own "mind object" becomes "an object of intense attachment," and is "turned to for security, solace, and gratification." It "provides an aura of omnipotence," but "is basically an illusion, vulnerable to breakdown and the anxieties associated with breakdown."
Another book that comes to mind is So the Witch Won't Eat Me, on fears of cannibalism and infanticide in children -- for where there is the infantile fantasy of eating mother, there is also the possibility that mother might eat baby.
Would such anxieties help to explain the near-universal practice of child sacrifice, as if to say: "here, take this one, don't take me!"? And of course, one also thinks of abortion.
That's it for today. We leave off with another rhetorical quest. To be continued, I suppose. Unless the subject is just too weird.