Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Let Us Make Man in Our Image

Yesterday we alluded to Winnicott's crack that "there is no such thing as an infant," which is very much an analogue of the most ortho of paradoxes, that "there is no such thing as a God." That is, if man is going to be an image of the Creator(s), then we are going to have to have plurality somehow built into us.

Indeed, while there are many ways to fall, one of them is to presume a radical individuality, irrespective of whether or not one "believes" in God, for the more important point is that such a one is failing to "be" -- and three -- like God.

In Ratzinger's essay on The Notion of Person, he suggests that personhood was a Christian discovery or development, however you wish to characterize it.

It was Tertullian who, in the late second or early third century, nailed down the secret formula of "one being in three persons." For Ratzinger, this is when "the word 'person' entered intellectual history for the first time with its full weight." With this in mind, it is possible to understand such otherwise confusing data, such as God speaking in the plural, e.g., "Let us make man in our image and likeness," or "Adam has become like one of us."

And just lately I've been on a bit of a Sophia-Mary kick, and there is no gainsaying the fact that Ms. Wisdom seems to have been there from the start, even if she is created rather than -- like the second person -- begotten. I can't say that I recommend this book, because the author takes 400 pages to say what I just said in a sentence, but he compiles all of the material from the wisdom books of the OT that go to this, such as:

--Wisdom was first of all created things...

--The Lord created me the first of his works long ago, before all else was made.

--Then I was at his side each day, his darling and delight, playing in his presence continually...

So, wisdom is the first creation of the Creator. You might say that he creates creativity for us, which I think is alluded to in that second passage, i.e., playing in his presence continually. In this context, remember the words of our Unknown Friend, that it is all about transforming work into play. Remember too that mysterious word presence. We'll get back to that one, maybe later in the week.

In any event, with this radically new concept of person, we have the idea that personhood is "dialogical," only this is a three-person dialogue and thus a tria-logos. God is substance-in-relation, such that there is nothing beneath, behind, or above his relativity. Can you relate to God? Truly, you cannot not relate and still call yourself a person.

I remind you to keep the whole infancy thingy (discussed yesterday) in the back of your mind as we proceed.

As Ratzinger explains, "person must be understood as relation," whether we are talking about man or about God. With regard to the latter, "the three persons that exist in God are in their nature relations." They are "not substances that stand next to each other, but they are real existing relations and nothing besides."

To deeply appreciate this is to see, as it were, the negative of a photograph, except we're really talking about the positive of a pneumagraph. It's the same image, only seen insight-out from the proper perspective, or maybe with your x-ray specs. Really, it's how Blake can see God in a grain of sand and all that. If everything is relation, then cosmic alienation isn't just a drag, it's plain wrong.

Note that relation "is not something superadded to the person, but it is the person itself. In its nature, the person exists only as relation" -- which is why the Son cannot be created, because relation with the Son is what the Father is, so to speak (and vice versa).

This obviously brings to bear a novel way to think about oneself. It also goes to everything we have said about "idiom" in bygone posts, because that too goes to the relation(s) we are. You will never find yourself in yourself, rather, only in your relations, both to people and objects (the latter of which are always infused with personhood as well, however attenuated).

Truly, we are never alone, for the ultimate reality is person, and "person is the pure relativity of being turned toward the other."

However, note that it is not the person of Father, nor the person of the Holy Spirit, who incarnates in man. Rather, it is the person of the Son, whose personhood (even though it must be a fractal of the totality) is characterized by receptivity. The Son "receives" from the Father, and if it's good enough for him, it ought to be good enough for us.

Thus we read in John how Jesus says "The Son cannot do anything of himself." As Ratzinger explains, this is because "he does not place himself as a delimited substance next to the Father, but exists in total relativity toward him..."

This same ontological structure "is in turn transferred... to the disciples when Christ says, 'Without me you can do nothing.'" In this way, man "truly comes to himself and into the fullness of his own, because he enters into unity with the one to whom he is related."

You might say that this is how the flower of man's personhood turns toward the light and blooms, for man is "not a substance that closes itself in itself, but the phenomenon of complete relativity." We can only discover the reason for our being in relationship and in mutual giving, since each needs the other to be who he or she is. And Jesus is not the exception, but the rule. For spirit

"not only is," but in reaching "beyond itself, it comes to itself. In transcending itself it has itself; by being with the other it first becomes itself, it comes to itself. Expressed differently again: being with the other is its form of being with itself."

Which all goes to why the helpless infant and child must be prior to the man, not just chronologically but ontologically.

12 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

I can't say that I recommend this book, because the author takes 400 pages to say what I just said in a sentence

Aw, spoiler alert!

Actually, I like the way it compiles so much material. Though the listing on the back as "Goddess/Women's Studies" on the back cover gives me an unpleasant shudder every time I see it. I wonder how many feminists picked it up, then recoiled in horror when they realized it's not all about finding your inner womynhood or how "God" is just a creation of the Patriarchy invented to usurp the rightful dominance of the feminine?

4/21/2015 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The truth hurts. Or feels really good, rather.

4/21/2015 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That is a perfect visual illustration of No Such Thing as an Infant.

4/21/2015 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Beautiful.

If my daughter grows up anything like that, I'll know I've done my job.

4/21/2015 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"... --Wisdom was first of all created things...

--The Lord created me the first of his works long ago, before all else was made.

--Then I was at his side each day, his darling and delight, playing in his presence continually..."

Proverbs 8, my fav. Not surprisingly, digging into that one, leads to everywhere else worth digging. With,
"... “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion.
13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech.
14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine;
I have insight, I have power...."

4/21/2015 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"It was Tertullian who, in the late second or early third century, nailed down the secret formula of "one being in three persons." For Ratzinger, this is when "the word 'person' entered intellectual history for the first time with its full weight." "

With its full weight, sure, but somewhere around 300 b.c. or Greco buds introduced Persona in their dramas, and began fitting Sophia out with some awesome duds.

Not quite heavy weight, but there's a... Reason, why we're a Greco-Roman/Judo-Christian people.

4/21/2015 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, he goes into that background, but I streamlined it to move things along.

4/21/2015 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

You will never find yourself in yourself, rather, only in your relations, both to people and objects ....


It might not be exactly Scripture, but, as we say, that would preach.

4/21/2015 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Thank God for that good old Cold War, lead-lined underwear.

4/21/2015 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

:D

Mushroom, when your comment showed up in my email, I wondered what the heck you were talking about. Too funny. I'm suddenly reminded of the painful scene in the first Superman movie where Lois has him over for an "interview."

4/21/2015 05:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Mormon underwear is pretty effective too. Joseph Smith was ahead of his time.

4/21/2015 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

I saw the Sophia-Marie book in my used metaphysical book store this weekend, and was a tad disappointed with it and never purchased it. Some nice iconography though.

4/22/2015 04:13:00 AM  

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