Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christory

The Hominization Event, among other things, involved crossing the threshold into time.

Or did it? Human beings are not so much in time as above it; or rather, we have a foot in each realm.

It's like the difference between sitting on the bank of a river (of time) vs. being in the river and pulled along by the currents. Sometimes we are completely given over to the river, for good or ill. Other times we disinterestedly watch it go by.

But that doesn't quite capture the gist, because there is also a kind of timelessness involved in giving oneself over to the river of time. The French have a term that is peripherally related to this submersion: nostalgie de la bout, or "nostalgia for the mud."

I suppose we could say there are two ways for humans to try to evade time: down and up, mud and sky.

And it seems that our most ancient ancestors defaulted toward the former. Thus the title of the next chapter under discussion, The Refusal of History. It begins with a crack by Johann Hamann to the effect that "there is no universal history without Judaism and Christianity," because the idea that we all share "in the same history, a linear history moving toward a goal, only appeared historically with the Judeo-Christian tradition."

You might say that members of the latter tradition said Yes to history -- although it must again be emphasized that the No and the Yes nevertheless coexist, and there are any number of ways to say No to history, secular progressivism being one such way.

The left flees from truths that cannot be un-known, but you can never really put the truthpaste back in the tube.

Progressivism is a collective means of stopping or reversing time, but there are also individual ways, i.e., neuroses, in which a part of the mind continues to live in an earlier time -- in childhood or even infancy.

Prior to the Jews, man's sense of historical consciousness was weak to non-existent; or, to the extent that it broke through, it was promptly repressed and denied, often through collective rituals: "If history is 'the remembered past,'" then there are "two strikingly different ways of remembering it: the mythological and the historical..."

Recall what was said yesterday about early man having to "adapt to mindedness." Bailie notes that "Archaic peoples clung, not to nature, but to religious procedures" designed to keep the gods "favorably disposed to their propitiators." It was literally a kind of circular procedure -- although the circle was wider than it is for animals, who essentially live within the subjective phase space of their instincts.

But man, in being liberated from instinct, is confronted with a kind of terrifying infinity that must somehow be tamed. "Thus these ancient cultures remained profoundly backward oriented," as if to say Please make death's footman, time, knock it off, and while you're at it, would you please make the spooky silence of the infinite spaces go away! And here's some human blood for all your trouble!

In the Christian west, we value history. It has a ground, a direction, and a purpose. Conversely, "Indian thought," for example, "has refused to concede any value to History" (Eliade, in Bailie). This is because time is thought to be a dimension of maya-illusion. Thus, the ultimate point of Vedanta is to escape time by obliterating the ego. Back to the undifferentiated matrix from which we emerged.

"As long as they remained beholden to their gods and the cycle of sacrificial rituals that appeased them, our ancient ancestors lived in a cyclical and not a historical world.... For our ancestors to step even tentatively onto the path of history, they would have to break with these 'archetypal beings' and, to some degree at least, renounce the false forms of transcendence they represented."

These archetypal beings very much remind me of what are called "transitional objects" in psychoanalysis. The latter are essentially symbolic way stations that help the child move from merger with the mother toward individuation and independence. Once safely across the psychic divide, the "security blanket" may be tossed aside.

I wonder if pagan religions are essentially transitional objects to which premodern man clung? Bailie implies as much: "other religions of the world -- ancient and contemporary -- are 'religions in waiting' -- awaiting the truth revealed by Christ..."

I'm not sure when the next post will be -- maybe Monday, but possibly Tuesday. In between we'll be celebrating Christmas, which is a Christian holiday superimposed on a pagan one. It coincides with the darkest day of the year, at which point the light increases and the days begin to imperceptibly lengthen.

You could say that Christianity lifted the holy-day out of its time-denying circle. As de Lubac remarked, "Christianity is not one of the great things of history; it is history that is one of the great things of Christianity" (in Bailie).

"For Christianity there is a progress in the truth of what it means to be. Following Christ one is permanently growing, from one beginning to another beginning. Yet Christianity is not only a part of a larger progress, it is the goal of progress itself" (Lopez, in Bailie).

If primitive man lives in the repetitive circle and secular man on the meaningless line, Christians live in the ever-renewing, progressive spiral.

19 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Once safely across the psychic divide, the "security blanket" may be tossed aside.

I just spent the morning patching one of those up, all around the edges. It will be a bittersweet day when she no longer treats it like a member of the family.

12/23/2016 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I used to have one, a washcloth with a certain texture. I called it my "nong." Not sure how I came up with the name -- maybe because I would gnaw on it.

12/23/2016 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

When mine started falling apart, my mom would trim the ragged bits off the edges. By the time I was done with it, all that was left was a little square.

12/23/2016 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

My mom would naturally have to wash mine from time to time, which I hated, because it changed the texture and smell...

12/23/2016 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

lol - yes, I caught a whiff of M's this morning. It's getting a bath. I always cringe a little when she introduces it to new people, because heaven only knows where that thing has been...

12/23/2016 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I remember Tristan had a particular knitted blanket that we'd have to put him to sleep with. The blanket had a hole in the corner, and he would have to poke his finger through the hole and kind of rub it as he nodded off. He also had a fireman's hat that he wore every day for a year or more.

12/23/2016 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Those are fun. We have a couple that manage to disappear, only to turn up now and then to be repurposed as construction helmets or soldier helmets or whatever adventure they are having that minute.

12/23/2016 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, the transitional object is always a fusion of imagination and reality. Winnicott would say that we never actually outgrow them -- culture, for example, inhabits the "transitional space" between world and neurology.

12/23/2016 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Interesting how Nazis tried to re-paganize Christmas.

12/23/2016 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

These days, the go-to "secular" version is now pretty much officially "solstice." So many people have bought into the idea that Christmas was originally just an answer to pagan holidays, they figure it's easier to just go back to the "original" reason for the season.

Actually, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that the date had a lot more to do with Jewish numerology aided by Biblical references. Not least being that since the Annunciation happened "in the 6th month" (most likely March 25th, hence the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25th), he was born 9 months later - on December 25th.

12/23/2016 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Progressivism is a collective means of stopping or reversing time, but there are also individual ways, i.e., neuroses ...

Public, mass neuroses reminds me of someone saying that Bill Clinton had the highest of public morals as if they were separate from private morals.

In a similar vein, someone on Fakebook posted how "Jesus was a brown, Middle Eastern refugee who would not have voted for Trump". I usually ignore this crap, but politicizing Jesus and drawing a moral equivalence between Jesus and Islamic terrorists was a little too much.

Merry Christmas, gang. I love you all, and I hope you have a blessed and peaceful break from the routine.

12/23/2016 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

"...as if to say Please make death's footman, time, knock it off, and while you're at it, would you please make the spooky silence of the infinite spaces go away! And here's some human blood for all your trouble!"

Well, when you put it that way, it makes perfect sense to me.

Merry Christmas, Coonrades!

12/23/2016 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

The 'nog is making me all treacly and sentimental, but I do so love this place, and all my brethren under the pelt.

A blessed and Merry Christmas, dear friends!

12/23/2016 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger debass said...

I saved pieces of my daughter's security blanked and when the final piece was too ratty and she had given it up, I had someone reknit it all into a scarf, which she wore thereafter. Fond memories. Merry Christmas all.

12/23/2016 08:57:00 PM  
Blogger Allena said...

Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah! 😊

12/23/2016 11:57:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Debass, what a sweet solution to the blankie problem! I might attach hers to a bigger quilt at some point, assuming there are enough scraps left.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a truly blessed new year!

12/24/2016 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Merry Christmas Cosmos!

12/24/2016 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger Christina M said...

Merry Christmas! God is with us.

I don't remember until you all mention security blankies, but I can still remember exactly what it felt like to suck my thumb, (like sucking sunflower seeds in the shell), and how much I enjoyed it, and that for some reason, I consciously broke myself of the habit, and how sad I was to do it, but I knew it had to be done. At that age I always felt shocked to be here too. Like I wasn't supposed to be here.

12/24/2016 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie Godwin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12/26/2016 10:32:00 PM  

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