Tuesday, January 03, 2017

What Do You Want?

This is the subject of the next chapter of God's Gamble, the book with which we have been gamboling for the last month.

The Incarnation is ultimately for the purpose of salvation. But from what, exactly? What if one is unaware of any need for salvation? Well, Christ said he came not for the righteous but for the sinner, not for the healthy but for the sick. So, you are probably either a saint or just too sick to notice how sick you've become.

Which happens. The latter, I mean (there are not too many spontaneous saints, but plenty of clueless sinners).

It is analogous to how the most mentally ill people are the last to know they are mentally ill. These people are especially irritating, because they force everyone around them to adapt to their illness. There is an element of bullying to it, even if unconscious (which it usually is, again, because they aren't aware of their pathology).

I should amend what I said about people who are mentally ill being the last to know. This is generally not true of what are called "axis I" disorders, e.g., a typical anxiety or depressive condition. These are (usually) time-limited illnesses that afflict an individual -- as when one catches a cold or flu.

Axis II disorders are of a very different nature. Instead of a person with an illness, the person is the illness. These are the personality disorders, e.g., paranoid, schizoid, narcissistic, borderline, etc. Whereas neurosis is more of a surface phenomenon, the personality disorder affects the very structure of the person, all the way to the foundation -- which is why it is difficult for the person to "see" it, for it is that with which they see.

I wonder if there is something analogous on the spiritual plane, i.e., spiritual neuroses and spiritual personality disorders? If so, a neurosis will be relatively easy to "cure." Expose the person to the truth and he will be conflicted about it; although he may reflexively reject it, something inside will nevertheless ring a bell, so to speak.

But a spiritual personality disorder will be much more intense than this. Here you might see an overt war on God instead of a conflicted or ambivalent rejection. The Aphorist has quite a few that go to this, for example, The atheist devotes himself less to proving that God does not exist than to forbidding Him to exist. And Militant irreligion gradually transforms the one possessed into a simple imbecile convulsed by hatred. He incarnates his godlessness, you might say.

I'm trying to think back to what motivated me during my atheistic phase. Hmm. A mixture of things: superiority, to be sure. Although "annoyed" by believers, there was a kind of perverse joy involved in skewering them with atheistic arguments to which they had no answer.

Then again, my rationalistic arguments rarely gained any real traction in my interlocutor, so it reverted back to my own annoyance. If you think you can talk people out of their faith with mere rationalistic arguments, you are going to be very frustrated.

Allied with superiority and rationalism (i.e., pseudo-reason) is an utterly fraudulent self-sufficiency. In order to maintain the illusion, one must remain completely oblivious to one's own assumptions. The person who imagines he can think in the absence of metaphysics simply has a primitive and unexamined metaphysic. Such persons are often the toughest nuts to crack, since they are educated to the height of stupidity. Most of our tenured fall into this category: for them, Instruction does not cure foolishness; it equips it (NGD).

Obama, is our most educated -- which is to say, indoctrinated -- president. A man who refuses to bow before what is superior to him is a worthless man: rebellion or obedience. Man establishes there his godlike pride or his creaturely humility (NGD).

He who does not believe in God can at least have the decency of not believing in himself (NGD). I mean, not having faith in God is understandable. But having faith in oneself is preposterous. Unless one is utterly without self-reflection. Do you not know with whom you are dealing?

He avoids announcing to man his divinity, but proposes goals that only a god could reach, or rather proclaims that the essence of man has rights that assume he is divine. To even speak of freedom, or truth, or beauty, or love, without reference to God, is a crass usurpation, no matter how "intelligent." For As long as we do not arrive at religious categories, our explanations are not founded upon rock (ibid.).

Or rather, to drill down to the rock is to discover God. Authentic atheism is a blank page (ibid.). Nothing can be affirmed or denied -- not even nothing. It is to be sealed in absolute stupidity.

The truth does not need the adherence of man in order to be certain (ibid.). Truth is necessary. People are contingent. But -- speaking of the Incarnation -- the truth becomes contingent so that the contingent might become true.

Gosh. We haven't even scratched God's Gamble, which is what this post is supposed to be about. Bailie begins the chapter with a poem that gets "inside" the Fall, which is, among other things, a fall into multiplicity.

Now, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with multiplicity, so long as one never forgets that it is the consequence of a prior unity. But eliminating the unity necessarily renders the multiplicity absurd: Like a child / at a barbaric fairgrounds -- / noise, lights, the violent odors -- / Adam fragments himself. The whirling rides!

The poem speaks of his confused attention to everything, / impassioned by multiplicity, his despair. Thus Fragmented, / he is not present to himself. God / suffers the void that is his absence.

We can foolishly forget God, but it seems God never forgets our farce.

Next he quotes Pope Francis, who affirms that "Once man has lost the fundamental orientation which unifies his existence, he breaks down into the multiplicity of his desires." You might say that desire becomes intrinsically dis-ordered, being that it is no longer ordered to its proper object -- the only object that can possibly satisfy a desire that is literally infinite.

For as mentioned in a previous post, one aspect of the Hominization Event involves the liberation of desire from instinct. If the newly liberated desire is not rooted in unity, then it bursts into a million fragments.

The rest is history -- at least its underside. If desire isn't ordered to the Infinite, then it redounds to absurdity and frustration, "kaleidoscopic refractions of the single desire to which [our] teeming desiderata of longings must be ordered if [we] are to flourish and find fulfillment" (Bailie).

Life "disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants. Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another." It is not a journey, just an aimless wandering with no conceivable end.

And God must incarnate in just this collideorescape world! His rescue mission has many facets, but surely one of them is to reorder desire to its proper object. "Jesus was himself the message he came to deliver" (Bailie).

Bailie makes a provocative observation, that the very first words uttered by Jesus (in the book of John) are What do you want? (1:38; my translation reads What do you seek?, but the meaning is the same, for we seek what we want.)

"It would not be too much to say that Jesus came into the world to help humanity come to grips with that question" (Bailie).

7 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

There is an element of bullying to it, even if unconscious (which it usually is, again, because they aren't aware of their pathology).

Yep - the phrase, "you can't say that to X, she's fragile." What is really meant, usually, is that X will either erupt or melt down when called on her BS, and nobody has time for that. Instead, everyone has to put up with it for years until somebody else finally erupts or melts down.

1/03/2017 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

An Aphorism I hadn't read before: "Religious pathology is the key to history."

1/03/2017 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Another: "Never to think of the parts except by starting from the whole is a horrible guide for acting, but the only one that saves us from living in a world without meaning."

1/03/2017 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

"To mature is to discover that every object desired is only the metaphor for the transcendent object of our desire."

1/03/2017 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

"What unfathomable pessimism, what incurable desperation, must underlie the belief in a satisfactory solution on Earth!"

1/03/2017 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

"What do you want?"

To answer is simultaneously a prayer and a confession.

Christ seemed to do this a lot...ask a question (while knowing the answer) but for our sake.

When He says, "why do you say that I am good? There is only one good." He is not denying He is good. He wants us, I believe, to confess that we know who He is. This is similar I think to when He asks "who do they say I am?"

1/03/2017 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"... The person who imagines he can think in the absence of metaphysics simply has a primitive and unexamined metaphysic. Such persons are often the toughest nuts to crack, since they are educated to the height of stupidity. Most of our tenured fall into this category: for them, Instruction does not cure foolishness; it equips it (NGD)."

Boom.
And Doom.

1/04/2017 01:28:00 PM  

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