Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Cosmic (M)Other

In Theo-Drama III, Balthasar touches on the very subject we've been discussing. In a section called Jesus' God-Consciousness and Its Historical Medium, he says that

"The issue is this: If Jesus' consciousness of an absolute (divine) mission is to coincide with his I-consciousness, how can the child Jesus ever have awakened to self-consciousness without simultaneously knowing of his mission -- at least implicitly?"

For example, "many a pious picture shows the little Child playing with pieces of wood in the form of a cross." More problematically, theologians have often attributed to Jesus a complete knowledge of his mission and destiny -- along with everything else knowable by man -- from the moment of Incarnation.

Perhaps not problematic to you, but I don't get that.

T-Aq went so far as to suggest that Jesus could not learn from men at all, but if this is the case, then in what way can it be said that he was human, since the essence of humanness is relationship and exchange with other persons?

Balthasar points out that this is the case of a scholastic a priori colliding with reality, for "unless a child is awakened to I-consciousness through the instrumentality of a Thou, it cannot become a human child at all."

No one can escape this principle without escaping from his humanity. Thus, "if it is essential for self-consciousness to be awakened by a 'thou' and subsequently initiated into a world of spiritual tradition," then "it follows that the 'I' who awakens the unique 'thou' of the Child Jesus must have a unique relationship to him."

This does not imply that Mary had foreknowledge of Jesus' mission, the unusual circumstances of his conception notwithstanding. But as I described in the book (subsection 3.2, The Acquisition of Humanness in a Contemporary Stone Age Baby) -- well, let's just begin with that wise crack by Tolstoi, who said that "From the child of five to myself is but a step. But from the newborn baby to the child of five is an appalling distance."

Not only can we not exempt Jesus from this abysmal ("immeasurably great") developmental journey, but I would suggest that his many provocative statements about children and childhood -- quite unusual, if not unheard of, for the time -- suggest an acute awareness of the stakes. The fact that he is routinely depicted as an infant and a defender of children, and that he speaks of the virtues of childlike-ness, suggest that he was quite attuned to this reality, and that he didn't care who knew it.

Indeed, if we want to attribute to him a kind of super-human intelligence, then, with all due respect, it would actually be the opposite of what Thomas describes; that is, rather than being unable to learn from man, Jesus possessed great insight into every man's developmental roots in his own childhood. Why else put it in such vivid terms: It would be better for him if a millstone were hung about his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than he should offend one of these little ones.

As I wrote in the book, babies "interact with mothers in such a way as to use them as an 'auxiliary cortex' for the purpose of 'downloading programs from from her brain into the infant's brain.'"

Actually, this is slightly misleading, because prior to the downloading of any explicit "content," the baby takes in the whole maternal matrix (matrix = womb) -- the context rather than content -- which becomes the "background subject of primary identification." And this is, of course, where the deepest mind parasites get in.

As it so happens, I've been observing a particular mother who is extremely anxious but doesn't know it, and how she is unfortunately transmitting this to her son, whom she then must "protect" because of his identification with her anxiety," in a kind of closed intrapsychic circle.

The point is, if a mother is unable to think her thoughts, she will end up forcing her child to think them for her. But how can an infant possibly bear such thoughts? (BTW, if I had been a younger parent, I would have undoubtedly transmitted a lot more mind parasites into my son. As things stand, he doesn't seem to have any except for those he brought with him, plus the standard issue pests that come with being human.)

Back to Schönborn. He agrees that "Human awareness is inconceivable without relationships with others." We do not become self-aware "as a result of withdrawing all bridges to the outside and being with" ourselves. "There is no such thing as isolated self-awareness. Openenss to and dependence on others are an essential part of human self-awareness: first of all, to the mother, the first person to whom one relates."

I'm thinking about this for the first time, but it has always been recognized that the Incarnation has a relationship to History, in that it is as if the author of the world-historical play jumps down onto the stage and enters the action.

But for me, History is dependent upon psycho-developmental history. No other animal besides man has history, because no other animal has the open-ended psychological development resulting from his neoteny. Thus, not only is childhood critical to understanding man, but, in an important sense -- just as Jesus advised -- we remain children for life, in that we are always growing toward our nonlocal developmental telos.

Now, Ratzinger and other esteemed theologians suggest that Jesus is, in a sense, the "end made middle," or the fulfillment of history crashing into time. But what if we apply the same eschatology to personal history? This doesn't really require much of a leap, given that Jesus is, so to speak, God's icon of man, of which we are more or less pale reflections.

But in any event, rather than providing us with a model of ontological completeness, Jesus clearly provides a model of dependence, relationship, and obedience (to the Father). Thus, of all people, he would be the last one to think of as closed off to others.

Schönborn reminds us that "every human self-awareness is mediated and not unmediated," and that "only in knowing other people and things, and only by this means, do we know ourselves." So, "In that sense, we may and must assume that Jesus came to know himself through others, and, like any child, especially through his mother."

It is quite the opposite of Sartre's claim that "hell is other people." For hell is no other people -- no relationships -- precisely.

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