Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Cosmic Rebel Without a First Cause

The Church is in a very ticklish situation, one that I don't envy. That is, how does one preserve, transmit, and hand on this repository of truth without in the process reducing it to some kind of easily digestible booby formula?

This is one of the tasks Giussani sets for himself. While the problem has become more visible in the post-WW2 cultural climate, and more generally with modernity, it has actually been an issue from the start, one that Jesus was clearly aware of (more on which as we proceed).

One reason it's an issue is that it applies to any discipline I can think of, in which the living, uncontainable truth is eventually contained and cut down to size. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since we do need a paradigm in order to situate any fact we encounter, whether scientific, psychological, or religious. In a way, a fact is already a theory.

But paradigms can quickly become procrustean beds, cutting off inconvenient facts in order to preserve the theory, so that what is seen is ideology, not reality.

In the secular west ideology has replaced the Reason (as discussed in yesterday's post), so that "instead of learning from reality and all its aspects and building on it, man seeks to manipulate reality according to coherent schemes fabricated by the intellect" (LG).

Thus, instead of reality speaking to man, man just yells at reality, like a crazy street person bellowing at a shop window. It reminds me of those union thugs who refuse to accept the principle of supply and demand, and therefore want to beat up those who do.

But when has the left been any different? The left cannot exist without the threat of violence, either explicit or implicit. In contrast, no one has to force me to be free.

Ideology quickly devolves -- or mutates -- into ideolatry, a word I apparently just coined, combining ideology and idolatry. Ideology is the new graven image, and like all graven images, it is full of magic. There are magical incantations for cleansing sin and eliminating guilt (e.g., "diversity"), for denying sexual conflict while unconsciously acting it out ("feminism"), for maintaining intellectual sanctity ("global warming"), and countless others.

Really, like carbon emission trading, it's one big racket of psychic transactions between victims and bullies, which results in the self-styled victims becoming bullies, as in Michigan.

But in reality, the modern left revolves around an inversion of the Christian idea of poverty of spirit, so that instead of the meek inheriting the earth, the left grants itself permission to steal the earth on behalf of its meek victims du jour. Which is why Obama -- a deeply Christian man who learned his theology at the knee of the Rrrrrrrrreverend Wright -- refuses to condemn those poor and meek union goons.

In the foreword, the author writes of how Giussani is concerned with "the risks of slipping into merely formal adhesion" to Christianity, reducing it to a "merely practical and exterior practice," no longer responding to and engaging with the deepest foundation of the human person, i.e., the religious sense and all it implies.

The central problematic for Giussani is one we have discussed on many occasions, i.e., the diminution of the human spirit to fit the ideology, rather than expanding it in order to conform to reality: the "modern mentality reduces reason to a series of categories into which reality is forced to enter. What cannot be forced into these categories is defined as irrrational."

But Reason, properly understood, is simply open engagement with O, on every level: "If reason is faithful to its original dynamism of openness to the totality of reality, it recognizes the existence of this ultimate, mysterious level of reality. But it cannot pretend with its own forces to know 'Who' the Mystery may be" (Stafford).

Exactly. Ironically -- or orthoparadoxically -- the unambiguous affirmation of the existence -- or presence -- of O is as precise a truth as it is possible for the human being to know. Indeed, there is nothing we can know with more certainty than that O is. It is where we must start our adventure of consciousness, because it is where our Reason begins and where it ends.

In other words, O is the first principle which we are always moving from and moving toward. It is to the human mind what light is to the eyes. Light doesn't show us anything in particular, nor is it even visible. Rather, it just illuminates everything else.

As we said, we cannot directly know the Who or what of this ultimate Mystery. Unless the Mystery takes it upon itSelf to not just anonymously enter the stream of time, but to involve itself in human history.

Again, what we call salvation history is this leap of faith -- not just ours, but the prior leap of O, if it can be expressed in this way. It reminds me of a parent who leaps into a burning building to save his child. And God so loved the world...

In this context, all the talk of sin and ransom and justification is quite secondary. Rather, I've got to do something, now! There are seven billion children in that house! You pinheads can argue about the theology later!

So God "responds to a human need" (LG), even if so many of us are so beside ourselves in ideology that we are no longer aware of the need.

What I would like to propose is that, just as there is O, there is a human capacity to perceive, intuit, apprehend, or "receive" it. Giussani calls it the "religious sense," but I just call it (¶). This way you don't have to get into religious debates with the narrowsouled bigot who regards religion as toxic.

Just as one cannot not know of the presence of O, the fact that we know of O implies a Knower. This Knower we call (¶).

So the human journey may ultimately be reduced -- or expanded -- to the endless dynamic of O <--> (¶). This will be obvious except to those for whom it isn't at all obvious. But once they think about it, they'll see that I'm right.

Just as in any other human endeavor, the object determines the method of research. Realism dictates that our knowledge "be imposed by the object." I mean, obvious, right?

For example, if you're going to buy a present for the wife, you get her what she wants, not what you want. So you have to be open to the hints and clues being transmitted by the object:

"[K]nowledge is the encounter between human energy and a presence. It is an event where the energy of human knowledge is assimilated to the object" (LG).

Say it again: an encounter between Human Energy and a Presence. This Presence is O. The Human Energy is you.

There is another way. Or, I would say that there is One Way but a multitude of alternatives. This multitude comes under the heading of Ø. It stands for the infinite variety of ways man can be fundamentally wrong.

Even so, it is a valid point of view if there is no Truth and therefore no Way, i.e., for the true relativist who has the courage of his absence of convictions -- not the mealy mouthed modern leftist who just wants your stuff without having to pay for it, but the real deal who wouldn't waste a moment trying to make the world "better" by ridding it of religion. Rather, a genuine anarchist -- or philosophical sociopath -- proceeds straight to hedonism and the will to power.

Ø equates to cosmic anarchy, and Giussani concedes that it "constitutes one of the great and fascinating temptations of human thought. As I see it, only two types of men capture entirely the grandeur of the human being: the anarchist and the authentically religious man" -- although the former "is as deceitful as it is attractive."

In short, we are either oriented to the Infinite and Absolute; or we can pretend to be it. We can never be O (while always becoming it). We can, however, be Ø. But it's not even a real Ø, since Ø is what we were before God brought us out of Ø. Therefore, the anarchist is really just a poseur, a cosmic reactionary, an anti-O.

To be continued....


JP said...

"Ideology quickly devolves -- or mutates -- into ideolatry, a word I apparently just coined, combining ideology and idolatry."


I've been looking for this word.

Tony said...

I share Giussani's preference of the word "reasonable" to "reason." The former is more realistic than the latter because it includes trust/faith. As anyone who approaches a four-way stop knows (at least where I live in the midwest), trusting that other drivers will take turns is -- mirabile dictu! -- reasonable. Giussani:

What is faith? It is an adhesion to what another affirms. This may be unreasonable, if there are no adequate reasons; if there are, it is reasonable. ... Without this cognitive method of faith, there would be no human development ... man could no longer move forward because each of us would have to go through all of the processes again

With intimacy, faith leads to moral certainty. With moral certainty comes intuition.

julie said...

Yes, I found his use of "reasonable" to be helpful as well. And in that context, it is amazing just how deeply unreasonable mankind is prone to be.

mushroom said...

... paradigms can quickly become procrustean beds ...

They call them mathematical models now. It sounds less mythical. Mythematical.

mushroom said...

There's so much here, and I keep getting sidetracked.

... the diminution of the human spirit to fit the ideology, rather than expanding it in order to conform to reality ...

This seems to be a stumbling block for Christians and conservatives in the sense that a lot us seem to think that by being more "accepting" of fantasy-based and deviant ideologies, we can win "groups" over to our side. Tell them the truth, and let it set them free if they are willing. If they aren't, they'll find out.

Thinking you can fly like Superman doesn't change what happens when you hit the ground. Some believe the reason I couldn't fly was because I only tried it off the back of the chicken coop. If I had jumped off a skyscraper, I would have been OK. It's true that the illusion might have lasted longer.

mushroom said...

Still, of all the Ø-philes, Nietzche is my favorite.

Gagdad Bob said...

No doubt. Today I just read this crack by him:

"I strangle the Strangler, who bears the name of Sin!"