Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dimensions of Cosmic Christianity

That's the subtitle of a new book by Stratford Caldecott, The Radiance of Being: Dimensions of Cosmic Christianity. No, I haven't overcome my recent word-weariness, but since I received a free copy from the publisher, I feel honorbound to write a review, even though there is no obligation to do so. I'm just not used to getting free stuff.

First of all, did he steal the book's title from me? Nah, we're just on the same page and in the same attractor. Just when no one I think is in my tree, here comes another sap in the same branch. I just now looked it up, and I see, for example, Christianity and the Cosmic Thing, Cosmic Christianity, or Adam & Evolution, and Incarnating the Cosmic Person, but I think the overall trend of the blog over the course of 2,181 posts has been toward the development of a "cosmic christianity."

Attractor? For Caldecott, the Holy Spirit is a "magnetic field" that "draws all men to Christ" and arouses "the love of man and [gives] it a direction." Man is always oriented to the Cosmic Center, if only he prays attention to the interior compass deivoice inside his head.

In truth -- and I've probably said this before -- Christianity has always been cosmic in its scope and its consequences. It's just that our understanding of the cosmos is very different today than it was one or two thousand years ago.

Actually -- and this is a key point -- the cosmos hasn't changed all that much, being that man hasn't changed all that much. It is a conceit of modern man to imagine that he lives in a kind of light that was denied earlier generations, when the Light doesn't belong to man to begin with.

Rather, the Light that lights the world is always available to man as such, which is why, for example, Whitehead could make the remark that all philosophy is just a footnote on Plato, or why Aristotle and Aquinas will always be relevant, to put it mildly.

Not to go all Kant on you, but he did latch on to a partial truth in suggesting that, in some sense, the cosmos is a form of our sensibility. As Caldecott expresses it, "not only is the eye sun-related, the sun as well is eye-related."

In other words, we are both liberated and limited by our human station -- we don't perceive the world as does a bat, a cat, or an angel, let alone as does the Creator. Rather, we see the world as a human does, and any man, at any time, can circumnovelgaze the the limits of the soul, whether via philosophy, art, or virtue.

Man is in the image of the Absolute, which is why we may become "adequate" to it, even while not actually becoming it. Caldecott makes the same point: "Since there are orders of infinity, everything that exists can partake of infinity in a certain respect."

This is also why man may achieve terrestrial (i.e., relative) "perfection," but also why perfection cannot surpass itself and fully identify with the source of perfection. In the words of Schuon, "Man is made in such a way that he is never fully actualized within the limits of his possibilities except with the help of constraints, otherwise he would be perfect..."

Just as one perfect poem does not cancel out or negate another perfect poem -- or painting or musical composition -- we have to stop believing that one manmode belief system can cancel out all the others.

Rather, it's all true!, as it were. It's just a matter of properly situating everything in the cosmic hierarchy. Everything has its place, even materialism. Even leftism! Just not as a form of government. I run my family on thoroughly communist grounds, in that we all share everything, and everyone is equal, except some people are more equal than others, and if anything goes wrong, I investigate myself.

Hey, what about the book!

Right. It is actually a collection of essays -- what I call "blog posts" -- divided into three main sections, Nature, Divine Nature, and Sophia. It's all one, but one is three, as it were:

"In the Beautiful Logos all things cohere. In the Word of words all threads of meaning are drawn together, and the notes and noises of our lives add up to parts of a symphony or a song we could never have guessed" (Caldecott).

Where have we heard that tune before?

Right. Page 21: "The universe is like a holographic, multidimensional musical score that must be read, understood, and performed.... For at the end of the day, we are each a unique and unrepeatable melody that can, if we only pay close enough attention to the polyphonic score that surrounds and abides within us, harmonize existence in our own beautiful way, and thereby hear the vespered strains of the Song Supreme."

And on p. 248: "In the end, we are no longer a scattered, fragmented multiplicity in futile pursuit of an ever-receding unity, but a Unity that comprehends and transcends the multiplicity of the cosmos."

I would now put that differently, and say a Unity³, but this is nevertheless the dynamically "still point between the vertical and horizontal, where eternity pierces the present moment and we are unborn again."

Caldecott: "The ultimate resolution of the manifold tensions of existence is not the silence of the One, but the music of the Trinity," where "the unity is the distinction, and the distinction is the unity" (Eckhart, in Caldecott).

Well, I can't really compete with the pounding going on above my head. To be continued, maybe Friday.


ge said...

Stratford Caldecott = some name! with a handle like that he sorta had to become a writer it'd seem...or the head of classical music at Sony...

Gagdad Bob said...

Or maybe one of Bertie Wooster's friends.

Magister said...

Jeeves: Pardon me for interrupting, sir, but I took the liberty of noticing the name of the publishing company which produced the volume Mr. Finknottle was reading the very evening his newts were being poisoned.

Bertie: (looking puzzled at the book) "Stratford Caldecott, London." A rum outfit for sure, Jeeves. Do you think they had something to do with old Gussie's newts?

Jeeves: I can't say quite for sure, sir, but I believe that illustrious house has fallen on hard times as a consequence of their publishing Mr. Finknottle's illustrated multi-volume study of the creatures' reproductive habits.

Bertie: What a dashed business modern publication is, isn't it, Jeeves? It's enough to turn any man's stomach. But to turn said stomach to the murder of small aquatic mammals?

Jeeves: Most distressing, but I believe they are technically amphibians.

Bertie: Details, Jeeves, details. We Woosters see the big picture.

Magister said...

Caldecott's book sounds like a book of poems.

Gagdad Bob said...

Very impressive that a Norwegian can grasp the linguistic joys of Wodehouse. I'm not sure I could ever appreciate the subtleties of Norwegian sadness!

River Cocytus said...

As they say.. Nor way, man...!

Gagdad Bob said...

He's a real Norway man, sitting in his Norway land.......

Speaking of which, they say Lennon's Norwegian Wood was a disguise for knowing she would, in order to conceal the affair from Mrs. Lennon...

Magister said...

Yes, but you can probably grasp the blinding beams of sunshine that pour out of your average Norwegian shoegazer who suddenly finds himself in, say, Italy. The flip side of depression is mania!

Mania, I tells ya!

Gagdad Bob said...

Sounds like somebody needs a vacation.

Magister said...

It can't come soon enough. For myself, I'll be heading to the land of "Gloomy Sunday," a song which I think holds the world record for the number of times it has inspired or accompanied suicide.

Sure to be a hit again this summer in Europe!

Gagdad Bob said...

This book on The Music of Creation is really good. Makes many of the same points I have in the past about music disclosing the nature of both natural and spiritual reality.

Gagdad Bob said...

Well, at least until the last chapter, which is pretty lame so far. The first three chapters are by Peacocke, the last by Pederson, and the latter seems to be infected by liberal virus...

julie said...

Too funny, I was thinking the same thing re. the Woosterian name. Well done, Magister!

Magister said...

It's a constant source of irritation to me that the most interesting things in life cannot be given the public forum they deserve because the control of what reaches the podium is distributed.

'If I were King,' etc.

But I am not the King. I am merely a King's steward, as Bob probably knows. I can modify, but not create ex nihilo. The King has his finite term, but I don't covet his position, lacking both ego and pedigree anyway. There will be another King, and I will serve, or no King at all, and I will leave.

I am indifferent to such changes.

There will always be a remmant, and I only want to be with that remnant. As I told a skeptical and a selfishly self-promoting bounder at a previous place of work, "for my part, I only want to see God." In this person's eyes, I was dropped as a person of interest immediately.

No matter. I've made mistakes, but I will continue to love my wife, guide my children, work hard at what I do well, devote myself to God, and drink this beautiful wine by Pascal Aufranc (incidentally), who shares my values.

And then I will go on vacation with my family in July, to the beach, and leave the anxious egoists to gnaw at themselves and each other.

Bob, I will read that book, as I've read others you've recommended. The problem as I see it is that such books share a common danger with, say, Caldecott's: they wrap (however beautifully) into an inward-looking conversation. Aren't they merely "reformulations"?

I ask this not to be dismissive or churlish, but out of an impulse imposed on me to seek always the "edge" of a conversation. It's not enough to rehearse: one has to *engage*. So I'm constantly told.

You yourself do this very well, but you have the advantage of working alone. If only...

At any rate, if you ever wanted to be my guest, you (and other raccoons!) would be most welcome.

Gagdad Bob said...


I know what you mean about the "danger." I'm increasingly realizing that the problem is not one of truth but of assimilation. We are starving amidst plenty. Reading another reformulated version of truth temporarily satisfies the hunger, but how to formulate it in such a way that it actually nourishes?

I can see why Christ left no book, nor any doctrine, really, except his Person -- or his life-in-action. Prevents a lot of misunderstandings.

Gagdad Bob said...

And it's very strange that Jesus made so many statements that go to this very problem, e.g., "I am the bread," etc., instead of just publishing the recipe.

River Cocytus said...

One of the reasons one of the Muslim claims is wrong, i.e. that we 'falsified the scriptures'. As such our primary claim is not to a book but to a person. The witness to this was other people, not really a book handed down through the ages.

The scriptures are part of it, but never all of it. I guess that's hard to explain to someone who thinks the book came down from heaven...

Magister said...

how to formulate it in such a way that it actually nourishes?

A pastor's question. You'd have made a helluva priest!

My experience tells me it depends on the person and the occasion. We have kids, so the truth is probably best delivered in smaller doses for them during the ordinary course of an ordinary day.

I don't do this as often as I should, but I see my kids nodding when I say things like:

- dang, the Christ fu is strong in that guy
- I'm glad you told me the truth, that's the Christ in you
- what a train wreck, that person seems really lost, don't you think
- [ interjecting some short appropriate quotation from Scripture ]
- you're not in the Zone, man

Small things that name the reality that is often hard to see or feel because the crush of our culture and daily lives narrows our spiritual attention.

If it's not part of Loving, it's a clanging cymbal, etc. And that means, when you Love like this, you're in Him, and He is in you.

So yes, River, you're right that it's communion with the Loving Person of Christ that nourishes, not submission and recitation.

Christina M said...

Whoa. What happened? I heart this post. :D

Gagdad Bob said...

If you're asking about the previous post, I -- d'oh! -- accidentally deleted it while doing some housekeeping.

julie said...

Down the drain it goes...

Christina M said...


I think I'm actually glad about that.