Friday, December 09, 2016

In the Beginning was the Word... or the Deed. Your Call.

What a piece of work is a man!

How so? Well, for starters, "Making gods by killing victims is the human gesture par excellence..." (Girard, in Bailie).

It's what humans do. Does anyone else do it? If we discovered intelligent life on another planet, would we find that they too engaged in the practice?

"The killing of victims produced the false gods of pagan antiquity, but in killing these victims our ancestors took part in the murder of the true God" (Bailie).

I was just thinking of how Finnegans Wake -- the Book of Everything -- has the recurrent motif of human sacrifice.

Bishop writes that "consciousness of death and consciousness as a totality cannot be disentangled: one is the condition of the other." And "The further out of consciousness one keeps one's own shady account of the wake, the more bearable life in its middle may be."

Death -- although it is "nothing" -- has a kind of real power over the living. What to do about it?

Of the gods of antiquity, Bailie notes that they "were for the most part dreaded figures that had to be kept from visiting their worshipers with scourges by ritual offerings of blood, which reenacted the darkly veiled event that gave rise to both the gods and the worshipping community in the first instance." Thus, "archaic religion was both the absolute antithesis of Christian salvation and a crude groping toward it."

Death and sin are entirely bound up together. This is clearly conveyed in Genesis, in which death follows directly on the heels of sin, i.e., separation from God. Man qua man cannot be unaware of sin; it is only a matter of what he does with the awareness: deny it? Repress it? Project it?

Yes, that's the ticket -- project it!: "In myth, the victim is 'guilty' -- that is, the victim's death is justified -- and the victimizing community is exonerated."

Conversely, "In the Gospel... the victim is innocent and the community culpably oblivious -- 'they know not what they do.'" This recognition of the scapegoat mechanism "represents the single-most historically significant anthropological breakthrough in human history."

Indeed, it has been so successful that we have a hard time entering a state of mind in which victims are contemptible and unworthy of our sympathy. Today we recoil at the idea of slavery, but slavery was once universal. It provoked no moral qualms whatsoever.

Again, SJWs have veered so far in the opposite direction that victims have become their divinity. To claim victimhood is not only to be above moral reproach, but to authorize a violent reprisal. Think of Black Lives Matter, which provokes the murder of innocent police officers based upon the lie that blacks are victims of police.

So BLM is really a lie that obfuscates sacrificial murder. But this is nothing new; indeed, nothing is older. For Girard, "the beginning of human culture must have been a murder concealed by a lie." For which reason Jesus calls the devil "a murderer, a liar, and the father of lies, 'from the beginning.'"

Does this all seem a little reductive? That's something I struggle with. It almost seems too simple, and yet, it accounts for some mighty strange data, i.e., the ubiquity of scapegoating and sacrifice.

I look at the phenomena through a slightly wider-angle lens. That is, the transition from animal to man -- from instinct to freedom, from unself-conscious to self-awareness, from merger with the environment to detachment from it -- must have been a catastrophe of the first order.

Indeed, not only is it by definition the first catastrophe, it is the most catastrophic thing that could ever happen. The magnitude of this break -- which Genesis tries to convey -- is literally beyond conception.

And, like the Big Bang, this primordial he & shebang is still going on. We all repeat the primordial event through the individuation process, and we all must find a way to "adapt to mindedness," so to speak.

Or to paraphrase Bion, there is the thinker and there are thoughts. How does the former manage the latter? What do we do with these thoughts? Yes, "think them" would be a good idea. But there are a multitude of alternatives to thinking painful thoughts, including thoughts of death.

Consider just our Islamist adversaries. What is going on with their thoughts? Why, instead of thinking them, do they insist on acting them out on innocent victims?

So it's hardly as if the sacrificial mechanism has disappeared. Islamists want to sacrifice innocent victims in order to redeem their own guilty selves, while leftists seek redemption by elevating "victims" such as Black Lives Matter to engage in the sacrificing. However, I'm not so sure they know not what they do. Or at least they have no excuse for not knowing, having presumably been exposed to the good news.


julie said...

However, I'm not so sure they know not what they do. Or at least they have no excuse for not knowing, having presumably been exposed to the good news.

Yes, there's the rub.

Though it could be argued that even though practically nobody in the West these days can credibly claim not to have heard of Jesus, the secularization of the culture has gone far enough that even a lot of Christians barely seem to have an inkling of what it all means, much less the broader population.

Rick said...

"However, I'm not so sure they know not what they do. Or at least they have no excuse for not knowing.."

The money quote.

It is interesting that on each side of Jesus on the cross were two thieves. Both are right there, as close as one can be (on crosses themselves, in the presence of the Lord, with Him). Quite a spot (3 worlds ending, perhaps we all end this way). Both "choices" for an ending are represented, you could say. I think there is something more than literal to them being called "thieves" also. Something is implied by that. Something about life being a gift, maybe.

And in case we try to pull a fast one in the end, it won't work, since, as Bailie says, paraphrasing -- it is impossible for us to live outside the Gospel now. Our culture was raised in it (deny it or not).

mushroom said...

To claim victimhood is not only to be above moral reproach, but to authorize a violent reprisal.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I just don't think it is going to work out for them.

Gagdad Bob said...

It's almost as if -- please be true! -- people are waking up to the left's various sacrificial mechanisms. Or at least white males are finally sick & tired of being the scapegoat.

julie said...

Along those lines, a group of BLM students at OSU are now calling the Somali Stabber a victim of police violence.

2016, man.

julie said...

Obama's one real accomplishment has been making racism cool again.

mushroom said... is impossible for us to live outside the Gospel now.

Jesus is the Great Divide. Origen said something like that, that we did not know flesh from spirit before, but Jesus exposed/created the division. Now we have to choose one or the other.

mushroom said...

I'm a victim of circumstance!

Satire was getting tough enough; now it's the left's suggestion box.

Rick said...

"Jesus is the Great Divide."

...carrying a sword

Gagdad Bob said...

Maybe the left's psychotic break has something to do with our refusal to be their scapegoats anymore. Consider this projection of sacrificial violence by a college "sexuality teacher":

The human sexuality teacher — Olga Perez Stable Cox — called Trump’s election “an act of terrorism.”

“Our nation is divided. We have been assaulted. It is an act of terrorism,” she told the students.

She added, “One of the most frightening things for me, and most people in my life, is that the people who are committing the assault are among us.”


So, she feels terrorized, even though no one -- and certainly not us -- is terrorizing her. So, from where does the terror emanate?

That's what I mean about thinking your thoughts instead of projecting them.

Stu said...

Currently muddling my way through God's Gamble. Slowly. Very slowly.

One thought I've had so far is that I don't quite see how out-of-control mimetic desire leads to extreme violence that can only be controlled through sacrificial violence.

Scapegoating and ritual sacrifice as the mechanism par excellence for communal catharsis - that I get. But how does social violence reach such a crescendo via mimetic rivalry alone?

Another thought I had is that its going to take a while to fully grasp this: "The first human did not have human parents."

This quote made me think of The Fall and its connection with the introduction of what you call "mind parasites" into individual psyches and broader culture via parent-to-child transmission.

If Bailie is correct that personal hominization and human culture co-emerge, I suppose these "mind parasites" come along for the ride. That's a whole new interpretation of the concept original least to me.

Gagdad Bob said...


I have similar misgivings. It seems to me that the theory yada-yadas over an awful lot of details.

I also have questions about the idea of not having parents, since humanness had to emerge in the space between infants and mothers.

mushroom said...

Olga Perez Stable Cox

Don't call her Shirley.

Gagdad Bob said...

I guess she was Stable before marrying.

julie said...

Re. Ms. Stable Cox feeling terrorized, I'm reminded of this image of a woman holding a sign at some kind of gun rights event. Bunch of white guys standing around with guns and her sign says, "this makes me feel unsafe."

Bullshit. She feels perfectly safe, perhaps more so than at many other times in her life, because she is standing there smirking, holding that sign, knowing that not one of those men would lift a finger to hurt her out there, but most if not all of them would likely come to her defense if some stabby Somali came charging up with a machete. Or even just to yell in her face.

If she really felt unsafe, she'd be as far away from those men as she could possibly get.

julie said...

Apropos, Happy Acres links to a timely article from 1957, "Life Without Prejudice":

"The modern communist, looking upon this world with its interesting distinctions and its prolific rewards and pleasures, may be compared to Satan peering into the Garden. Milton tells us ‘that the arch-fiend

“Saw undelighted all delight.”

The more he sees people attached to their theoretically impossible happiness, the more determined he is to bring on the fall."

Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of difficulty adapting to the catastrophe of having a mind.

julie said...

If my kids grow up to require something like that, I will know I've been an utter failure at the single most important job of my life: forming functional adults.

Incidentally, why is it that this sort of thing never puts a dent in the materialist arguments for the dominance of genes over circumstance? Not to downplay genes, of course, but can anyone doubt that with an adequate upbringing and parents who were actually home instead of plugging away to make the sort of money that they could afford to plunk little Jimmy in a $28k/month "clinic" as an adult, these kids would have turned out a lot better?

Even now, the solution isn't adult daycare for adults who should be functional, it's to encounter reality. The eagle doesn't learn to soar by staying in the nest, nor by clinging firmly to its mother's back while she does all the work, it learns by falling and being caught before any real harm comes to it. If this happens at an appropriate age, the result is majestic. Too late, and things are going to be a lot harder - especially if the "chick" is so big and heavy its parents can't handle the burden.

Gagdad Bob said...

Misery rises to the level of the means available to alleviate it.

Millennial snowflakery is a state so precious that few people in the past could afford to indulge in it.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the comment about a woman who felt unsafe near armed white men:

The thing about guns: People constantly leave a cartridge in the chamber of their automatic pistol or rifle, remove the magazine, and think the gun is unloaded. Any time a gun owner is handling their weapon, be aware you may be shot accidentally. And if you hunt, you may get accidentally shot. So the thing with guns is, avoid them. Don't hunt. Even a cop, bless her heart, may blast you accidentally thinking she has reached for her taser. So, guns--they are inherently unsafe. Don't walk, run, the other direction.

That's OTHER people's guns. Now your OWN gun: That's an entirely different matter. They should make you feel safer. A 12 Gauge Shotgun is your best friend. Everyone should own at least one. Don't haul it out to show company, however. Keep her hidden until called upon for a job. Don't keep your firearm in the car, either. This seldom ends well.

Jesus was not big on weapons, and reportedly didn't even use a stick to smack people. So for the followers of Jesus, this presents a thorny issue; is gun ownership in keeping with the faith? We must realize the gun represents a loud rejection of turning the other cheek.

But so too was Jesus celibate, but did not exhort his followers to be as he was (as far as we know). So we might imagine, I think, that the cheek thing is appropriate for clergy but not for the lay man.

Inasmuch as the stigmata of being a white male these days, it should be remembered nobody liquidates and despoils white males in such a thorough and ghastly a manner, as other white males. White on white atrocities in 20th century Europe being a point in case. I don't think they have solidarity of any kind amongst themselves. Some think of them as a bloc, which is probably an illusion.

I have written my piece, now to the cups, where blessed relief from care awaits.

Christina M said...

The thing about cars is that there is always a chance that the other person is texting and will veer into your lane, so never get in a car.

I was on a two day road trip this weekend and I was at a red light behind a guy in a truck with "Molon Labe" and a picture of Florida shaped like a pistol, and I thought to myself how safe I felt around a guy like, and all the other guys with NRA stickers on their vehicles, and such.

The two day road trip was a lesson in having to deal with the problem of mindedness. When I was young and foolish, I would just jump in my car and assume that it would take me where I want to go. Now, that I am older and wiser, I know all the things that can go wrong. The fear of knowing that is tremendous. I had to sit with it for two days.

Van Harvey said...

"Indeed, not only is it by definition the first catastrophe, it is the most catastrophic thing that could ever happen. The magnitude of this break -- which Genesis tries to convey -- is literally beyond conception."

Keeping with the idea that Genesis doesn't refer to only a time long ago, to our every now, when the child breaks from that innocent point prior to most of our memories, and becomes 'us', are we in effect killing, or sacrificing, that pristine semblance of us, so that we can become 'I'?

Gagdad Bob said...

Could be. Today's post is lurching in that direction...

Tony said...

"are we in effect killing, or sacrificing, that pristine semblance of us, so that we can become 'I'?"

in which case, who would "we" be killing? no one/I has emerged yet to be culpable.

this is why some speak of original/from-the-origin sin

it is a mixed thing, that moment: both the beginning of selfishness and the possibility of selfless love