Saturday, August 13, 2022

Outer and Inner Limits

I suppose these two amount to the same thing. This is not to equate our idea of the world with the world per se, only to say that the world will expand or contract, depending upon our metaphysical vision. 

I might add that people don't generally live in the limited world they claim to live in -- in other words, there is a great deal of ontological hypocrisy going on. No materialist actually lives as one, nor do climate hysterics avoid private jets or flee from expensive beach houses. 

Perhaps a pre-linguistic Helen Keller would have claimed to be a materialist if only she had had access to the symbolic world that transcends materality. Speech is precisely what set her free from the bonds of matter.

This represents one kind of ontological movement. Another kind occurs when we conflate our limits with the limitless. In the words of Charles Upton, 

Lucifer's intellectual error -- which in terms of his free will, was also an act of rebellion -- was to identify his now limited selfhood with the Absolute Reality he saw within him, rather than submitting to It and worshiping It...

Sometimes limitations only limit, while other times they liberate. For example, being limited by the rules of music allows us to create something more than noise. The same principle distinguishes speech from mere animal sounds or mindless journalism.

Perhaps we can say that limits will only limit if we're not careful. Being that we are conformed to the Absolute, we can't help trying to reach beyond whatever limits us. This is a constant motif in artistic movements, which start as creative breakthroughs and end as rackets of stale convention and vacuous artifice. 

Thomas Kuhn described something similar in the The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and we also see it in religious movements, which are often motivated by a desire for a more intensely experiential theology beyond the strictures of words and dogma. Memorizing a creed is not the same as understanding it, much less undergoing it.

For Christianity per say, exodus is a primordial category, such that we cannot not be in it.

Which is to say in between. Between what? Vertically speaking, between immanence and transcendence: these two categories are directional pointers, at once limits and limitless. Again, Helen Keller was truly in an immanent world until she entered the linguistic world that pointed to its transcendent pole. 

Well, big deal: so now we're stuck in this unending bewilderness adventure of exodus, with no hope of arriving at the promised land. How is this different from the existential myth of Sisyphus? 

I would say that we are only liberated from this myth by the Messiah principle, whether in potential (Judaism) or actual (Christianity). 

But absent this principle, I don't see how we escape being condemned to mindlessly pushing this massive rock up the hill until we die. There is nothing at the top of the hill, nor anything at the bottom, but life nevertheless consists of a struggle to push the crock up the hill until death relieves us of the burden. 

Who will redeem the time! The time otherwise spent in this utterly meaningless exodus-from with no exodus-to

Now, some people say that Creation as such is a kind of exodus of God from himself, so to speak. In the past we've called it the exodeus, but who actually believes this except for Bob? Can you cite any actual authorities, or can we at least buy some pot from you?

Well, it seems undeniable that if God is to create, it must somehow be "separate" from God, even though, strictly speaking, this is ontologically impossible. 

Analogously, when humans create something, it is distinct from a natural bodily function that occurs inevitably (postmodern coprophilic art notwithstanding); it is what distinguishes the Pieta from a spider's web or beaver's dam. The creation is "outside us," even though we have somehow placed ourselves in it. In other words, cut this post and it bleeds me!

So, it seems we're in this ambiguous space of exodus, simultaneously in and out of God, or connected but alienated, still the image but reflected in a dirty mirror. We try to clean the mirror, but like the song says,

I washed my hands in muddy water / Washed my hands, but they didn't come clean / Tried to do what my daddy told me, / But I must have washed my hands in a muddy stream

Enough with all this preluminary hemming and hawing. Let's get to the point. I recently read a book on the subject of divinization called Christ Alive in Me: Living as a Member of the Mystical Body

Flipping to p. 52, there's a section called The Great Exchange, which says "we can share in God's nature only because he first shares in ours." Moreover, "he is not simply pouring grace extrinsically upon us, but he is transforming us from within" (emphasis mine).

Therefore, it seems he is transforming our inner limits, such that his unlimited emptying becomes our limitless filling:

our theosis is the Son's kenosis -- in his emptying is our divine fulfillment....

Because of the Son's descent into the human condition, all of humanity has been changed forever. The God-made-human is now able to dwell personally in any other human soul humble enough to allow him entry.

His exodus into us is the end of our exodus from him. That's a pretty attractive offer, but it is for a limited time only. 


Van Harvey said...

"Perhaps a pre-linguistic Helen Keller would have claimed to be a materialist if only she had had access to the symbolic world that transcends materality. Speech is precisely what set her free from the bonds of matter."

The 3D sphere passing through the 2D surface... hmmm... or the 2D flatlander wrapping itself around three dimensionality.

julie said...

Moreover, "he is not simply pouring grace extrinsically upon us, but he is transforming us from within"

Closer than our own skin, in truth. Which, if you think about it, is the only way it can really work.

julie said...

Off topic, I just discovered that the Simpsons once aired an episode with a Big Lebowski bowling reference. I guess the newer ones aren't all bad.

Anonymous said...

I clearly missed the part where Genesis 3 makes the powerful less Genesis 3. I always thought it was checks and balances, intelligently applied, which keeps the degree of Genesis 3 within acceptable limits. I've tried shaming but some folks are just plain shameless.