Tuesday, October 29, 2002

David Lodge

Secularists in the Democratic Party

Friday, October 25, 2002

"Now, what do we gain by hearing it said of a man that he has now thrown off the yoke, that he does not believe there is a God who watches our actions, that he considers himself the sole master of his conduct, and that he thinks he is accountable for it only to himself.? Does he think that he has thus brought us to have henceforth complete confidence in him and to look to him for consolation, advice, and help in every need of life? Do they profess to have delighted us by telling us that they hold our soul to be only a little wind and smoke, especially by telling us this in a haughty and self-satisfied tone of voice? Is this a thing to say gaily? Is it not, on the contrary, a thing to say sadly, as the saddest thing in the world?"

-Pascal, Pensees 194

Thursday, October 10, 2002

"The free inner union between the absolute, divine principle and the human person is possible only because the latter also has an absolute significance." -Lecture 2

"Western civilization has liberated human consciousness from all external limitations, acknowledging the negative absoluteness of the human person and proclaiming absolute human rights. But at the same time, by rejecting every principle that is absolute in the positive sense, that in reality and by its very nature possesses the entire fullness of being, and by circumscribing human life and consciousness with a circle of the conditional and transitory, this civilization has also asserted infinite striving and the impossibility of its satisfaction." -ibid

"Thus, on the one hand, a human being is a being with absolute significance, with absolute rights and demands. On the other hand, this same human being is only a limited and transitory phenomenon, a fact among the multitude of other facts, limited by them and dependent upon them on all sides. This is true not only of the individual, but also of humanity in its entirety."

"Human beings do not, however, wish to be mere facts, to be only phenomena. This unwillingness is already a hint that, actually, they are not mere facts, not mere phenomena, but something greater. For what is the meaning of a fact that does not wish to be a fact or of a phenomenon that does not wish to be a pheonomenon?"

"..belief in oneself, belief in the human person, is at the same time belief in God, for Divinity belongs to human beings and to God, but with one difference: God possesses Divinity in eternal actuality, whereas human beings can only attain it, can only have it granted to them, and in the present state, there is only possibility, only striving."

"Just as one demands from actors not only that they act, but that they act well, so one likewise demands from human beings and humanity not only that they live, but that they live well." -Lecture 3

"Divinity in heaven and the least blade of grass on earth are equally unfathomable, and equally fathomable, for reason. In their common being, as concepts, both constitute an object of pure thought, are wholly subject to logical definitions, and in this sense are fully intelligible and fathomable for reason. Yet in their own being, as existent but not as conceivable, both are something greater than a concept and lie beyond the limits of the rational as such. In this sense, they are impenetrable, or unfathomable, for reason." -Lecture 6

"Christianity has its own content, independent of all these elements that have become part of it. This content is uniquely and exclusively Christ. In Christianity as such we find Christ and only Chirst."

"In the human being, nature outgrows itself and passes(in consciousness) into the domain of absolute being. Receiving and bearing in consciousness the eternal, divine idea and inseparably connected with the nature of the external world by his factual origin and existence, the human being is the natural mediator between God and material being, the conductor of the all-uniting divine principle into elemental multiplicity, the orderer and organizer of the universe." -Lecture 10

"Before, as the spiritual center of the cosmos, human beings embraced in their souls all nature, lived one life with it, loved and understood it, and therefore governed it. But now, having asserted themselves in their selfhood, having shut their souls off from everything, human beings find themselves in an alien and hostile world, which no longer speaks in any intelligible language and does not understand or obey their words."

"As long as personal will and life that are immersed in untruth are opposed only by truth as an idea, life remains essentially unchanged. An abstract idea cannot overcome this will, because personal living will, though evil, is nevertheless an actual force, wehreas an idea that is not embodied in living personal forces is merely a luminous shadow."

"In a saint, actual good presupposes potential evil; a saint is so great in holiness because he or she might be great in evil as well. A saint has conquered the force of evil, has made it subordinate to the supreme principle, and this force has become the basis and carrier of the good. That is why the Jewish nation, exhibiting the worst aspects of human nature, "a stiff-necked people" and with a stony heart, is the nation of the saints and the prophets of God, the nation in which the new spiritual human being was to be born."

"The incarnation is indeed impossible if we consider God as only a separate entity, existing somewhere outside the world and humanity. For such a view(deism), the incarnation of Divinity in humanity would be a direct violation of the logical law of identiy, that is, something totally unthinkable. But the incarnation is just as impossible from the point of view(pantheism) that sees God as only the universal substance of cosmic phenomena, the universal "all," and humanity as only one of these phenomena. According to this view, God's incarnation would contradict the axiom that the whole(the all) cannot be equal to one of its parts: God could no more become a human being than the waters of an entire ocean could be at the same time but one of its drops." -Lectures 11 and 12

"The world as an aggregate of limitations, being ouside God, as material, is at the same time essentially connected with God by its inner life, or soul. This inner life is characterized by the fact that every entity, while asserting itself in its own limit as this, outside God, is not satisfied with this limit and strives to become the all, that is, it strives towards inner union with God. In conformity with this, God, while transcendental in Himself(abiding beyond the limits of the world) also is in relation to the world, the active creative force whose will is to communicate to the world soul what it seeks and strives for(that is, the fullness of being in the form of all-unity), whose will is to unite with the soul and to generate from it the living image of Divinity. This determines both the cosmic process in material nature, which ends with the birth of the natural human being, and the following historical process which prepares the birth of the spiritual human being...

From this point of view, the appearance of the spiritual human being, the birth of the second Adam, is no more incomprehensible than the appearance on earth of the natural human being, the birth of the first Adam. Both appearances were new, unprecedented facts in cosmic life, and both for that reason seem miraculous. But these new and unprecedented appearances were prepared for in advance by all that had happened before; they constituted what the former life desired, what it strove and moved toward. All nature strove and gravitated toward humanity, while the whole history of humankind was moving toward Divine humanity."

"Christ, as God, freely renounces the glory of God and thereby, as a human being, acquires the possibility of attaining that glory. On the way to this attainment, human nature and the will of the Savior inevitably encounter the temptation of evil. The Divine-human person has a dual consciousness: the consciousness of the limits of natural existence and the consciousness of His own divine essence and power. And so, experiencing the limitations of natural being, the God-man may be subjected to the temptation of making His divine power a means for the goals that follow from these limitations.

In the first temptation, a being subject to to the conditions of material existence is tempted to make material welfare the goal and His divine power the means for attaining it: "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made into bread. The divine nature and the manifestation of that nature are tempted to serve as a means for satisfying a material need. In answer to this temptation, Christ asserts that the Word of God is not an instrument of material life but is itself the source of the true life: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Having overcome this temptation of the flesh, the Son of Man receives power over all flesh.

In the second temptation, the God-man, free from material motives, is tempted to make divine power an instrument for the self-assertion of human personality, to fall into the sin of the mind, the sin of pride: "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone." This act would be a proud call of a human being to God, a temptation of God by a human being, and Christ answers: It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the lord thy God. Having conquered the sin of the mind, the Son of Man receives power over minds.

The third and last temptation is the strongest one. Enslavement by the flesh and the pride of the mind have been removed. Human will finds itself now on a high moral level, and is conscious of itself as being higher than the rest of creation. In the name of this moral height, humanity can wish for mastery over the world in order to lead the world to perfection, but "the world lieth in wickedness" and will not voluntarily submit to moral superiority. Therefore, it must be forced to submit; one must use one's divine power to force the world into subjection. But to use coercion, which is evil, in this way for the purposes of good is to admit that, in itself, good is impotent, that evil is stronger than good. It is to worship that principle of evil that has dominion over the world. "And he sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." The human will is directly challenged with the fateful question of what it believes in and what it wishes to serve--the invisible power of God or the power of evil that openly reigns in the world? Having overcome the temptation of a plausible desire for power, Christ's human will freely subordinates itself to the true good, rejecting any agreement with the evil that reigns in the world: "Then said Jesus unto him: Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve." Having overcome the sin of the spirit, the Son of Man receives supreme power in the realm of the spirit, refusing to submit to the earthly power for the sake of dominion over the earth, he acquires for Himself the service of the powers of heaven: "And behold, angels came and ministered unto Him."

Thus, in the second Adam is restored the normal relationship of all three principles that the first Adam violated."

"The essence of pure rationalism consists in the conviction that human reason is a law unto itself and gives laws to all that exists in the practical and social realm. This principle is expressed in the demand that all life, all social and political relations, be organized and directed exclusively on the basis worked out by personal reason, apart from all tradition and all immediate faith. This demand permeated the entire so-called Enlightenment of the eighteenth century and served as the guiding idea of the first French Revolution. Theoretically, the principle of rationalism is expressed in the claim that the whole content of knowledge can be deducted from pure reason(a priori), or that all sciences can be constructed in a speculative manner.

...This self-confidence and self-assertion of human reason in life and knowledge is an abnormal phenomenon; it is the pride of the mind. In Protestantism and in the rationalism that issued from it, Western humankind succumed to the second temptation. But the falsity of this path was soon manifested in the sharp contradiction between the excessive claims of reason and its actual impotence. In the practical domain, reason turned out to be impotent against passions and interests, and the kingdom of reason proclaimed by the French Revolution ended in a wild chaos of insanity and violence. In the theoretical domain, reason turned out to be impotent against empirical fact, and the pretension to build a universal science on the principles of pure reason ended in the construction of a system of empty, abstract concepts.

...Reason is a certain relation of things that gives them a certain form. But a relation presupposes terms that are related; form presupposes content. By positing human reason as such as the supreme principle, rationalism abstracts it from all content and has in it only an empty form. But at the same time, in consequence of such an abstraction of reason from all content, from all that is given in life and knowledge, all this content remains irrational for it. Therefore, when reason comes out against the reality of life and knowledge with a consciousness of its own supreme rights, it finds that everything in life is alien, dark, and impenetrable, and it cannot do anything with it. Abstracted from all content, transformed into an empty concept, reason naturally can have no power over reality. Thus, the self-elevation of human reason, the pride of the mind, inevitably leads to its ultimate downfall and abasement.

-Vladmir Soloviev, Lectures on Divine Humanity

While pondering my constant state of indecision, it occurred to me that I have no text, that is to say, no inner source which I have mastered from which I can draw inspiration and guidance. Then I realized that it is not that I must master something, but that something must master me. And what better master source than the Incarnate Word of God?

Such thoughts are confirmed by one Father Alexander who, among other things, outlines the consequences of mankind's attempt to master the Word of God.

Monday, October 07, 2002

The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.
-St. Gregory of Nyssa; CCC 1803, copied from here

Sunday, October 06, 2002

"Since perfection is possible, it is obligatory." So wrote that damnable heresiarch Pelagius. But perhaps this phrase is not heterodox in itself, since Christian perfection is in fact a commandment of Jesus("Be ye perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.") Perhaps Pelagius's words are only harsh because they echo his insistence(or perhaps just the insistence of his followers) that mankind perfects himself?
Pascal once noted that nobody regrets lacking a third eye. I wonder if he could say the same today. Contemporary transhumanists openly advocate reengineering humanity, and I'm sure some are open to creating triclopses and the like. They make old-time humanism look downright quaint. I suppose it's no surprise that we've come to this; having abandoned the Incarnation, the human form is bound to appear as just one more transitional element in the universal Heraclitean flux. Psalm 8 affirms human unicity, yet an affirmation is hardly an argument. Perhaps Hopkins speaks to this quandary. Yet another thing to ponder.