Wednesday, October 30, 2013

theologiae graecae

"The traditional theology of the Greek Fathers devised three terms for these three aspects of man's one spirit.  That which is unconscious and below reason was the anima or psyche, the 'animal' soul, the realm of instinct and of emotion, the realm of automatism in which man functions as a psychophysical organism.  This anima is conceived as a kind of feminine or passive principle in man.

"Then there is the reason, the enlightened, conscious, active principle, the animus or nous. Here we have the mind as a masculine principle, the intelligence that governs, ratiocinates, guides our activity in the light of prudence and of thought.  It is meant to direct and command the feminine principle, the passive anima.  The anima is Eve, the animus is Adam.  The effect of original sin in us all is that Eve tempts Adam and he yields his reasoned thought to her blind impulse, and tends henceforth to be governed by the automatism of passionate reaction, by conditioned reflex, rather than by thought and moral principle.

"However, the true state of man is not just anima governed by animus, the masculine and the feminine.  There is an even higher principle which is above the division of masculine and feminine, active and passive, prudential and instinctive. This higher principle in which both the others are joined and transcend themselves in union with God, is the spiritus, or pneuma.  This higher principle is not merely something in man's nature, it is man himself united, vivified, raised above himself and inspired by God.

"The full stature of man is to be found in the 'spirit' or pneuma.  Man is not fully man until he is 'one spirit' with God. Man is 'spirit' when he is at once anima, animus, and spiritus.  But these three are not numerically distinct.  They are one. And when they are perfectly ordered in unity, while retaining their own rightful qualities, then man is reconstituted in the image of the Holy Trinity.

"The 'spiritual life' is then the perfectly balanced life in which the body with its passions and instincts, the mind with its reasoning and its obedience to principle and the spirit with its passive illumination by the Light and Love of God form one complete man who is in God and with God and from God and for God.  One man in whom God is all in all.  One man in whom God carries out His own will without obstacle.

"It can easily be seen that a purely emotional worship, a life of instinct, an orgiastic religion, is no spiritual life.  But also, a merely rational life, a life of conscious thought and rationally directed activity, is not fully spiritual life.  In particular it is a characteristic modern error to reduce man's spirituality to mere 'mentality,' and to confine the whole spiritual life purely and simply in the reasoning mind.  Then the spiritual life is reduced to a matter of 'thinking' -- of verbalizing, rationalizing, etc.  But such a life is truncated and incomplete.

"The true spiritual life is a life neither of dionysian orgy nor of apollonian clarity:  it transcends both.  It is a life of wisdom, a life of sophianic love. In Sophia, the highest wisdom-principle, all the greatness and majesty of the unknown that is in God and all that is rich and maternal in His creation are united inseparably, as paternal and maternal principles, the uncreated Father and created Mother-Wisdom.

"Faith is what opens to us this higher realm of unity, of strength, of light, of sophianic love where there is no longer the limited and fragmentary light provided by rational principles, but where the Truth is One and Undivided and takes all to itself in the wholeness of Sapientia, or Sophia. When St. Paul said that Love was the fulfillment of the Law and that Love had delivered man from the Law, he meant that by the Spirit of Christ we were incorporated into Christ, Himself the 'power and wisdom of God,' so that Christ Himself thenceforth became our own life, and light and love and wisdom.  Our full spiritual life is life in wisdom, life in Christ.  The darkness of faith bears fruit in the light of wisdom."

+ Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (pp. 139-41)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

De Schola

"Leisure, considered as a state of the soul, is the counterpoint to the concept of 'intellectual labor' [the definition of philosophy as conceived by Immanuel Kant] -- and that from all three of the perspectives previously considered (labor as activity, labor as effort, and labor as social function).  First, leisure, as an attitude of inner unpreoccupiedness, is that form of being silent which is a prerequisite for attending to reality: only one who is silent can hear.  Leisure is an attitude of receptive listening, of intuitive, contemplative immersion in being.  It stands, as it were, perpendicular to the normal course of a business day:  it is not, like the work break, a part of that day; it stands in the same relation to the workday as the simple gaze of the intellectus does to the ongoing process of discursive thought.  (Boethius compared the ratio to time and the intellectus to the 'always now' of eternity.) Secondly, leisure involves the adoption of an attitude of celebratory contemplation toward the world; it is sustained by its relation to the origin of all real being, by the consciousness of being in harmony with this origin and being included within it. Leisure is, because of its affirmation of oneness with the wellspring of all being, that disposition of soul in which man can, as in sleep, without any laborious efforts, receive the gift of perceiving 'what holds the world together in its innermost being' -- a gift that is, in any event, unattainable by exertion -- even if only for a moment, a moment whose insights would then have to be rediscovered and reconstructed through strenuous labor.  Thirdly, leisure, as an attitude involving a contemplative and celebratory gazing at the world, is not a working attitude in the sense that it is directed toward performing a social function.  Its purpose is not through bodily rest or mental relaxation to generate new energy for renewed labor.... It derives its legitimation, not from the fact that the functionary remains a human being, that he does not fully identify himself with that cross-sectional milieu designated by his narrowly circumscribed function, but rather from the fact that he is able to view the world in its totality and to realize himself as a being oriented toward that whole.

"But does the genuinely philosophical not consist in precisely this, that despite all exertion and effort -- even at the intellectual level -- the posture of contemplative gazing, which is directed, acquiescingly, at the world as a whole, remains alive?  Indeed, is this not so much the case that one might legitimately argue that its leisurely quality belongs more essentially to philosophy, to philosophizing, and to philosophical education than its characterization as labor?"

+ Josef Pieper, For the Love of Wisdom (pp. 21-2)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

[fragment 7.19.2013]

Under poison of narcotic,
I feel my mind corrupting.

Courage and honesty, crumbling.

An ivory tower of formulae and syllogism,
To keep love and pain locked outside.

Tucked away into silence and artificial security,
There is just this one moment in which illusion justifies itself.

I wake to the Devil, who offers me a smile and a cup of tea.
And he says, “That’s right.  I’ll have to be going along now.
But just let me know if you need anything.  And remember:
Everything is your own free choice.”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

When I see "happy" people, I cannot help but think they simply do not care about the "big" questions.  Many wonder why I find life so paralyzing, and it is precisely because I cannot escape philosophy.  I don't think one can escape philosophy any more than one can escape language.  The fact that it remains ignored by a majority simply tells me that a majority of humans know next to nothing of human nature. Animals are perfectly content because they have neither language nor reason.

I must admit that I envy these happy wanderers, regardless of -- or perhaps because of -- their blissful ignorance.  It's okay to be a moron so long as you don't know it, and so long as you're surrounded by other morons.  Sometimes I wish I had never stepped foot into a bookstore or a college.

I'm reminded that this sort of metaphysical melancholy is precisely why David Hume sought to disintegrate philosophy; happiness, he thought, is only to be found in the simple life of custom and tradition, unburdened by the problems of speculation.  Still, I'm also reminded of John Stuart Mill's dictum:  "Better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied."

But the Cold is coming, and that always gives me hope (for reasons too complex, or just too many, to explain).  For about five months of the year I can find some degree of contentment.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

mental space

For several reasons which have presented themselves over the past few weeks, it has occurred to me more recently -- yesterday in fact -- that I need time every day not only for my independent studies (which, I take it, are vital to my mental health), but also time within this time to just think.  I think most philosophers would have called this reflection.  But I think of this "dimension for reflection" not as temporal, but as spatial.  I need mental space, room to move, to stop, to expand, to stretch, etc. Of course, as Einstein, no less, has taught us, to require space is to require time, and to require time is to require space.  Not that Aristotle, 2300 years before him didn't already realize this.  But old Alby certainly made a quaint point by showing us that they are not two different dimensions, but the same dimension, considered under different aspects -- i.e., the spaciotemporal, may be considered qua spatial and/or qua temporal.  I am probably giving Einstein a bit more phenomenological credit than is due; indeed, how I have just presented spacetime is the result of a collision:  there was a time (or space?) in my life when both phenomenology and relativity were brought to my attention, and I found marvelous parallels between the phenomenological study of "temporality" and Einstein's conclusions about the "fourth dimension."

But enough of all that.  My point is simply that I cannot overcome my writer's block, reader's block, living's block, unless this Time for Mental Space is made a priority every day.  I know from experience that without it, I am like Mark Antony who

Like to a vagabond flag upon the stream,
Goes to and back, lackeying the varying tide,
To rot itself with motion.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Patron of Prodigals

It is sometimes frightening how present and powerful the most ancient of saints can be upon invocation. The closer they were to Christ in history, the more powerful they seem to be. I'd never considered before now St. Joseph in this respect. One thinks often enough of the Child in the arms of Mary; but the thought of Him in the arms of Joseph had never occurred to me before. Everything it meant to be a man, He learned from this man; it was by means of Joseph that the Father chose to convey "fatherhood" to the human nature of His Son. Perhaps this is so profound to me personally because, though I did not grow up with my mother, I did grow up with my father. The sense that many people get from Mary's maternity has always seemed somewhat abstract to me; I've always seen her more in her Queen of Heaven aspect. But I can see Joseph as a man on earth, gratefully, joyfully, caring for the Son of Yahweh, who has been entrusted to no more than himself.