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Silence the Lie

November 28, 2011

The fallen world is a world full of lies, and the one who follows the way of this fallen world can metaphorically be said to be a son of the devil. He is a liar and a murderer – the two are connected together, because through lies, the world is destroyed, and people’s lives are lost. And those who lose their lives, those who find themselves utterly ruined by the evil around them find all kinds of lies used to justify their annihilation. Through lies, the truth with the goodness and beauty it brings is lost and is replaced with an imitation that cannot sustain the world. It is no wonder Jesus responded to some of his critics with these harsh words, because he knew if their way was to be followed, the truth would never be allowed to manifest itself in the world: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 RSV).

It is no wonder so many people will see the world at large as illusory – for the world with all of its lies makes one question everything, even that which should not be questioned. Is there truth? Is there something behind all of the lies? It is only because there is that there can be a lie; it is only out of the good that evil comes from, not because the good creates the evil, but because the evil lives off the good as a kind of parasite. Evil has no life, no existence, of its own, though it saps it from the good so as to look like it does; it lies about its existence, turning existence itself to appear as a lie. A lie is believable because it bases itself on some truth and warps it – the trouble is to find that truth and to release it from the illusion which has bound it.

Can anti-info have a life of its own? The problem of spurious info. The lie – look at the level it’s raised to. It’s pure death – but where does it originate? Does it have its own ‘radio station’? Yes – that’s the first thing I picked up. It yammers at us all the time. We are the battlefield.[1]

Philip K Dick has noted that the connection between the lie and death; the lie, in order to appear to be true, has to “yammer,” it has to constantly surround us with its noise in order to make us believe in it. The truth which lies underneath the lie requires us to silence the lie – especially within ourselves – if we want to find it. The kingdom of God lies within – the kingdom of God grants us life, eternal life, while the kingdom of the lie which is all around us only brings us death. The society of death is the society of the lie, the society of pure propaganda. We must be led to the slaughter, to freely accept it – for once we do, the lie can then promote itself as the proper end of all choice, when all it does it enslave us and remove us from the possibility of making any real choice. The black iron prison of the self is also the black iron prison we superimpose upon the world, and once it is out in the world it is as if it has a life of its own. The android, the replicant, we create is let loose and then it seeks to turn us into its own image or to kill us if we do not succumb to its ways.

The lie has forced itself into the world so strongly, the truth has been obscured. “We can’t receive audio or visual information, it is jammed or cooked. So ‘St. Sophia’  (divine wisdom) must land behind enemy lines – within the prison, and inform us here, located here with us, since its info is not getting through.”[2]

The world as it is has to be the place where we first encounter the truth. Again, this is possible because the lie all around is has this truth as its foundation, all cooked up and distorted, so that the fullness of the truth is now jammed in the world. We, ourselves, have helped jam the truth – every time we sin, every time we falter from the path of the truth, we obscure the truth. We know not what we do, and the truth – which is the living Hagia Sophia, the Triune-God-of-Love, loves us despite our turning away from the truth, and comes to us in the world we have created so as to restore us to an integral unity with the truth itself.  But this Hagia Sophia, this intra-Trinitarian essence of love is transposed and becomes the foundation for creaturely Sophia, who becomes the focus of creation, its root which connects creation to God, as Pavel Florensky explains:

Sophia is the Great Root by which creation goes into the intra-Trinitarian life and through which it receives Life Eternal from the One Source of Life. Sophia is the original nature of creation, God’s creative love, which is ‘shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us’ (Rom 5:5). For this reason, the true I of a deified person, his ‘heart,’ is precisely God’s Love, just as the Essence of Divinity is intra-Trinitarian Love. For everything exists truly insofar as it communes with the God of Love, the Source of being and truth.[3]

Thus, Hagia Sophia, the intra-Trinitarian love finds itself in the world, taking on its image, creaturely Sophia, allowing the creaturely image to flow into and be united with the Trinitarian original. “The tri-hypostatic God has a single essence or nature, a single life and self-revelation, and this self-revelation of Divinity, as existing in itself, is the Glory of God and His Wisdom. This Wisdom is the foundation and goal of creation.”[4]

The lie is founded upon the weakening and jamming of this link, the link between creaturely and Divine Wisdom. The incarnation of the Logos is the eternal answer to the lie, the truth made flesh, the truth itself in the world so that the truth can be seen and heard and heeded to in the midst of the lie – to show the lie’s inner being leads to its own defeat. But this doesn’t mean the lie won’t try to respond to the truth, won’t try to obscure it even more by imitating it in a new way. The Logos which brings freedom can be imitated by a lifeless logos which pretends to give freedom but only brings death. The replicant Christ, the anti-Christ, is the final example of this – though the replicant Christ is itself a kind of “form” which finds itself repeated throughout history before all of its strains are brought together to create the one, final eschatological anti-Christ. With his understanding of the power of the replicant, of the machine which imitates life, PKD feared that someone, such as the Soviets, were trying to create this imitative Logos, so that it can try to take over and infuse its logic throughout the world. “Using Tesla’s theories about energy and information transfer, the Soviets are not able to synthesize a sort of mundane Logos, or ionospheric information transfer grid.”[5] A human-made logos, the ultimate replicant, the ultimate lie, for it is the ultimate attempt to deconstruct the real and recreate it through human ingenuity.

But we must understand, by the very nature of sin, we have been creating and recreating this replicant logos throughout history. We have been replacing the real with the imitation of the real. This is the crime of humanity, the crime of sin. It is, indeed, the perfect crime, as Baudrillard puts it. We create the simulacra which then destroys the real by its existence. Our technology in the creation of the computer, in the creation of the delete button, shows itself as the continuation of the lie as it attempts to delete the real itself:

What the computer has given you – perhaps too easily – it takes away with the same ease. Everything is in order. A zero-sum technological equation. We are always talks of unforeseen, negative side-effects; here technology produces a positive (homoeopathic) side effect. The integrated circuit loops back on itself, ensuring, as it were, the automatic deletion of the world.[6]

The anti-Christ, the simulacra of the Logos, ends up being the ultimate destroyer, in the same way the real Logos is the creator. The lie, if left to its own will, self-destructs. This is why the anti-Christ principle, however good it initially appears, will end up facing off against the truth and serving the lie with murderous rage. But, the answer to the anti-Christ, the answer to the lie, is the truth itself. The truth is stronger than the lie; the lie feeds off the truth, but the truth perseveres. Baudrillard saw the destructive tendency of the simulacra, but he did not see the power of the truth, a power which is able to take even the simulacra into itself. This is what differentiates the truth from all falsehood, the truth integrates. The eschaton is the surprise ending to this drama:

The dramatic reversal fits my most acute analysis and understanding of the ‘end times’ – that vast paradoxical reversals (big-small/weak-strong/wise-foolish/major-minor/important-unimportant, etc.) will without warning (i.e., without evident transitional stages) set in. This is one way which we will know – recognize – the end times. Those upheavals which are essentially reversals. A black guard and a hippie cop will destroy the Government and send them all into disgrace, prison and exile.[7]

When the simulacra appears to be victorious in destroying the world, the Logos will return, reversing all the harm that has been done by taking the world and transfiguring it within himself. The real which appears to be destroyed will be restored. PKD sees this already happening, in part, in time itself: “When the mind (S.t Sophia) encounters and detects a spurious (i.e., irreal) section, it replaces it with an ontologically real section of itself; by transubstantiation.”[8] This allows the kingdom of God to be already in the world, to be there with us, to allow participation with it now, even if the end of time has not yet come.  The real, the truth is in the world; the lie has been overcome. We just need silence to find it.


[1] [1] Philip K. Dick, Exegesis. ed. Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2011), 330.

[2] Ibid., 306.

[3] Pavel Florensky, The Pillar and Ground of the Truth. Trans Boris Jakim (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 237.

[4] Sergius Bulgakov, Jacob’s Ladder. Trans. Boris Jakim (William B Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 2010), 28.

[5] Philip K. Dick, Exegesis, 292.

[6] Jean Baudrillard, The Perfect Crime. Trans. Chris Turner (London: Verso, 2008), 43.

[7] Philip K. Dick, Exegesis, 293.

[8] Ibid., 307.

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47 Comments
  1. Rodak permalink
    November 28, 2011 1:00 pm

    The problem is that everybody owns and identifies with his own versions of the Lie. We can readily see that the other guy is deluded. And he can see that we are. Both sides are, in effect, projecting. Being “in the world” without being “of the world” is what we all believe ourselves to be about. But this is almost always laughable. Those who actually see Truth and Reality are quickly destroyed, either by their own inability to handle it, or by the violent inability of other people to handle the deconstruction of their “peace of mind” when encountering the truth incarnate.

  2. Rodak permalink
    November 28, 2011 3:23 pm

    Agreed. Silence is a necessary condition, although not a sufficient one. I’ve been wondering since you started this series on PKD, if you’re familiar with a book titled “The Bridge to Nothingness” by Shlomo Giora Shoham. The subtitle is: “Gnosis, Kabala, Existentialism and the Transcendental Predicament of Man”. I found it most interesting.

    • November 28, 2011 3:55 pm

      It depends, also, on the kind of silence –that is, how one embraces it. Clearly it is not enough of itself (a Christian would say that would ignore grace), but even if one doesn’t get everything, it should still improve the situation once one attains it.
      No, I have not.

  3. November 28, 2011 3:54 pm

    I think you are splitting hairs. Faith is as faith does, is it not? In fact, isn’t it like love in this respect?

    If you believe God exists, and live accordingly (do good, avoid sin), then you have faith; just as, if you wish someone well, and act accordingly, you are loving them.

    Of course it’s possible to doubt the reality of faith, or love. As it’s possible to doubt the reality of any and everything else. But what’s the point of that? You still have to either live or die, and if the former, then decide how to live.

    Isn’t faith, on your part, just a decision how to live? A decision what attitude to take towards yourself, and others, and God, and act accordingly?

    • November 28, 2011 4:14 pm

      Is this the right post?

      • November 28, 2011 6:47 pm

        You’re right, Henry, thanks. Now that’s tolerance, when a comment is COMPLETELY off-topic and you still allow it. : )

        • November 28, 2011 6:52 pm

          I figured people could figure out where it belonged, and best to let it be, so it didnt’ get lost.

  4. Rodak permalink
    November 28, 2011 6:32 pm

    I think that comment was meant for Kyle’s post, above yours on the page, no?

  5. Rodak permalink
    November 28, 2011 7:04 pm

    Henry–

    Here is a link to a few posts on my blog related to the book I mentioned above. One of them is relevant to your post here, I think:

    http://www.rrrrodak.blogspot.com/search/label/Bridge%20to%20Nothingness

    • November 28, 2011 7:15 pm

      Some interesting quotes, though it does seem to go in a direction different from PKD (who had other, interesting observations on suffering which I have not yet discussed). Still the questions are always worth looking at and examining from different directions — even if one ends up following an end which ones does not accept, the process of exploring the question leads to insights which help one find the answer.

      Interestingly enough, from what I am reading in the PKD, he seems to think those who view religion as trying to explain suffering are wrong — even though he thinks it is an interesting philosophical point.

      • Rodak permalink
        November 28, 2011 7:36 pm

        Shoham, of course, is a scholar with a definite point of view, which he promotes using his particular synthesis of ideas from Gnosticism, Kabala, and Existentialism. PKD tends to be a bit more free-form. (I am also reading The Exegesis, btw.) Unamuno’s discussions of pain (“Suffering is the way of consciousness, and it is through suffering that living beings achieve self-consciousness”) , and Simone Weil’s emphasis on the role of what she called “afflication” in seeking to silence the background static, are also relevant and resonant for me in this discussion.

  6. Rodak permalink
    November 28, 2011 7:16 pm

    Anybody who has checked out the excerpts from The Bridge to Nothingness linked above, might also want to read this string of excerpts from the book’s introductory chapter:

    http://rrrrodak.blogspot.com/2011/08/readings-quest-for-authentic-existence.html

  7. Rodak permalink
    November 28, 2011 8:51 pm

    I always seem to type “afflication” for “affliction.” It’s maddening. And painful.

  8. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    November 28, 2011 9:09 pm

    it has always seemed strange to me that a central facet of religious faith is so undiscussed. Namely, that people always choose a faith which allows them to do what they wanted to do anyways. (Fill in the blank: have children, not have children, hate, love, fight, remain peaceful, etc.) Only a position outside of faith per se can act as a counter to the extremes of personality that this deep predilection produces. I personally separate those who can grasp this and those that don’t. Those that don’t are just selfish and liable to cussedness on some level or other. Human decency is a value in itself. It deserves a role in all religious discussions, regardless of history and faith. If not, one is a barbarian, no matter how religious.

  9. Rodak permalink
    November 29, 2011 7:15 am

    @ Peter Paul Fuchs–
    Does not what you say above imply that all institutional religion is bogus from the git-go?

  10. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    November 29, 2011 11:45 pm

    Rodak,

    The notion that there can be a religion that is not “institutional” is one of the great pieces of malarkey that has entered into popular culture. Al religion is institutional. Even the vaunted “spirituality” of many an independent type. It is just that people are often scarcely aware of what “institution” they are beholden to. In the case of the avatars of spirituality, it is often a debt to some quasi commercial person like Deepak Chopra whose anti-church is a church of money in itself.

    I do not think institutional religion is intrinsically bogus at all. But it is also not clear that everyones is worse off without it, or that society would be hurt by there being less of it. At least when compared to most of the other organizations we human beings spend our times with, it does not seem all that much worse. And they often do some good too, which is a benefit. People like to hear that you either love ‘em or hate ‘em. To say that they just belong to the morally incremental realm of all other human groupings is what they principally want to avoid being told. That means you can provide — sanely — simple incremental critiques of how things can be improved in a faith tradition. And that you are not the devil incarnate or “anti” anything for doing so. To the Catholic hierarchy this modest proposal sounds like martyrdom. That in itself indicates some real corruption, and worse, simple self-sillying on their part.

  11. Rodak permalink
    November 30, 2011 6:11 am

    All religion is not institutional. In fact, the founders of none of the world’s great religions became what they became within the strictures of the institutional religions of their various peoples. Are you saying that, for instance, the Essenes, who rejected institutional temple worship and withdrew to their own communities in the desert were not practicing religion? Was the Baptist, alone in the desert, baptizing by the riverside, not practicing religion? Does any saint not transcend the institution from which he/she emerged in becoming a saint? It is when the teachings of saints calcify into doctrine and dogma to be learned by rote and chanted in droves, rather than lived by the individual, that true religion dies, and group-think and corporate self-interest come into their ascendencies. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Baptist, today, would have a Facebook page and a Twitter account and make the talk-show circuit on cable TV, and stage gala worship services in sports arenas. Who knows? But we can see in the behavior of our societies the utter failure of institutional religions to enable their adherents to put into action that which is preached in the grand strutures they build, as if to show that they don’t “get it” and never did. Can you imagine Jesus Christ prancing around in a gold lame’ clown suit like Liberace or Elvis? I don’t think so.

  12. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    November 30, 2011 8:40 am

    Rodak,

    All religions are institutional, in that they participate necessarily in the cultural meanings of religion. The Essenes, please they were utterly caught up in reactions to the religion in their day, by way of negations….even away from others. What is the archtypal hermit rejecting….the world. We cannot get away from language and its institutional meanings, even in silence. This is what we are beings with language, beings with culture. Saints hardly transcend their tradition, they epitomize it. Religions cultural meanings do a lot of good in the world.

    But they can ill as well. Why pretend about this? And I think that this is the real impetus for your view. You have got a real understanding of the bad side of the cultural meanings and want to avoid it. So, in my view, just avoid it. Simple. Easy. I know reactionaries will hate me for this, but they already apparently hate this blog. But why participate in any form of religion that makes you feel worse about life. I am certainly not saying by this that the essence of religion is all therapeutic. It is transcendent. But there are modes of transendence that enable life and love, and those that quash it. Why not just pick? Is picking such a horrible thing? The tradition we are devoted to discussing here, Roman Catholicism has been doing that picking for two thousand years, in slow motion.

    ps. We took our long put-off trip to Las Vegas three years ago. We went to the Liberace Museum shortly before it closed. I think where all that belonged is not in any sort of substitute religion, but in camp. The whole notion of camp is very revealing of a certain kind of guy, or even gal. And big confession here, in my less scholarly moments it is pretty close to my modes of expression as well. And I am not talking about clothes or costumes. By the way also, I think the reason the museum closed is that after you bought your ticket if you wanted to see the second half of the museum you had to walk across a big parking lot. It was so unbelievably hot in Las Vegas that just that schlep was incredible. And I am not stranger to heat. I grew up in Miami in an un-airconditioned house.

  13. Rodak permalink
    November 30, 2011 12:35 pm

    Peter Paul–
    I don’t know that I want to concede that to be anti-institutional is thereby to be institutional. That would be to suggest that one perpetuates abortion by being actively pro-life. (Or, maybe one does…?)

  14. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    November 30, 2011 5:24 pm

    Rodak,

    Take the converse of that proposal and you have the answer I think. If one avoids identifying with institutional positions on that very issue, then one is more likely to grasp and effectuate nimble reasons to limit the trauma of abortions. That goes along with not identifying with an institutional position against birth control, which further means that there would be fewer pregnancies to begin with. Come to think of it, this is truly a great example because the Catholic Church’s position on birth control especially seems guided by a need to maintain some odd sense of institutional coherence (on procreation, family, etc.) that makes absolutely no sense to practically anybody. In light of bursting populations it just seems insane. Even the majority of Catholics it seems for a long time disagree on those issues. And lastly, it also means that a position allowing some choice and access to birth control is just as “institutionally” Catholic as one held by hierarchy. For all dearly held religious positions are inherently institutional as well.

    • Rodak permalink
      November 30, 2011 7:51 pm

      You seem be making an “institution” out of a population of dissenters, or am I reading you wrong? In this case, there is the institutional Church, with its corporate hierarchy officiating over formal ceremonies conducted before and on behalf of a faithful laity, and which is opposed (at least in part) by an “anti-institution” composed of dissenters. Is this what you’re saying?

  15. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    November 30, 2011 9:06 pm

    Rodak,

    Ah, there’s the rub. But look at Catholic politics. It is the exact opposite!!!!!!!! Meditate on that amazing fact for a second, and think what it means. It means this: The clout that the Catholic hierarchy is given comes because, and only because, of the vast numbers of believers of their same faith who actually disagree with them. The hierarchy knows this. They are not stupid. This is the only reason they have avoided jail in some cases, so they are very grateful and respectful of it. So I ask you again, in practical political and cultural terms: (and pardon my stupid caps, I can’t help it in a blog like this) WHO IS THE INSTITUTION?? ….in a practical, political sense, which is all that matters! The actual meetings of the Bishops is something more like the first scene in the garden party of the movie The Manchurian Candidate. We are talking about political realities here, my insightful comrade!

    • Rodak permalink
      December 1, 2011 4:46 am

      Okay, then…WHAT IS THE RELIGION??…

  16. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    December 1, 2011 11:54 am

    Rodak,

    Well, at bottom, it is that sense of identity that keeps more than a billion people involved with it in various ways and intensities. But that is further only possible because it in some way, and at some points, it has authentically touched the mystery of everything. Thus, longevity tells you a lot, if not everything. I can’t pass up the opportunity to use my top favorite Spanish Siglo de Oro aphorism again, but in a light-hearted vein: “Sabe mas el diablo, por viejo que por diablo.” My translation: “the devil is wise not because he is so evil, but because he is very old.”

  17. Rodak permalink
    December 1, 2011 12:39 pm

    Yes. But that kind of group-identity is almost wholly self-referential. It doesn’t necessarily have any objective validity at all, which is what I was saying in the very first comment on this thread.

  18. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    December 1, 2011 5:55 pm

    Rodak,

    You are a profound thinker. But consider this: Even if all identities can be construed as self-referential — even transcendent ones — they become practically not so if they cause us to come out of ourselves in many ways. They become practically axiomatic in action. In fact this is my test for a good religious intuition. Does it cause the person to come out of themselves and help the world in whatever way they are capable. For an intuition to do this is no small thing. To do so it must both make the person feel good enough about themselves to help others, and also humble enough to know that their lives are best spent in some sort of giving. As I said, no small “trick”. In this sense especially, I believe the message of Christianity has a leg-up on other world religions. Whatever its other problems, it wins that one hands-down. Period.

    Thus, for me the “objective validity” of transcendent positions is only of interest in relation to this. And even if some are true that do not serve that desideratum, it does not follow that we should care about them. For instance, one great “truth” so comically enunciated by Tony Soprano’s mother could stand for many others. You’ll recall Anthony Jr. went to visit her in the hospital. She asks him how he is doing, and he says he is a little depressed because he has been reading some philosophy and this is confusing him in life. The mother then gives him her view on life: “It’s all a big nothing anyways! what makes you think you’re so special.” Life may be filled with quite a few “objective” confirmations of that reality, but it should hardly matter in some ways, if we are following Jesus’ example. Not to mention Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

    • Rodak permalink
      December 1, 2011 6:59 pm

      I don’t say that you are wrong. But consider this: Jesus did not go looking for people to heal. He did nothing, and advocated nothing, with regard to eliminating poverty, or any other social problem. When asked if it was proper for a Jew to pay taxes to Rome, He said “Sure. It’s their money, isn’t it?” On the other hand, Jesus preached that to lust after a married woman is already to have committed adultery. Jesus solved problems that were brought to Him. He preached that “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” He warned against the demons dwelling inside of a person. He warned that if you drove them out once, and became complacent about it, they would soon be back, having brought their buddies to dwell in the nice, clean place you had prepared for them. The entire focus of His teaching was about working on oneself–the state of one’s own soul. When you have deconstructed what the world has made of you, and have gotten it down to your essential self, possessed only of that which was God-given in your creation, then–and only then–will you know for certain that your actions in the world are good, and not secretly self-serving, because like Jesus you will be Good and capable only of doing good. That is the only path to certainty that I can see.

  19. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    December 1, 2011 11:29 pm

    Rodak,

    You make Jesus sound like a Counter-Reformation Carmelite. You are mistaking Jesus the Jew for an avatar of Neo-Platonic perfectionism. In that you have summed up both the good parts and the bad parts of the Roman Church. No biggie.

    In my opinion, the Zurbaran paintings are a better result of such spirituality than the perfectionism itself.

  20. Rodak permalink
    December 2, 2011 5:01 am

    I’m presenting Jesus as He reportedly presented Himself, and not through the filter of 2000 years of accreted, self-serving institutional doctrine. (Or “tradition,” if you will.) I have no idea what a “Counter-Reformation Carmelite” is, or would sound like, but I do know what Jesus was reported to have taught. One of those things was, “Therefore be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”
    I don’t know what “go to heaven” means, because I can’t conceive of heaven as a place. I can only understand heaven as a state of being. The upshot of that would be that only saints would “go to heaven.” One would need to be in a state of being compatible with heaven, i.e. “heavenly.” And by “saint” I don’t mean what the Church routinely means. What the Church means, in most cases, is something like “Employee of Decade” or “Distinguished Professor” or “Father of the Year.” So, what happens to the rest of us, I don’t know. That sad alternative may be what’s happening to us now. Being Christ-like does not mean being a really big fan of Jesus. It doesn’t mean liking Jesus, it means imitating Him.

  21. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    December 2, 2011 1:02 pm

    Rodak,

    When my erstwhile professor John Meier (and yes I am going to drop that name in this discussion because it must give me some sort of cred!) undertook the final book in his series A Marginal Jew he started with the words: Now comes the hard part, or something to that effect. I think now comes the hard part of this discussion. Look, I agree with your last lines especially. But you seem oblivious to the fact that your whole heuristic of getting rid of “accretions” on Christianity is a particular trope of the Reformation. It did not come out of nowhere. And as the history of the Reformation shows us the reformers were kinda picky about how many “accretions” they wanted to get rid of. They somehow wanted top stop when it came to the accretions having to do with the Neo-Platonic genesis of the Trinity itself. Of course one can find the Trinity in the New Testament, but you can find a lot of things. And you have to look real hard to do it. Whereas the genesis of it jumps about from practically every page of Neo-Platonic philosophy. So in this mammoth context how much weight should we give to two thousand years of essentially Greek notions by which we understand notions of “perfect” which of course Jesus of Nazareth must have been completely ignorant of. Whatever Jesus meant it was not that.

    I hope you understand at this point that I am not arguing against people believing in the Trinity here, or against ascetic paths which might attract people per se. I am arguing for seeing religious belief, and even the purifying trends of religious belief that you are enunciating here, as part of the giant parade of culture, from which we can never extract ourselves. AS I see it we cannot help being part of the stream of cultural accretions, even by trying to get rid of some. In your case you seem to have adopted the Reformation purifying tendency AND the Catholic Church’s exact response to it in tandem, which was, yes, Counter-Reformation spirituality (read Teresa of Avila) . John Meier’s genius idea was that Jesus spoke largely in riddles. I really believe this. The riddle doesn’t tell you the truth exactly, it changes your perspective. In that riddle realm one can accept that Jesus who walked the earth is somehow connected with, for example, the gorgeous artworks and imperial Papacy spawned by a fellow like Julius II. Without the riddle, not so much. That doesn’t make it right or in modern terms necessary, but at least one can see a link.

    • Rodak permalink
      December 2, 2011 2:16 pm

      Well, if we want to bring the extra-scriptural “historical Jesus” speculations of scholars into this thing, we will find that other Jews of Jesus’ time–most notably Philo and probably Saul of Tarsus–were very much imbued with Greek thought. And we will find that the area of Palestine from which Jesus came–as a grown man–was culturally very Greek. We will learn that he probably understood and spoke at least enough Greek to have worked construction in the cities where Greek was the language of commerce. Therefore, I cannot assume with you that Jesus “could not” have meant some variation of a Platonic idea of “perfect.” We are led to believe that Jesus was learned. We are told that as a boy he was equipped with enough rhetorical skill to exchange chops with the elders in the temple. This suggests that he almost had to have been not only literate, but well-read. Undoubtedly, he was a prodigy. Certainly the reason that His message caught in the Greco-Roman world–whereas it died, along with the first generation of his followers, in the Jewish world–is because his thought appealed to Greeks and was recognized by them as compatible with things they had already come to believe. It did not appeal to Jews. And contemporary Jewish scholars who write about Jesus don’t really want to take Him in as one of their own; what they want to do is take Him away from us; i.e. make Him irrelevant on both sides of the fence.
      I’ve read the book you cite. I’m pretty sure that I own it. The riddle is quite a Greek thing, too, is it not? The most famous riddle of all-time is probably the riddle of the Sphinx in the Oedipus myth. But I personally don’t think of the parables so much as riddles. They are more like story problems. They give you the data from which you are expected to work out the math. I will grant you that this appeals to the Protestant mind. We are given the scriptures and expected to work out the meaning. But this is an interesting topic. Perhaps you can recall off-hand one of the teachings of Jesus characterized by Meier as a “riddle,” so we can dissect that notion?

      • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
        December 2, 2011 4:06 pm

        Rodak,

        You are really so uncouth again to ask me to think hard and reasonable about these things. I just finished recently a paper dealing with Catholic history to an extent and it all but drained me having to be fair and rational the whole time. I think I would rather be something more like “fair and balanced” in the Fox News sense in dealing with the Catholic church. You really must stop being so gah-danged smart!

        Well, Jesus may have been very smart, but if he were conversant in Greek philosophy to any extent why did he not lay things out ever in a similar style. Unless you mean, that even mentioning being “perfect” was already a gloss on such things. Maybe. I have to concede that there is a real chance that I guess you are right. But I happen to believe that there are more than one things that are absolutely right in an ultimate sense. But I don’t force that view on anybody else. Most people I know, if they are religious, have more conservative views than I do.

        I really think that when they track down Jesus of Nazareth in far-flung corner of the universe someday and tell him that he has been worshipped for two thousand years on earth he will probably say: “But I was into talking about being poor in spirit in those days. Go figure.” But then he will add: “Well at least they did not get into bowing down to my mother Mary, most people worshipped the ground she walked on when I was a kid.”

  22. Rodak permalink
    December 2, 2011 2:32 pm

    By the way, one of the reasons that I am so totally into the thought of Simone Weil is that she was so totally into the Greeks. That said, she was also into the Baghavad Gita. And the Cathars. Yet, her closest friends and confidents were Catholics, and she spent her whole life on the stoop of the Church, so to speak, without ever being able to come to terms with those institutional aspects of the Church which prevented her from accepting baptism. I would not call Simone Weil a creature of the Reformation, but I won’t deny that I am very accommodating of some of Calvin’s and many of Luther’s approaches to Christianity.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
      December 2, 2011 4:11 pm

      Rodak,

      In re Simone Weil. O when I was in the seminary she was mega-popular. You could scarcely get through one dinner conversation without her name being mentioned. I always love the saying attribute to her: “One of the great tragedies of life is that seeing and eating are not the same things.” Or am I remembering that wrong??

      • Rodak permalink
        December 2, 2011 6:10 pm

        There is something akin to that, for sure. But I think it’s just the punchline of a longer thingy. The thing I like best about Simone Weil is that she tried to so hard to live by what she believed, even though she was so poorly prepared and equipped to do so.
        I have seen her dissed as a “Gnostic” by Catholics. This is partly because of her interest in the Cathars, I think. And partly because of her contemplations concerning cosomology. I’ve read several biographies of Simone Weil. Some of them are very critical of her. But all of them attest to her great intellect. I once opened a Twitter account and posted an aphoristic S.W. quote there every day for quite some time. Kyle might remember that.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
        December 2, 2011 8:48 pm

        Rodak,

        Ah, Twitter. What’s it good for, for us philosophy types? I opened an account and for a couple of months listed every classical recording I listened to for a couple of months. More importantly, I discussed every type of Green Tea I was drinking, which is a crucially important topic in my life, believe me. . Performance art, i guess. For me Green Tea is the key to spirituality; I can’t get through life without it. And I hope it palliates all my very considerable Irish alkie genes. One must be realistic. And avoid problems. Not only idealistic, but avoiding the worst is a big help in one’ journey.

  23. Rodak permalink
    December 2, 2011 2:35 pm

    And I am reading Henry posts about the Exegesis of PKD because I am also more than a little interested in the Gnostics, for the reason that they attempted to deal with the philosophical Problem of Evil head-on, which orthodox Christianity fails to do–fatally, imo.

  24. Rodak permalink
    December 3, 2011 8:50 am

    “…if he were conversant in Greek philosophy to any extent why did he not lay things out ever in a similar style.”

    Jesus perhaps did just that, when speaking to learned Pharisees; or, perhaps, to learned Romans. It is unfortunate that in the Gospels we are usually only given the punch-lines of his dialogues with his intellectual opposition. But, in most of what we are given, he is preaching to peasants and fishermen and shopkeepers, etc. There is nothing to be gained by speaking over the heads of one’s audience.

    Any time I am arguing with a Catholic and I quote a Bible verse in support of my central thesis, and that Catholic then visibly pales, frantically starts making the sign of the cross and backs away from me screaming “Sola scriptura! Sola scriptura!” I am reminded that this once had some validity. Pre-Gutenberg, people didn’t own Bibles. Most people weren’t literate. What they knew about the Bible had to be spoon-fed to them by clerics. The priests don’t want to relinquish that power, so they preach still today against the “proof-text,” as though the text shouldn’t be a source of proof. I have to either spit on the floor, or chuckle. Hopefully, I usually choose the latter course of action. Luther, to his credit, not only translated the Bible into German, but preached that people had a duty to read it, and to interpret its meaning (with a little help from above), each according to his special spiritual need at any given time. This is not to use the Book as an oracle, but rather to use it as a learning tool; as a workbook for the student of the spiritual connection between heaven and earth.
    To sum up: Jesus knew what he was doing.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
      December 3, 2011 1:52 pm

      Rodak,

      Well it is a very interesting thesis, and you have got some facts and mojo to go with it. So I really encourage you to develop it. Especially since the present Pope seems to agree with you, though more vaguely, as seen in his Regensburg address referencing Greek philosophy.

      Your point about the Bible is also clearly supported by Church history. There are many, many examples of sundry Catholic rulers and clerics condemning the increasing acquaintance of hoi polloi with Scripture. And even Thomas Aquinas, as highlighted in a book by the stringent Husserlian Sokolowski, opined that there are aspects of the faith that should be kept from many common people, so to speak.

      I particularly like your idea that what we may have in the Scriptures are the “punch lines.” You may find yourself cited someday somewhere in some recondite study, with credit of course given to Vox Nova. Of course Gnostic -type texts of all sorts claimed Jesus had myriad other more high-brow and exotic contacts and adventures. But you seem to be suggesting something a bit different. Namely that early Christians may have consciously engaged in some soft propaganda, by way of omission, by giving only the punch-lines. Punch-lines given only to the folks, and not to the “elite”. And that Jesus might have been surprised by the whole thing. Maybe it was all Mary’s doing, as she seems like a savvy gal, perhaps she said: “Make him look dumb because there is nothing people hate more than a guy who is attractive and smart.”

  25. Rodak permalink
    December 3, 2011 6:06 pm

    I’m not so interested in the theories such as that Jesus went to India during “the lost years,” or that Jesus was the iniate of a Greek mystery cult, etc. I think it enough to speculate that Jesus was very probably literate; that he grew up in a Hellenistic milieu; and that he may very well have had some acquaintance with, and instruction in, both Greek (Platonic) and Roman (Stoic) ideas and used some of those, tailored to the levels of sophistication of his audiences, in his teaching.
    I also think it very telling that Jesus was apparently not a Jewish nationalist. Reading the New Testament, one would get the idea that Jesus and his followers were wandering about in tranquil, almost sleepy countryside. In fact, of course, the area was crawling with insurgents and a constant thorn in the side of Rome. Jesus seems to have been totally aloof from all of this, which makes him somewhat less than ultra-Jewish in his thinking.
    Moreover, if he had been nothing more than an unusually witty freelancing Jewish rabbi, I doubt that we would be talking about him today.
    Finally, Socrates had Plato, and Jesus had Saul of Tarsus: the rest is history.

  26. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    December 3, 2011 6:49 pm

    Rodak,

    And I can’t resist; Sabbatai Sevi had Nathan of Gaza.

  27. Rodak permalink
    December 3, 2011 7:03 pm

    That was a bad choice on Nate’s part! Tant pis!

    • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
      December 3, 2011 10:46 pm

      Didn’t mean to be quite so snarky. I meant more to comment on the role of interpreter- to- visionary, than on the visionary himself. A lot of people, like myself, admire Jesus, hardly anyone admires Sabbatai Sevi. It just seems, after living on the planet for a while, that most of the reasons people have for “following” Jesus are no better than the reasons some had for following Sevi.

  28. Rodak permalink
    December 4, 2011 7:26 am

    I wasn’t being snarky, either. I took it in the spirit that it was delivered. And I totally agree. If you follow my line of reasoning on Kyle Cupp’s recent posts, I think that is discernable. The difference, of course, is that Socrates and Jesus had visionary interpreters of real genius, both of whom offered a set of ideas too grand to ever be exhausted by subsequent speculation, or completely co-opted by “the world,” and which, therefore, endlessly spark the imaginations of intelligent and creative persons who come in contact with them.
    This is to take nothing away from the mediation of Socrates or Jesus. In both cases, their teachings were worthy of such interpreters. I assume that this was a necessary condition for the production of those interpretative bodies of thought.
    I see the institutions–the Church, the Academy–to be like globs of semen; millions of sperm sent forth to produce one fertilized egg; millions of the “faithful” assembled to produce one true saint. And only the saint transcends.

  29. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    December 4, 2011 6:13 pm

    I personally think that the road to real spiritual maturity, as well as general wisdom in life, is to recognized that we are always influenced by something. We are always beholden to someone or something. To be allowed to be in someone’s debt is an honor, and all highly developed culture’s have understood that. Our “anti-culture” proclaims originality and newness and cutting-edgeness by the boatload, but it is in fact one of the least original times in most ways. (Leave aside the special hyper-realm of technology) In fact the glory of the pageant of history is that we are always standing on someone else’s shoulders, and that originality is rather circumscribed. This is why quirky types like me are not totally off their rockers for seeing themselves as rather “Catholic” types, even though the actual workings of the Roman Church make them rather nauseous. The greatness of Jesus is that he stands the test of impartial cultural analysis quite well. As for Jesus as spiritual Orgazmo, well a lot of that sort of thing is pretty boring in my rather trammeled book, pornographic or spiritual. The funny thing is that there is always a crop of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed you seminarians types who don’t know it yet, and the elder statesmen types who guide them. “I need to relieve some pressure.” — Jeffrey Stryker

  30. Rodak permalink
    December 4, 2011 7:11 pm

    The very last thing that a saint would want to be, I should think, is innovative or original. A saint is simple. There is nothing novel in the truth. The saint is proof that the truth can be received from its source and that life can be lived in accordance to it–not merely read about and acquired by rote for recitation on command. Man would get redemptive brownie points for the latter only if Kafka is G-d and the path to “heaven” really does lead one through the corridors and the various official stages and offices of some vast bureaucracy, beginning in the kindergarten of the parochial school and ending before the throne of judgment.

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