Wednesday, May 12, 2021

It happens slowly

10 Some of the redeemed had been sitting in darkness and deep gloom;
      they were prisoners suffering in chains
11 because they had disobeyed God’s instructions
      and rejected the Most High’s plans.
12 So God humbled them with hard work.
      They stumbled, and there was no one to help them.
13 So they cried out to the Lord in their distress,
      and God saved them from their desperate circumstances.
14 God brought them out from the darkness and deep gloom;
      he shattered their chains.
15 Let them thank the Lord for his faithful love
      and his wondrous works for all people,
16 because God has shattered bronze doors
      and split iron bars in two!

<idle musing>
It happens slowly, gradually, step-by-step until suddenly, you realize you have been listening to lies and you are surrounded by darkness. Not that you necessarily "disobeyed God's instructions" or "rejected the Most High's plans" as much as you looked at the dark side of things. You didn't praise God for the beauty, but instead majored on the minor little flaws. And then, suddenly, the whole world seems dark and gloomy.

Then, if you have sense, you cry out to the Lord, and he delivers you. Unfortunately, I don't always have sense, and so I wander around in the gloom for a bit before I realize I'm there, making those around me miserable by my gloom. But, eventually I realize what's happening and then cry out to the Lord, who then brings me out of the darkness and deep gloom, or in the words of another psalm (30:11–12):

11 You changed my mourning into dancing.
      You took off my funeral clothes
           and dressed me up in joy
12 so that my whole being
      might sing praises to you and never stop.
Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The source

The prophets discovered the holy dimension of living by which our right to live and to survive is measured. However, the holy dimension was not a mechanical magnitude, measurable by the yardstick of deed and reward, of crime and punishment, by a cold law of justice. They did not proclaim a universal moral mechanism but a spiritual order in which justice was the course but not the source. To them justice was not a static principle but a surge sweeping from the inwardness of God, in which the deeds of man find, as it were, approval or disapproval, joy or sorrow. There was a surge of divine pathos, which came to the souls of the prophets like a fierce passion, startling, shaking, burning, and led them forth to the perilous defiance of people’s self—assurance and contentment. Beneath all songs and sermons they held conference with God’s concern for the people, with the well out of which the tides of anger raged.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 182–83

Monday, May 10, 2021

The logical outcome

To bury the modern concern for victims under millions and millions of corpses——there you have the National Socialist way of being Nietzschean. But some will say, “This interpretation would have horrified poor Nietzsche.” Probably, yes. Nietzsche shared with many intellectuals of his time and our own a passion for irresponsible rhetoric in the attempt to get one up on opponents. But philosophers, for their misfortune, are not the only people in the world. Genuinely mad and frantic people are all around them and do them the worst turn of all: they take them at their word.—Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightening, 175

<idle musing>
Everything in that paragraph could be said of today's politicians, couldn't it? And of many media personalities. Or, as a book I read as an undergraduate for a philosophy class put it: Ideas Have Consequences. C.S. Lewis also touches on it in That Hideous Strength (he has a way of saying stuff in fiction that many can't express in essays).

One of my professors in seminary used to say that the ramifications of your ideas will be seen in your students. And he was correct, which can be a scary thought.
</idle musing>

Monday, May 03, 2021

A scary equation

Before placing too much confidence in Nietzsche, our era should have meditated on one of the most sharp and brilliant sayings of Heraclitus: “Dionysos is the same thing as Hades.” Dionysos, in other words, is the same thing as hell, the same thing as Satan, the same thing as death, the same thing as the lynch mob. Dionysos is the destructiveness at the heart of violent contagion.—Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightening, 120

Friday, April 30, 2021

Beyond words

Stirred by a yearning after the unattainable, they [mystics] want to make the distant near, the abstract concrete, to transform the soul into a vessel for the transcendent, to grasp with the senses what is hidden from the mind, to express in symbols what the tongue cannot speak, what the reason cannot conceive, to experience as a reality what vaguely dawns in intuitions. “Wise is he who by the power of his own contemplation attains to the perception of the profound mysteries which cannot be expressed in words.“—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 164–65

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Which came first? The institutions or the rituals?

Throughout history religion is the constant element in diverse and changing institutions. Therefore we cannot discount it in favor of the pseudo—solution that takes it as a mere nothing, the fifth wheel of all the coaches, without coming to grips with the opposite possibility, disagreeable as it is for modern antireligion. This possibility is that religion is the heart of every social system, the true origin and original form of all institutions, the universal basis of human culture. This solution is all the more difficult to avoid because since the golden days of rationalism we have learned more about ancient societies, Among many of these societies the institutions that the Enlightenment took for indispensable to humanity didn’t yet exist: in their place there were only sacrificial rituals.—Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightening, 89

<idle musing>
I'm finally getting around to reading this, 20+ years after it was first published. The book is fascinating and explains much that we see going on in society, with the "single-victim mentality" and scapegoating. But I find his exegesis a bit loose and I don't think his attempt to make the founding victim myth the myth is convincing. But then, anytime someone comes up with what they think is the monolithic Ur-myth usually fails. Humanity is too complex for that.

That being said, I definitely recommend the book. It might be a hard slog for people who are unfamiliar with anthropology and mythological studies, but I think the time spent would definitely repay itself in insight into human society.

I got the book via Interlibrary Loan, and won't be posting much from it as I need to get it read and returned...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

We see but dimly…

The universe, exposed to the violence of our analytical mind, is being broken apart. It is split into the known and unknown, into the seen and unseen. In mystic contemplation all things are seen as one. The mystic mind tends to hold the world together: to behold the seen in conjunction with the unseen, to keep the fellowship with the unknown through the revolving door of the known, “to learn the higher supernal wisdom from all" that the Lord has created and to regain the knowledge that once was in the possession of men and “that has perished from them." What our senses perceive is but the jutting edge of what is deeply hidden. Extending over into the invisible, the things of this world stand in a secret contact with that which no eye has ever perceived. Everything certifies to the sublime, the unapparent working jointly with the apparent. There is always a reverberation in the Beyond to every action here.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 165