The Neoplatonic understanding of reality is that the world and each thing in the world is an ontological procession or exit from the One-beyond-being –that is, the super-essential Good or Beauty– into difference and multiplicity (the One generating first Intellect, Intellect generating Soul, etc.), and that each thing returns or reverts to what it is an expression of, and participates in, by way of its own unity, its own nature. Proceeding is often likened to a fall, and reversion to an ascent. Insofar as anything exists, it remains within the generative cause from which it proceeds, no matter how far it exits into multiplicity.
In his Confessions, the parable of the prodigal son plays a central role – not only as a means of figuratively summarizing Augustine’s understanding of his own life, but as expressive of the procession or exit of the whole world; yet Augustine stresses the element of falling in the whole procedure: we fall, and are wasted in the fall; we exit, but do not return; like the prodigal, we exit and exit and exit: we go off in a far country, wasting our native dignity, and do not wake up to return to ourselves, our right minds, and remember the Good of our native homeland, God.
The way that Augustine reads his life within this mirror of this parable, and the way that he gathers up his memories in thanksgiving to God so as not to abandon them within the dissolution of the exit, are exemplary of the way that he seeks to unify his own life by gathering himself back to his essential unity and his native homeland, or rather, to seek the hidden unity being wrought by God in the wasteland of his fractured self.
We shall aim first to outline some elements of the procession and reversion in Plotinus, the reasons Plotinus gives for the soul’s fall, the means of its return, and a major disagreement within the tradition of pagan Athenian Neoplatonism that takes its cue from Plotinus. It will then look at the same themes in Augustine’s Confessions, to place the same themes of that work’s narrative in its philosophical context. Continue reading
One of the central features marking the transition to the modern world is disenchantment. What disenchantment entails is suggested already in the word “disenchantment” itself: the word as it was coined in German –“Entzauberung”– literally means “de-magic-ing”. For us moderns, the world, specifically nature, is no longer shot through with innate meanings and magical powers. We do not take seriously suggestions such as that the forests are filled with mischievous brownies, and that our children thus ought not play there. We would not think to eat walnuts because of a headache: the symmetry between the shape of walnuts and the shape of our brains is no longer thought to cause anything through formal affinity (except through placebo). When we come across a glade that stirs us to wonder and lofty feelings, we do not seriously, publicly think that this marks the presence of a god who dwells there — at least, we do not think this simply and without consciousness of alternative views on the glade; we do not say a god dwells there without awareness that to say so publicly is merely to advance one exotic and embattled option among others that are more common, and which are more plausible to the vast majority of our cohort. There are indeed irrational and mistaken ideas about nature floating around, but they (and we) all fall on this side of disenchantment, and so their character is different from any pre-modern notions and modes of engaging the world.
A relatively intense sense of disenchantment may mark the modern world, but the processes of disenchantment do not begin there. They begin, instead, with Christianization. Continue reading
The doorway yawns to make a passage for the lad,
a gate op’ning out upon the chairs and stove whereat
Zjemlya kisses Ouranos and mythicals the sofas,
the chrism’s song-fragrance mingling with th’ aromas
that curl ’round the door-posts, and anchor them; for brokenness
shall sleep offstage,
and build its cage
later. Continue reading
There have been no posts this week, as I am taking a break while I finish up finals-related things. I expect to be back to posting by the end of this next week.
In the meantime, I thought it would be worthwhile to share a recent re-post of a 2012 article from R. Joseph Hoffmann’s site inspired by a then-recent 2012 Huffpost article by Jacques Berlinerblau, who wrote a book on secularism. In the video Berlinerblau made and attached to his Huffpost article, he says briefly:
Secularism is a political idea about Church and State relations. It is not a metaphysical idea about the existence or non-existence of God.
The book on secularism spells this political element out more fully (or so goes the video he made for the Amazon.com page, which cites from his book): Continue reading
walls, tired, sigh;
I know this sky,
here it bends nigh,
my feet and thighs