Gagarin and the Seven Heavens (Sketch of an Outline)

In the wake of Yuri Gagarin’s historic ascent into “outer space”, Nikita Khrushchev remarked

As to paradise in heaven, we heard about it from the priests. But we wanted to see for ourselves what it is like, so we sent our scout there, Yuri Gagarin. He circled the globe and found nothing in outer space — just complete darkness, he said, and no garden at all, nothing that looked like paradise. We thought the matter over and decided to send up another scout. We sent Herman Titov and told him to fly around a bit longer this time and take a good look — Gagarin was only up there for an hour and a half, and he might have missed it. He took off, came back and confirmed Gagarin’s conclusion. There’s nothing up there, he reported. [1]

There’s a remarkable concentration in the saying by Khrushchev: it asserts that traditional talk about God “in the heavens” is referring to space that is above the sky. As we saw in a previous post that looked at the older models of the universe with regard to how the outer layers of the sky (or the spheres) were supposed to influence things on the earth, the sky was, at first, conceived of as a dome.

At a basic level, Khrushchev is correct (and this, despite Gagarin’s later religious beliefs). Continue reading

Meanwhile, in the Aftermath: The Groundwork for Disenchantment in Augustine

The following is a fairly accurate transcript of a talk I gave at a conference organized by the Pappas Patristics Institute at Hellenic College/Holy Cross in early March of this year (2017). I was flattered that nearly all of the attendees at my session skipped the following session to extend the Q&A time by nearly an hour. I am grateful to my respondent for his helpful feedback, and to those who attended my presentation for their stimulating questions. 

I am still reading through the primary and secondary literature to evaluate responsibly the assertions I made in that talk. Some of my work to dig into the primary and secondary literature shall appear here on Into the Clarities, as four of them are nearing completion (although “approaching completion” is a condition that can, in my excessive caution, fall prey to Zeno’s paradox).

Hurriedly preparing for this conference paper, and especially reading voraciously in the wake of delivering this paper (to weigh its merits), has likely been the primary reason for my relative silence here at Into the Clarities for many months now (and the reason I had to halt work on the second Ullmann post).

During the conference, I frequently went off-page on a tear to clarify points when I’d made marginal notes to myself that I should do so — I had a stack of books by Augustine and Weber and Midgley with me, and read from several excerpts and discussed these relative to the points I was making. Here below, I have made a small attempt at inserting sentences to give at least some stubs for those mini-digressions and clarifications.

Here is something close to the talk I delivered.

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Mary Midgley, “Against Humanism”

There is a delightful article by Mary Midgley that’s been on New Humanist for several years now. You would benefit from taking a few minutes to read it.

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