My Buckeyes are looking strong after tonights 38-17 win over prevoiusly undefeated and #13 ranked Iowa in Iowa City (cool college town btw). 5-0, #1 Ranking.

Now if only my Bengals could stop getting in trouble with the law.

Published in: on September 30, 2006 at 11:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Part II

Quick review:

Part I followed the earlier genetic account/evolutionary paradigm (turquoise) through the “naturalistic” description of energy.

In Part II, I’ll hone in one specific issue–the future of evolution of the individual organism (UR).
Still a question remains for me. Humans are now aware of the so-called 8 primoridal perspectives. We are aware of transcend/include, evolution on all levels, in all quadrants. We recognize that if hold to some version of stages/quadrants, however loosely, that humans, so far as we understand now (until we meet any non-human forms of intelligent life) are the only ones to help co-construct the higher stages of consciousness–both individual and collective.

We recognize as well that humans are the agent of directionality in the lower right. Human collectives, public institutions, electronic/physical networks, languages, media, artifacts and our planet-wide power affecting animal/plant ecologies-communities. The question remains then whether humans are the ones that must evolve the upper-right? All of the utopia/dysutopias like the Matrix, the Singularity, AI, GMO arguments pro/con, biotechnology…all of them revolve around this issue. Will there be a “4th” human (or trans-human?) brain stem: reptilian, paleo-mammalian, neocortex, and bio-engineered?

There need not be I assume–given very rough correlation between gross energy/body: reptilian, subtle energy/body: paleo-mammaliam, and causal eb: neocortex. Or some variation on that theme. The causal then which just barely opens as the most base of possibilities with the first awakening of the human mind pushing towards “casual”-like stages of existence in millenia upon millenia.

But other trends point in the direction that human technological evolution will re-merge with biological evolution–the two becoming increasingly indistinguishable. It does seem likely that computation will be eventually (perhaps within a decade/15 years) implanted more and more into the human mainframe.

The phenomena that arise in an integral space–hierarchical worldviews, perspectives, quadrants, whatever–all only ex-ist in that worldspace and then are read back into the earlier spheres. But even all these notions are still predicated on a human biological substratum. In other words, our species we only I submit learn what is relative to our structure and what is more deep feature to the Komsos when we encounter non-human forms of coonsciousness. Whehter those be “alien” or computers. That might include humans who fuse their substrate with digitized forms of reality—whether more bionic or just some amplification of human biology.

The notion of the fusion of biology and technology/science will be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, ethical issue for this century–and perhaps further.

An Mp3 of a CBC interview with Dr. Mark Winston, whose books Travels in the Genetically Modified Zone is the best on the subject. He criticizes governmental responses, research and ethical breaches in the business sector, and mis/disinformation campaigns from anti-GMO activists.

It is going to take place; it can do great good as well as great harm. Rather than view it as further human intrustion into natural forces–with markets, regulations, consumerist models–we might consider the issue as learning to actual do correctly/reponsibly what we are already doing anyway, in a piss poor manner. Namely involving ourselves and our human social-economic-cultural ventures with the natural world.

In other words to bring choice/consciousness to these worlds. AS Teilhard said, the human is the universe aware of itself thinking. So our efforts to in-form that world are Nature working on nature. Either for good or bad. And most of the time, degreees and kinds of both simultaneously.

Such generated food stuffs may be the only way to release the “natural” world to return to its wild status–after the population peaks at 9 billion and then starts to decrease. If our food needs could be met through (even partially) these methods, then vast amounts of land stressed through intensive agriculture could be freed up.

Creation groans in bondage as St. Paul says. I do not mean to imply that humans must “save” nature. Rather that humans can help heal/release some of the unconsciousness, pain of the natural world. And this methods will require greater technological capacity–but those of course by themselves will not automatically bring such “healing”–I mean healing in the sense of “Tikkun” as used by the Kabbalah masters….i.e. the release of the trapped inner light of the Divine inherent in all manifestation. Cosmic Repair is perhaps a better translation.

These are just some random thoughts. I”m not going to make sci-fiy predictions. Just to frame some of the larger forces at work.

Published in: on September 30, 2006 at 3:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Subtle Structures

I wrote this about three weeks ago, when I was going through some of the more structuralist aspects of integral thought. Then other issues intervened and let this one go. It’s a little dated now, given all that subsequent context, but I’m posting it more just as tying up loose ends.

Warning–dense intellectualizing ahead.

This post deals with the post-metaphysical implications of energy and form (and evolution in those two)–particularly the form/energy that is the human individual body.

I was working on this post earlier, and got sidetracked. Vince has a very good post in a similar vein on Kurzweil the Singularity and its implications for consciousness evolution. Also, I want to point out that within certain integral circles, some of the ideas I’ll be using are not accepted. It gets into some very difficult, some arcane. Plus most of this is still of a provisonal/hypothetical nature; still I find it extremely fascinating and mind-opening to contemplate.

While I think that different integral models will yield down the road measurable differences betweeen practicioners/adherents of a certain camp, I’m still not agnostic on the question of whether that difference will be very large–on the more important issues–and to exactly how far and how tightly we need to bind to one or another. I imagine each will have noticable benefits-strenghts and weaknesses/shadows to each. As an example, I recommend any of Andrew Smith’s considered writings.

I don’t want to get into a large defensive position vis a vis which Integral system, etc.

I’m just going to use concepts from Wilber–any readers more connected to a different integral setup, I leave it up to you to decide if and what/how any ideas expressed here would translate over. Also, I’m goinig into a more spectulative territory here. I’m asking questions the framework brings up for me–so this is just my own ruminating, not “integral gospel” truth.


All of these reflections take as their starting point, Excerpt G : Towards a Comprehensive Theory of Subtle Energies. As with all integral conceptualizing, it is only that–a mental categorization using dead signifiers (words/numbers) as demi-abstractions, as simply pointers to an arising. Just meant to bring some clarity into otherwise somewhat disparate threads, in order to hopefully better guide our actions and build mutual bonds of affection, and have a vaster and deeper awe of the Life Process.

The graph above (from Excerpt G) invovles the addition of the notion of energy and its subtilization in the evolutionary process–i.e. post-metaphysics applied to subtle energy.

I covered in the earlier posts that one of the key AQAL integral threads involved the correlation between interiority and matter, formulated as the Law of Complexity and Consciousness: the more of the one, the more of the other. The more complex the materia, the more reflective the conscioiusness and vice versa. This placing of materia (matter) as the 3rd person perspective of any arising and not the lowest level of existence is what I dsicussed earlier as consciousness as intra-physical versus meta-physical. The method: Pull back, take the Observer position and simply trace the development of the two over time and note how they always hold this correlated relationship. This method illuminates a time-bound trajectory, an Eros, with emergent creative leaps interspersed throughout. And that these emergent leaps only arise, say in the fossil record as part of a population (the co-arising of the quadrants). How this happens, hwo there is creativity, how there is emergence, how a population just “emerges” is left open. Simply filed under Creative Novelty, Eros, whatever.

Subtle energy enters into this process thusly—a quotation from Excerpt G (emphasis mine):

#3. Further—and this is the connecting hypothesis— increasing complexity of gross form is correlated with increasingly subtlety of energies. As evolution proceeds to more and more complex gross forms, the increasing degree of gross complexity is accompanied by subtler and subtler corresponding (or signature) energy patterns. Since we are at this point focusing on individual beings, we have this: increasing evolution brings increasing complexity of gross form (in the UR), which is correlated with an increasing degree of consciousness (in the UL), and, in the UR itself, a subtilization of corresponding energies. Thus, instead of interpreting higher levels as being essentially divorced from gross matter or gross form, the complexification of gross form is the vehicle of manifestation for both subtler energies and greater consciousness. Excerpt G Part I

This addition gives the outside view of a 3rd person (3px3p) as consisting of both form and energy=mass/energy. All of which again involve human minds interpreting–giving words like energy, mass, etc. Energy and mass are just probability waves of finding a certain arising within the created matrix. Signature energy patterns are the highest probability of any “energy” location. Just fluid heuristics. Part of our embodiment and mental participation in existence.

So contrary to the traditional view we are not assuming subtle energy patterns have been laid down from the beginning, static and fixed, in every way metaphysical (as in the Great Chain model). Here’s Wilber again:

But, again, it is not that these energy fields are radically meta-physical, because if they were, then all of these fields (because they would not in any way be bound to physical objects), could and would be surrounding all physical objects, whereas in fact, these fields only emerge with (and surround) material objects of a corresponding degree of complexity. A rock does not have an emotional field; a worm does not have a mental field, and so on. Taking advantage of the modern (or naturalistic) turn allows us to anchor these fields in nature without reducing them to nature. A natural history of these energy fields shows that they emerge in correlation with the degree of complexity of gross form, and both of them together (the form and its corresponding energy) are the UR correlates (or the observable exteriors) of the UL increase in degrees of consciousness.

The graph above shows this emergence in the evolutionary record. If one holds to some sort of vision of a prior Involution, then we could say that these subtle energy patterns were, however lightly “deposited” during Involution. But again not taken literally–for as is clear Involution, energy as described in this post-metaphysical way only itself ex-ists in certain worldspaces. What we define as these terms are what they are for us–and will be negated and their enduring factors preserved later. If not, then just see how they emerge in the record.

[It’s really wild always referencing the interpretive element in arising.]

But anyway, Wilber gives a provisional schema for categorizing the energy patterns and their correlation with degrees of compelxity-consciousness. You can see it here (scroll down midway through page).

It employs the traditional family, genus, species distinction.

families are gross, subtle, and causal.
genus: etheric ( L-1 or biofield-1)
species: 1) red, (2) blue, (3) orange, (4) green

Now a couple of things. The reference to energy speices as neuronal cord, reptilian stem, or say blue, are the energy patterns correlated with those arisings–by humans at a certain pov label as blue, reptilian brain stem, etc.

Brain stem is a matter signifier, blue a structuralist (3px1p) descriptor of interior consciousness. So the energy patterns involved are not signifed by these terms as such, but rather the correlated energy pattern associated. Whatever we are going to call those names, do not ex-ist yet. See footnote 2 for explanation of this.

Second point. In post-metaphysics with the rough distinction between horizontal state (and trained state-stages) and vertical structure stages (levels), energy and mass get very interesting/tricky. Might we say there are corresponding state (stage-stage) energies and structure-stage energies. Footnote 2 refers to microenergetic signature patterns, for things like “blue energy” (corresponding blue signature energy qua probability wave).

Ken once more:

This model allows us to see how an infant can have access to the 3 great states and bodies of gross reality, subtle reality, and causal reality—but not in any developed fashion that would allow it to permanently master those realms. Permanent realization and mastery demands development and evolution through the actual levels/stages, a development that converts “temporary states” to “permanent traits.” Nonetheless, according to Vedanta/Vajrayana, all of the structures/stages/levels of consciousness—whether we say there are 5 of them, or 7 of them, or 12 of them, or more—are all variations on these 3 great realms of consciousness and their 3 supporting bodies or energies.

The reason that model is especially important for subtle energies is that it allows us to see why an infant would possess a gross energy field, a subtle energy field, and a causal energy field (because it wakes, dreams, and sleeps), but it would NOT possess the species and subspecies energy fields that go with the specific stages/levels of consciousness unless it has actually developed those stages. For example, an infant, like an adult, would possess the family energy fields of gross, subtle, and causal, but not the genus subfields such as T-1, T-2, etc.—in exactly the same what that the infant possesses the same general dream state as an adult, but does not yet contain, within that dream state, any thoughts from the stages of blue, orange, yellow, etc.

What does it mean to say that the stages give the content to the states or that stages are basically variations on the great states? The relationship between states and stages is just a portal into greater and greater contemplation, absorption into the mysteriousness of interiority. States as the way to openness, deep love and merciful presence through the hard work of perspectives, transparency.

To quote Padmashambhava: Swooping down with the View (State-Absolute) I climb the mountain of Karma (Stages-Relativity).

In other words, the postulated levels of violet, ultraviolet (and all subsequent sub-stages and all quadratic variations thereof, surface features/deep structures, multiple lines) are a stage instantiation of the Causal Body–what the Tibetans call the Very Subtle.

Very Subtle in this case gives us a sense of the possibilities. Indigo awakens an ego-aware identity and an inner imperative to evolve.

But violet and ultraviolet are the deep and utter immersion of Heart. An entire worldsapce, an entire way of being in this world of being beyond it seems even the push towards evolution. A profound causal-like embrace of all reality, evolution itself being discovered to be whatever it is–since the tier (4th?) has not emerged we have no real idea of what evolution/perspectives are. They are our “IOU” to the KOSMOS. And at this point, there is no way to stop the spin off into a New Agey utopia-sounding discourse, which likely would just get turned into a kind of romantic mush.

The picture above shows a view of the large family units of gross, subtle, and causal energy and their co-emergence (though not reduction to) with certain material forms and corresponding degree of interiority. None of the triad consciousness, form, and energy are reducible to the other–the evolutionary paradigm reveals a worldspace of correlations/intearctions not causality. The reference to the human organism as having 3 bodies and then micro-energentic patterns of the stages, helps with the understanding of the question if all stages are transcend/include then why each new level of human consciousness would not require a separate “brain”–like a new brain stem.

The SF1, SF2 are simply the labels for the yet unnamed and as yet not completely described/detailed brain patterns/configurations associated with certain stages of consciousness. The energy patterns discussed earlier–the genus/species variety–would go with these brain patterns. In other words, neuropsychology is in the process through PET scans and so on of photographing the human mind in certain states/traits of conscioousness. Same basic structure (neocortex-subtle body) with variations on a micro-stage level (SF2, green energy, etc.).

Most technically, neuropsychology uses a certain degree of sophisticated technology which reveals data of the human brain as it appears from inside (not within–which is consciousness, feeling, thought). So that evidence whichi s only accessed by a certain injunction-technology-level of complexity of thought is then read back into the earlier waves, worldspaces.

Part II to follow…

Published in: on September 29, 2006 at 11:32 pm  Comments (2)  


Rather than focus on what I think is this election-year useless distration about the did he/didn’t Clinton versus Al-Qaeda (non)debate, I saw this which to me actually speaks to what is happening, what are frightening possibilities—not blame, which vis a vis al-Qaeda both Clinton and Bush deserve plenty.

This from Global Guerillas on new events–not well reported to my knowledge, surprise–concerning Pakistan.

First the backdrop:

1. Autonomy to rebels. After the loss of a reported 3,000 troops, Pakistan has ceded the tribal areas of Waziristan (population: 800,000) to pro-Taliban local rule. Weapons will be returned, outposts will be abandoned, and compensation will be paid.

2. Safe haven for the Taliban. Pakistan has cut a ceasefire with the Taliban’s Mullah Omar. Pakistani troops will no longer hunt down the Taliban (and likely al Qaeda) in Pakistan. This ceasefire also prevents US/NATO troops from crossing the border to pursue Taliban forces.

3. Exporting guerrillas to gain good-will. 2,500 Taliban and al Qaeda militants have been released from Pakistani jails (under the stipulation that they will leave Pakistan).

In other words, al-Qaeda (original al-Qaeda) now has another Taliban-like Afghanistan. Doesn’t mean they will have their base camps reconstituted tomorrow, but they now have the most important thing they need—a tribal area, not easily accessed, that is free from NATO/American interference, even aerial bombing it seems.

Pakistan needs/wants a Taliban-like or the Taliban itself government re-installed in Afghanistan. Pakistan being one of only 3 countries to diplomatically recognize the Taliban–another being the Saudis.

In this scenario though, unlike the Soviet experience, Musharraf may become the target of this AQ virus. In the Soviet guerilla campaign, the Pakistani security services had strong control /influence over the Afghan Mujihadeen. Not so this time around. There have been multiple–and nearly successful–attempts on Musharraf’s life in the last couple of years. Robb suggests a move towards more systems disruption/networking attacks to bring him down than a direct frontal assault on Musharraf himself.

This is a frigthening scenario given how much of our security the US/West has farmed out to Musharraf. Pakistan recall being a nuclear power.

But even if Pakistan’s government is not in danger–and I’m not sure how far I would push this line of thought–the point of which there is no real debate is that Waziristan is now al-Qaeda’s base. And that the NATO-effort in Afghanistan is failing and may collapse within a year. Plus the strategies of open-source 4GW warfare outlined by John Robb certainly could do massive damage within Pakistan.

Fortunately bin Laden is still left with a desire for big scale attacks and personal involvement at too many levels. This gives the West some chances (the British airlines plot foiled for example).

But our military has been seriously wounded by the Iraqi effort, Afghanistan can’t hold on as it is for much longer, and our homeland security is an aboslute disaster [failure to both Democrats and Republicans]. If the methods of open-source systems disruptions were brought to the US, our narcissism and emotionally reactive political environment would cause millions if not billions of dollars in loss–as we saw with the bottled water nonsense–and who knows what else would fall out politically.

Our best hope in all of this, is that by and large North American Muslims (US and Canadian) have not adopted the ideology of al-Qaeda. As Robert Pape, author of Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism, points out, the main motivator of suicide terrorism is occupation not fundamentalism per se. bin Laden’s criticisms of the US have always been of a foreign policy nature—not our social-ethical constructs. He thinks we are all damned anyway, he could care less; he just doesn’t want our infidel selves messing around in his backyard.

North American Muslims are by and large integrated in our society. They are not occupied. In Western Europe, they are in a sense an occupied/marginalized sub-system within the larger society.

It is foreign occupation that drives suicide terrorism more than anything. The reason jihadis in Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia seek to overthrow their governments is that they view them as foreign entities–and in the language of Islamic neo-fundamentalism as jahiliya (pagan infidels)–the one supporting the other.

Seen in this light, the perogative is to start splintering such groups into those that can be co-opted and those that can not. Not to unite them under abstract slogans of “Islamic fascism.”

Published in: on September 27, 2006 at 7:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Big News

This version according to my special lady friend (see left)—today’s guest blogger.

And the story goes like this…

Last Saturday (the 16th), I hung out with my friends Sarah and Ashley at Second Beach for International Peace Day. The sun was shining and we had a great time but Sarah said she had to get going so she could go pick up Bella (her Mom’s dog) from her sister at Jericho Beach. My Aunt Marilyn lives right there and I knew she was sick so I told the girls that I was going to stop by and give her a hug while they went to intercept Bella.

Marilyn and I are very much alike and can chat til the cows come home. While we were talking my phone kept ringing off the hook but I would just silence it so we didn’t get interrupted. Little did I know a huge surprise awaited me at the beach and there was no Bella, but Marilyn and I kept giggling and carrying on. Finally I answered the call (after 10 times it gets a little annoying) and Sarah was asking if I was coming down soon. I said maybe I’d just meet them back at the car instead of the beach. I soon realize they really just want me to meet them down there, so whatever, I walk over.

As I turn the corner from some trees, there’s Chris. At first I thought it was a coincidence that he was at Jericho too. Then I see that there’s a table beside him. It registers immediately then what’s going on by the candles, champagne, flowers etc on the table. This is the day I’ve been squirming for. He’s going to PROPOSE!!!! All that came out of my mouth though was “Oh no, oh no…”

Wasting no time, Chris got down on one knee and asked me if I would marry him. Sarah and Ashley fell to pieces crying and a group of onlookers started clapping!! I said “No”.
No, I said “Yes, yes, yes, of course!”

We sat down and ate Prawn Caesar salad that he had made and delicious pumpkin pie! Ashley and Sarah helped him with all the little details- everything was blue and green (mermaid theme) and there were chocolates, seashells and so many beautiful touches.
How romantic!!

We plan to have a long engagement (2-3 years).
I am so incredibly happy with him, life and ……my ring!


Published in: on September 25, 2006 at 8:51 pm  Comments (7)  

Clinton Goes Madcap

Bill Clinton was interviewed recently by Chris Wallace of FoxNews Sunday. Clinton goes off for what he feels is underhanded questioning. Watch the video first—available here.

The anger revolves around the allegations that Clinton while president did not do enough to combat al-Qaeda. The new book Looming Tower is mentioned as is the controversial ABC docu-drama aired a few weeks back.

One–Clinton just came (as he mentions) from an event to raise moneys for his Global Initiative Camapigns. The future, good he is trying to do. And I can see getting exasperated over questions about the past, re-hasing what is dead, staid.

Two–and thsi Clinton does not specifically mention but is behind all of this. Why the timing? The 9/11 report has been out, Richard Clarke’s book has been out for years, Peter Bergen’s two books on Osama have been out…. The answer, seems fairly obvious to me, are the upcoming midterm elections.

Karl Rove has used this startegy. He attacks his opponents STRENGTHS not weaknesses through randomly constructed and sanitized third-parties. Ann Richards’ ability to reach across aisles in Texas (she’s a lesbian); John Kerry’s war record (he was a traitor); and John McCain’s time as POW (he’s a little crazy) and his adopted Indian daughter (he’s got a black baby).

The Republicans know that if the Nov. election is nationalized they will go down in flames. Most likely losing both houses of Congress. They also know the Preisident is “radioactive” and that 2 term presidents’ party suffer historically in the 6th year of their term.

Rove however has been weakened by the Plame investigation, the negative turn of events in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the sense that there fundamentally is no policy with this Administration in the so-called War on Terror. Rove has never lost an election, but his time may be running out—I would never say never with this guy and America though.

But to the substance of the interview.

Wallace begins by asking why Clinton did not do enough on terrorism—Clinton’s pointed responses eventually get Wallace to ask “Did you feel you did enough in office?”

Wallace cites the withdrawal from Somalia in ’93, the African Embassy Bombings, and the Cole attack.

Clinton of course has reaosn to defend his policy, which he does but only up until a point.

It is true that bin Laden did claim that the American withdrawal from Somalia (Black Hawk Down) clued him [bin Laden] into the notion that America was a paper tiger.

1. Nobody knew bin Laden at that point. Bin Laden will find any piece of evidence he can to use in his propaganda war. This is pretty much a red herring in my book.

2. More importantly, Clinton was forced out of Somalia in large measure because of the Republican controlled Congress.

It is important to remember where the Republican party was in the aftermath of the devasting 92 election defeat of George HW Bush. At the 92 Republican Convention, Pat Bucahanan gave his (in)famous opening address (text here) where he declared there was a religious war, a cultural battle for the soul of America and that Bill Clinton was on the wrong side.

George H.W. Bush as an Episcopalian never won the trust of the evangelicals–even though he was easily more religious than the divorcee, Hollywood, pro-choice Reagan. He also faced an insurgency from Perot and the greatest candidate the Democrats have put possibly since Truman.

In the wake of that loss, the Republicans were becoming more aligned with social conservatism and diplomatic isolationism. Somalia came on the heels of the failure of the US intervention force in Haiti–another issue that cost Bush 41 his presidency.

We did not then nor have now the proper military-political nexus to do nation-building. Clinton is as to blame for that as is Bush 43. But for right-wing elements to insinuate that Clinton is solely to blame for the Somalia mess is abysmal–one of the key figures in calling for an even earlier withdrawal from the horn of Africa was Sen. Robert Dole, Clinton’s later Presidential Opponent.

Clinton mentions that Richard Clarke, the only man who has really ever understood the threat of al-Qaeda to this nation, did forge a comprehensive strategy to deal with AQ. Clinton put multiple hits out on bin Laden (as he mentions in the interview) and did one at least one occassion come close to a successful kill.

Unfortunately Clarke’s temperment was his own worst enemy it seems, particularly under Bush 43, in promoting his point of view—-he was only one of a very few who truly understood the threat posed by al-Qaeda.

During those same years, the other element of conservative foreign policy thought was the neoconservative wing. Clinton again correctly identifies them as forces that during the 90s were opposed to actions against AQ.

Because the neocons, particularly Paul Wolfowitz the real mastermind of the movement, were only interested in Syria, Iran, and most especially Iraq.

George W. Bush tried in his first adminstration to bring both both these conservative foreign policy wings together: realists and neocons. What united them was their policy of not following the Clinton interventionist model. Bush also tried of course to link police actions against al-Qaeda with regime change in the Middle East (a neocon principle).

That attempted union is fraying militarily and has lost support domestically.

So attack Clinton from whom Bush inherited the issues of Iran, North Korea, Iraq, and al-Qaeda.

Clinton did fail–as he admits in this interview. The bombing of the so-called chemical plant in Sudan after the Embassy bombings was pathetic. And his lack of an invasion of Afghanistan after the Cole Bombings was a mistake.

One he mentions and says that he needed support from the CIA which he did not receive. Also he would may not have received the Congressional (Republican) mandate necessary for such an action.

In other words, Clinton, the Republican congress, and President Bush have failed–each responsible in different ways–for the foreign policy failures of the last decade, particularly in regards to Salafi terrorism and failed states.

Published in: on September 24, 2006 at 2:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

GSC: Global South Christianity

Just finished reading Philip Jenkins’ book The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South. It is the followup to his even more brilliant (I would say) work The Next Christendom.

In The Next Christendom, Jenkins laid out the argument for the Third Church–the Church of the Global South: African, Asian, and Latin American. A summary here. The Third Church means the third mass “paradigm” of Christianity. 1. Jewish Christianity–Jesus, the Apostles, James his Brothers and Family and the initial converts. 2. Gentile Christianity: Orthodox, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism–ME and European dominated Christianity. 3. Christianity fo the South. The “New” Gentiles.

Although technically the Global South doesn’t fit perfectly because some of the strongest rising movements are in China, Korea, and Taiwan. Not exactly South. I’m going to be focusing almost entirely on sub-Saharan Africa anyway, so Global South works in that context.

Christianity is fast dying out in the Middle East and Orthodox Europe–both threatened by rising Islam from one side and secularism from the other–as well as in Western Europe/Canada/liberal US. And within those countries the groups that do still attend church are first or second generation Third Church-ers: Latino immigrants over Irish/Italian/German Catholics in US; Ugandans, Nigerians in England; Koreans in Canada.

In the New Faces of Christianity, Jenkins lays out the worldview/theologies of this growing churches. One interesting piece he raises is how strongly the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament in old parlance) is for sub-Saharan Africans.

The Hebrew scriptures are filled with imagery/events familiar to those from sub-Saharan Africa–or the Global South more generally.

To name just a few: clan warfare, pervasive dis-ease/plagues, infant mortality-early death, patriarchal structures, polygamy, famines, agricultural lifestyle, exorcisms, the reality of demonic-spiritual forces and warfare, pagansim, refugees, genocide, corrupt monarchs, existence of different religions–i.e. Hinduism in India; Islam in sub-sah Africa.

For educated, wealthy (by historical/third world status) Westerners, none of those are a reality. Not as an existential threat. Of course there are communicable diseases that educated and poor can and do share alike (e.g. AIDS) but even here think of the difference in treatment. Or with natural disasters, the response or flight ability of those with resources.

Modern Western humanity does not rely primarily on a god-figure or the Bible more specifically. We rely more principally on technology, media, self-power, capital markets, education, and the god of rationality.

For this reason the great German theologian (20th c.) Rudolf Bultmann called for a de-mythologization of Christianity. What he meant was that the mythology (the mythic meme) within which the Bible was written was not that of the modern, economically viable, educated Westerner. The two worldspaces were separate and to Bultmann’s mind essentially unbridgable.

Rather than trying to leave one’s brain at the church door, Bultmann suggested an existential re-interpretation of Christian myth for modern Westerners. For modern Westerners the greatest plague is in most cases not any of the daily grinds of poverty mentioned in the African context, but rather that of loneliness, meaningless, and anomie. Both groups feel a deep sense of powerlessness in their own ways. The Christian proclamation of the Resurrection is an overcoming not of the forces of spiritual demons but the inner demons of a isolated, loveless modern existence. That is our crucifixion–God redeems us in our death of understanding, traditions, and sense of purpose to life.

Then Liberation Theologies came along–sometimes from members of the Global South but often ones educated in Europe and European thought streams….e.g. Latin American Catholic theologians. Liberation theologians came along and said that by looking through the lens of critical postmodern hermeneutics–Marxist, feminist, traditions of the other/neglected, queer studies, ecological, etc.–that Chrstians either stood on the sides of the forces of oppression or those of reconciliation/empowerment. The latter often being labelled under the term “inclusion.”

What both the modernist and postmodernist turns have deeply to admit–though they often try to hide this fact–is that they have taken other norms, other lenses as constitutive of the Biblical faith for their age. One of saying that more “orthodox” would be to say that say a lens of the Other (from say Levinas) has taught us to read the deeper meaning of the Exodus story: that God chooses the weak to shame the strong, in the words of St. Paul.

Others have been more upfront about the developmetn of the tradition. In the recent controversy in the Anglican communion over the ordination to a bishop of a divorced, openly-gay man in a non-celibate partnership, Gene Robinson (the man in question) said that just because the Bible and the tradition have always said that homosexuality is wrong, that does not end the discussion.

That is not to say that these themse are not within the Biblical texts, but these readings do not arise separate from the hermeneutics employed, nor the contexts that bring them forth–namely the modern and postmodern Western worlds.

The Bible for all of its other insights was written in a mythic context. A world in which such elements that we would term mythic were not questioned. Nor believed in fundamentally—they were just never questioned.

And the Bible, and for the Christian the New Testament/gospel offers itself as the source of all wisdom as to achieving salvation in a mythic world. As does the Quran for Islam.

For sub-Saharan Africa, given the worldspace that the majority reside in, these two books are the ones that are becoming the source of wisdom/guidance. They are building up to this mythc world and can not afford any picking/choosing of the Biblical texts in the manner of the Western reader.

[Of course there is always picking/choosing, but I mean a fundamental questioning of core pieces of the Bible itself].

It is in this context that the recent declaration of heresy on the part of a majority of Global South Anglican churches (except the more liberal South Africa) over the issue of homosexuality.

It is unforuntate the the debate has centered around homosexuality and caused homosexuals to be discriminated against. The debate fundamentally is not about homosexuality but about the need for what the Bible can be in different worldviews. Or to put it more simply, how we understand the Bible. Its meaning, its authority in our lives, especially for moral decision making.

For the African Churches the Bible must be the source for all such lifeworld shaping. Jenkins quotes the Anglican Nigerian hierarchy who write (my emphasis): “The primary presupposition is a high view of Scripture as inerrant [ed: does not err] and a sufficient guide in all matters of faith and conduct, such that its ethics and injunctions are of timeless relevance, notwithstanding man’s constant tendency to hop from one ethical paradigm to another.” (Jenkins, p.3)

It is in this light that we should read condemnations of homosexuality coming from these Southern churches. In a world in which they have no governments to rely on, in fact when any contact with a government official is one of bribery, torture, theft, or worse. In a world, especially in Africa, that is deemed politically a non-liability/non-interest (see the US’s pusilianimous response by leaving Darfur to the UN), when they are left to die of AIDS on a scale unimagined in our minds as Western leaders mouth slogans about how it would be “hard” to get medicines to people and to get them to take their pill regimens, when there is so little in the way of Foreign Investment, there is only one reality to turn to for help: a god. A high god.

And the gods of traditional Africans have left them. Have been killed or gone away. Population dislocations, wars, de-colonialism, genocides, all these have been stronger than those traditional local animistic gods. Though one meets their followers and hears the echoes still, but the voice becomes fainter.

The traditional pre-colonial African world no longer is there–not the landscape, not the inner life world, and not the spirits who could be worshipped or be effective in those spheres.

To quote Jenkins again:

“The figures are startling. Between 1900 and 2000, the number of Christians in Africa grew from 10 million to over 360 million, fromm 10% of the population to 46%. If that is not, quantitatively, the largest religious change in human history in such a short period, I am at a loss to think of a rival…we can predict that by 2050, there should be around 3 billion Christians in the world, of whom only around 1/5 or fewer will be non-Hispanic whites.” (p.9)

The overwhelming bulk of that growth of course is in sub-Saharan Africa, Northern Africa remaining Muslim. And if add Islam into the mix, we see sub-Saharan Africa moving from an animist to a traditional world religious scheme.

Historically those religions have always been allied–in their mythic forms–with an imperial agenda. And that could bode ill for further violence between the two religions. Sadly, even in their points of union, there are awful platforms (from the Western pov). Anglican Primate of Nigeria Peter Akinola has supported the criminalization of homosexuality (with a possible death sentence) in Nigerian states under Islamic sharia. He said that homosexuality is evil from the point of view of the Bible, the Quran, and traditional African sensibilities (hence its a Western degraded colonial import).

But for Northern liberals who cry foul, they should recall that they have offered nothing to Africa to rely on. They are the descendents of colonialists, the diamonds on their wives fingers coming from AFrica mines, their international aid perverted by local strongmen, and the West’s continued negligence of the continent.

What other resources are there for these people to live their lives?

Minus economic connection/skills and security umbrellas provided by the West/China, who else can they call for help, if not God–how else will they know him (and its definitely a him in this case) without a text with clear specifications–or what they will interpret to be clear instructions anyway?

When we are righteous against someone, we forget that we already love that person.

Published in: on September 23, 2006 at 5:50 pm  Leave a Comment  


Matthew has finally posted his longer piece on Humanities–what originally was a more direct rebuttal of me that became a larger piece.

First off, congrats to him. In my view it’s a well-written piece–if nothing else it makes his case clearly, whether or not one buys it.

Joe P. has given his responses with I would point the reader to for a more critical response. Here and here. In the second, Joe distilles Alasdair MacIntyre’s argument against the so-called Great Books Program. MacIntyre mentions Harold Bloom and William Bennett by name, but thinks his criticism works across the board for similar minded studies.

I’m not usually a fan of these types of debates. I don’t really per se have a dog in this race. I think they tend towards re-entreching egoity of thought and feeling. But Matthew does in one place specifically ask for some clarification on my part and has rightly nudged me towards further conversation on these points.

As a prelude….and I don’t think I’ve made this clear enough, when approaching the Great Books Program/Classical Education I agree with Matthew on a number of points.

Matthew writes:

I simply mean here to point out that to use any theory by definition requires one to subordinate the importance of taking the gestures, ideas, words, markings, utterances, proportions, forms, images, metaphors, and implications forwards by works of the Canon on their own terms, and non-systematically allowing your imagination to organically make connections the arise from the internal logic of a particular work or piece as well as from one to another. After all, the patriarch of the University of Chicago’s “Great Works” initiative, which became the Basic Program of Liberal Education for adults, famously reminded us that the Canon comprises a “great conversation” between thinkers and artists across time and space and epochs. Another way of saying this is to define the Canon this way — that which has demonstrably influenced great artists and thinkers, in their own work.

I was raised more or less in this tradition. I received a very classical-humanistic Catholic education vis a vis the Jesuits–especially in high school. I think there is far too much lunacy in our world and deep immersion in these texts holds profound value. And is a lifelong venture, no doubt.

As I would tend to put it, when doing hermeneutics, we should do hermeneutics. That is if we are going to follow the Chicago “method”, then we should follow it. And Matthew has outlined it succintly. It requires attitudes like Gadmar’s “sympathy” with the text and the mind/feelings of the author. Entering the author’s world as best as we can.

And Matthew is right to do this properly means to let go, as much as any of us ever can, of preconceptions, systems, theories and the like. To me that possiblity is never 100%; more asymptotic to the X axis. Getting closer and closer but never actually touching the line.

But to the degree that we have conscious intention, we must let go of those barriers for the time we undertake hermeneutics. And by theories I agree that larger systematic ones like structuralism are not properly involved at this moment.

There are “theories” if you like in hermeneutics such as in Biblical hermeneutics “form criticism”. Which is to study the form (usually oral) that a story, to the best we can reconsstruct, existed prior to its being written down, say in the Gospels. There’s source criticism, redaction criticism, literary Biblical criticism–all serve their place and yet there is still a deep personal immediacy with the text at hand.

My only general disagreement, if this is a disagreement hard to tell anymore frankly, is whether structuralism has any place. For me there it is not a stark either/or choice. I know the post-structuralist themselves want to make it that way, but that is why, for example with Derrida, I said even if a person follows his method (as its supposed to be done) it still fails in a whole mess of ways. I think it succeeds in just a very small few. And if people can find those same worthwhile points through other sources than by all means. I’m not married to it.

But that brings us back to Jacques D. Its funny he is the one who has come up because I actually am not that connected to him as a thinker–even among post-structuralism. I just used him as an example orginally because I felt his method was the easiest to explicate.

Where I got the two step Derridian process from—a direct query from Matthew–my graduate philosophy instructor on post-structuralism.

And just a note, point 1 in this method was “read the whole canon”. I didn’t mean that to come off so literally, if it did, that was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. So, something like read as much as is generally assumed to be needed to get a basic competency. I don’t know what that is exactly, but whatever we mean by having a decent understanding of the basic Western heritage.

I don’t know any where Derrida mentions this two-step method specifically, but every text I’ve ever read of his uses its ad nauseam.

The example I’ve cited beofre on this blog is hsi dialogue with Habermas on 9/11.

Step 1: “read” the traditional way of responding. We hear language of 9/11 creating a post 9/11 and pre 9/11 worldview (one I’ve used myself, check the last post). That bin Laden has inaugurated a new style of warfare and this like episodes in the Balkans (see Ghosts of Balkans, R.Kaplan for example) are the product of the post Cold War world. When there is no longer the two great polar ice sheets of capitalism and communism over the world, these hot local wars flare up that had been frozen under the suface during the 20th century.
Plus the event was televised for the world to see.

Notice the inside/outside of this interpretation, dominant/submissive. post Cold War over Cold War being a big one. Total consciousness/presence over absence, blindspots of sense perception.

Step 2: Re-read the episode through the lens of the underside and deconstruct.

So doing this we see that in many ways bin Laden is actually not post Cold War but totally Cold War to the hilt. He learned his art fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. The mujhadeen were funded by the CIA–the total Cold Warriors. Afghanistan being a total fallout and continued after effects of a Cold War world (the effects of absence, a big theme in his work).

And moreover no one actually saw just the event–as the event occurred their filters were already working. There are still unanswered questions about the attack (conspiracists notwithstanding).

Now, and this is a big NOW, I unlike Derrida do not think that this underside reading totally and irrevocably deconstructs the first narrative. Just as I do not think his writing does the same for the history of Western thought nor literature.

I think both the first story and the Derridian story are both true to degrees and a more whole enterprise incorporates both. The ways in which bin Laden was both influenced by and moved beyond Cold War era assumptions.

But back to the larger issue of the canon and everything else.

As I would put by doing hermeneutics, which is to me what the Humanistic readings are about, the reader is not a fool or naive buffoon. That is not what I meant by pre-critical, and if it came off that way, that was not my intent.

Joe is arguing from a developmental logic—green postmodernism reveals facts/interpretations not available to the supposed orange of Great Books. MacIntyre’s argument argues that the GB, which MacInt. feels is modernist, does not stand up to the criticisms of postmodernity.

My point was more about perspective. Hermeneutics, for me, with its close-reading and sympathy with the text, back and forth socratic method, does not, I feel, give the reader a perspective on other forces occurrin at the same time. Hermeneutics goes all the way up and down in a developmental scheme–if one holds some truth to that model. And this blindspot, as I’m arguing, would stay up and down that vertical line.

Generically that point is argued by the metaphor of trees. Hermeneutics as an interior perspective requires being up close with the trees while structuralism (or other such 3rd person witnessing perspectives) requires sitting up on the hillside while allows one to see the forest.

Neither alone is good enough. Structures/stages ex-ist nowhere in the universe except in the minds of those categorizing them. It is an observational, non-participatory stance. That’s why Matthew says that Wilberian thought, as one example, doesn’t add anything to hermeneutics. Which is right in that limited sense. It only is meant to point out that it is part of your reality and you should become more and more hermeneutical. Or whatever.

To get upu and close and personal with life, with people, with history, events, texts, works of art. Because those are the only things that actually embody in this world.

However, it is equally necessary to take steps back and look for patterns. And often postmodernism taught those patterns/structures throughout history through the modern world were in many ways very destructive. I came to through this postmodern turn not through Derrida, Foucault, Nietzsche, etc. But originally through Liberation Theology. Through Catholicism that is.

Although to be fair, in my case liberation theology used Marxist analysis, but did so in a non-reductionistic way….at is best that is. In other words, the postmodernism I went through was a non-relativistic kind (a “healthy green” some would say). So I fit all the other PM tracts (Frankfurt, post-structuralists) in through that lens, not the other way round. Which as I said before is a different emphasis/reading of those texts than the authors themselves would have allowed or even their later (mis?)interpreters. But there it is.

Matthew thinks that type of perspective can be gained through the hermeneutics he outlines alone. He says that is where we disagree and he’s right. That is where we disagree.

As an example, take Gadamer. His “guidlines” for hermeneutics do in fact bring one into greater and greater immersion with a text/author/community of interpreters/history of effects. But Gamdar has no criteria for determining which is a better and which is a worse text. Now Matthew suggests Paglia’s definition for the canon as the works that have “demonstrably influenced artists across the ages”. I don’t have a problem with that.

And further Matthew asks how artists should be using the canon—immersing themselves in it and contributing further to it. All of which gives as he says an self-organizing nature to the discipline. Again, I agree with that.

All of which to me is a good description of how the Beautiful needs to be done. Matthew is an artist writing for artists. Artists in the broad sense. I imagine–because I am not an artist this is a guess–that for artists excessive or maybe even any structuralist tendencies destroy artistic inspiration.

So others have other roles to perform. What is Beautiful is not necessarily what is Just/moral. Since I’m mostly writing from the True/Good setup, I think the Beautiful alone does not give often enough sufficient perspective on the Good. Numerous examples could be mentioned–Picasso’s blindness towards the evils of Communism/Socialism.

My thoughts then are just an extended version of a Both/and argument. Paglia’s definition of the canon seems to satisfy the initial quandary with Gadamer–which are good and which are bad works from within the landscape of Art/Beautiful.

But it still to me does not answer a more pressing issue: which ones are more moral and just for society, which less so? Is Beauty always good or the more needed in a moment?

But for me it is not supposed to. That’s not Art’s job, to put it way too crudely. I’m just saying people should be aware of its strengths and limitations. And when needed, use other tools. So if artists don’t want to use those analysis bc they break them off from immediacy with the moment, that’s fine. Just leave those who are doing other work to do their work.

MD pointed out a while ago, that he noticed a critical quasi-Derridian sense to my writings. It’s there, he’s properly picked up on it, but it’s not Derridian. It’s Biblical-prophetic. I think its not insignificant, though secular, that Derrida and Marx were both Jewish. And that Derrida’s final writings were interested in of all things apophatic mystical theology–though again he reduced it to his own system which was a mistake.

Paul Tillich once said that in America there was never a Fall. The Fall never happened in the mind of [white middle/upper class] Americans that is. By Fall, Tillich in his theological existential interpretation, means an element of tragic sorrow inherent in every moment of existence. Not unlike the Buddhist notino that all unenlightened life involves suffering (dukkha).
American theology, as I’ve argued many other points throughout this blog, is a Calvinistic theology of blessing. For most that is secularized as the American Dream.

It has it’s good and bad points no doubt. But the darkest side of the blessing theology, in my mind, is that if things go wrongly in one’s life one is therefore cursed by God. Or the Market if you will. The reason one is cursed, in most regards, then is one hasn’t worked hard enough (Protestant Work Ethic) or more traditionally, one does not have the proper faith.

In political and social terms, as I’ve said before, this framework has made America the best country for religious diversity and political pluralism. Relative to other nations, not in some absolute terms. Still all kinds of problems with it and our history, but relative to others it is better.

The most quoted American theological statement of faith is: God helps those who help themselves. Which doesn’t even appear in the Bible, but rather the writings of Andrew Carnegie and is to me, a deeply un-Biblical, even idolatrous point of view.

In moral-theological-spiritual-philosophical terms, I lie with the Catholic Western European tradition. Even in the moments where an individual feels “saved” or “blessed” or does receive such things–if they are in any sense real, whatever they would mean–the rest of life is still deeply painful. People still suffer. The world is still deeply broken by sin. And for Christians our beings are never fully converted to Christ. No matter what state of stage of consciousness in however many lines. No matter how many conversions we’ve helped bring about, or the number who come to our church, how many social service activities we’ve accomplished, or how “inclusive” our church, how beautiful our art, how successful we are in any pursuit.

We still fall short of the glory. Humility, as Br. Wayne Teasdale said, was simply to learn how conditioned we are. There are only layers then of realizing the depths of our own conditioning–just as much as there is development and necessary achievement.

But still we have to do something. By reading the Liberation Theologians, I realized that my faith my reading intellect scholarship does not and can not ex-ist in a moral vacuum. It is either working with the Gospel Values or it is not. To degrees in both directions of course, mixtures of the two, but there it is.

And I did find that insight from Western European (or Western European educated non-Europeans) currents in theology and philosophy. My interest in more in competenecies–so if someone can point out ways in which those same insights are garnered through a different set of writings, I’m fine with that.

If, as Matthew thinks, the European tradition is too foreign to the US soil, then I’m open to someone finding the same insights in a more American garb. Since I do hold to a general stage conception in the sense that people live in different mental worlds and that I believe those worlds develop in a general sequence and can’t be skipped, then I am able to advocate both a Great Books like program–even if it is only an “orange” version of one which I don’t think all necessarily are or at least have to be–and at the same advocate a postmodern “hermeneutics of suspicion” and a “suspicion of the suspicion” (known as integral).

Because none of those to me ex-ist separate from the needs of the individuals/groups being taught.

I mean that a person should not be introduced to the hermeneutics of suspicion until they have shown adequate competency in hermeneutics/history. Structuralism is strong vodoo, and we all know what happens when Mickey Mouse apprentices dabble with the magic reserved for the Master.

Just as perhaps people shouldn’t be introduced to the strong currents of integral and Wilberian thought until they have sufficiently gone through the suspicious hermeneutic (and the previous hermeneutic).

Or just start with Habermas and try to go from there—good luck–and try to leapfrog to a more balanced approach.

The argument has been made that these memes have so filtered in through society that educated individuals in the West are already introduced to modern/postmodern–which is different than the knowledge of perspectives and which perspectives give which kinds of experiences/knowledge. That maybe. I don’t know.

I’m speaking more for those with a strong academic intellectual bent. The integral, if it is a wave, will have its popularizations and its general level of people who are just not that interested in all these debates. I’m not suggesting those individuals should join me–I’m just writing for those who for whatever reason are already interested in such issues.

This has been my path to where I am–I think its idosyncratic in multiple ways but shares certain insights that might be of use to others. Matthew and Joe are the ones to read if you are looking for a more concrete prescriptive model for Education. Mine’s more descriptive.

All of which, again, is for me just a further unpacking of what Matthew correctly labeled our disagreement. i.e. I seee the need for a method of taking steps back and becoming structural at times. And that does, from the position of inner hemeneutics, violate the text. But only the hermeneutic inner method, to me violates certain needs for politics/morals. And all of us are going to violating to degrees.

Whereas Matthew thinks that ability can be gained from within by its own standards.

That disagreement was summed as my saing that post-metaphysical Wilber-5 gave perspective on perspective; for him perspective of perspective came from reading the canon.

In other words, we are using pespective differently. We feel it differently, not just think it so.

I’m typically going to be leaning towards the structural/political avenues; Matthew to the hermeneutical/artistic ones.

This being the last piece I’m going to do on this, I just want to leave the reader with the one point on which the three of us (Joe, MD, myself) agree: humanistic education in the West is dead–or at least seriously ill.

Published in: on September 20, 2006 at 8:04 pm  Comments (2)  

Benedict-ion III

Some final thoughts on Benedict—the uproar, backlash, defenses, and the like.

I spent the last long one establishing Benedict’s Roman ecclesiocentricism. The Western Augustinian doctrine and the Church and its sacramental/institutinoal/charitable processes are the only hope for fallen humanity.

Those are views I do not agree with. Those sum up, in large measure, much of the rationale behind my decision to leave the Roman Catholic Church. But the Pope is the Pope and is free to express views I find ignorant–not completely so by any stretch but some definite deep flaws in my estimation.

But that aside, should he have said what he said?

There are differences, big differences as well as enormous similarities between Christianity and Islam.

In Islam, for example, there is no Original Sin. Adam sinned but God forgave him. All humans are born with the will to choose to do good and thereby receive everlasting reward. Prophet Muhammad, though deeply respected, is not a Savior. There is no Incarnation. In fact, technically there is no conversion to Islam. Islam considers itself the Primal Religion, which those since Adam have forgotten. Hence Islam does not seek conversion but rather refers to its mission as a “calling back”. [There’s a deep mystical truth, that the Sufis picked up on, to that theme–remembrance, anamesis. But that for another time].

On that level, Christianity and Islam can work together towards greater understanding, respect, and work together for justice and morals in this world. All of which Benedict desires. But on the religious level there is no over-arching agreement to be had. Christianity is going to be Christianity; Islam Islam. Not just at the so-called literalist level, but further up the chain.

I generally lean, in the post 9/11 world, to a position of self-moral censure. Or at the very least deep considered thought of the likely negative outcomes of wading into this Islamic debate from the outside in a blogospheric/instant communication world, when one holds a position of such authority as does the Pope.

By self-moral censor I mean knowing that it is not always just a question of rights but also responsibilities and consequences. You may have the right to say something, but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily wise to do so.

Like I said, I think the Pope could have made more explicit in the speech—assuming he wanted to?–that he distanced himself from Manuel II. He repeatedly emphasized he didn’t want to weigh in on the matters because it would have distracted him from his main point. That’s a little different in my book from repudiating some of the more extraneous views therein.

I think self-censor pulls the rug out from PC anti-hate speech bs. As in the piece I linked to in the first installment of this triad from the Guardian. The idea that nothing should be said in our world in public that offends people. That offending groups is in and of itself clear evidence that whatever was said was malicious.

I don’t believe that at all. Which is why I support, depending on the situation, individuals censoring themselves whenever necessary so that line of thinking doesn’t come up.

Obviously I do think we should, as much as we can, always seek to speak honrably, to take others opinions/sensitivities/feelings into account, but there are going to be disagreements, whether intended or otherwise.

Now on the other hand, I do support free speech. Anne Applebaum’s piece has been floating around the b-sphere calling for the West to apologize less and support free speech more. Benedict is not responsible for the death of a nun in Somalia killed, it appears, in reaction to this speech. Nor the violent protesting–which one has to ask only serves to strengthen the point perhaps and make (elements of) Islam look violent and irrational.

The individuals responsible are those who perpetrate violence. If people, like myself, disagree with the Pope’s words then show your displeasure by writing letters, speaking out, showing how the Pope was wrong. Whatever.

There is no excuse for violence. No matter how profound people’s suffering. I can sympathize with the anger and the fact that the real anger is towards the humiliation and the oppression people feel domestically and that the only allowed outlet for such autonomy/fighting back is against the West. But there is no excuse. Period. It is wrong and abhorrent to the religion of the Quran.

But this post 9/11 world is one in which those in positions of authority have to ask themselves every time they speak around this issue to consider the possible negative consequences. Ray Harris has said that Islam is failing.

I think that’s only part of the story. A phase of Islam is dying, and actually this phase will never die out completely, but it will (if God wills it) lose its primacy/strangehold on the faith. Islam is in the middle of its Reformation.

Ray writes:

It’s also simply about bullying and intimidation. The fundamentalists know that their base is being steadily eroded by free speech. They know that the only way they can protect their absurd beliefs is by suppressing criticism. Islam has maintained its power by oppression. The very reason the gates of ijtihad were closed was to prevent Islam disintegrating into a thousand sects.

Imagine this – every Muslim is given the freedom to question the Koran. The laws against blasphemy and apostasy are all removed. There are no consequences if you declare your disbelief or convert to another religion. What happens next?

The imaginary scenario misses a key point. Namely that one of the problems now facing Islam–which it has faced in different forms though not to this degree recurrently in its history–is that in fact many….though by no means a great majority as in the West…..are in fact giving their own interpretations to the Quran/Islam and the traditional class is unable to stop them.

Its not just that the fundamentalists, who appear then to be the old guards, are losing their base and fighting a rearguard. Actually in many cases its the fundamentalists, even the jiahdis, who are the cutting edge of exegesis, theology, etc.

In Sunni Islam, particularly, which is what most of this is really about—Shia Islam, Iran, uses this as everything else to play its political gambit that the West is so stupidly ignoring (i.e. France and US).

Sunni interpretation used to be held by the ulema–the legal scholars. In Sunni Islam there is no tradition of ordination like Christian priests, except in Shia. Imans, muftis, etc. are more like local Baptist preachers–men who have read the text (Bible, Quran) and are considered experts and lead prayers, give spiritual advice, etc.

Colonialism fundamentally destroyed the traditional hold of that class and its traditional theological practice. As Philip Jenkins notes, only since the 1950s has religion relied primarily on reading the actual words.

I was reminded of this fact after attending mass the other day where the Eucharist Prayers were chanted. Its a point Karen Armstrong often cites as well. Prior to the modern age, people came to contact these ancient texts primarily through common worship. And most do still throughout the world today. There was a way in which, in chant style, the believer got a sense of the whole more.

Only with the advent of mass literacy is it possible to pick and choose to such a degree in our religious leanings. In Islam, the ulema are losing control–often to the “fundamentalists” (who are themselves the innovators). Qutb, Mawdudi, bin Laden, Zawahiri, Zarqawi all non-clerics.

In Islam the rulings of a cleric are only good for the disciples of that cleric. There is no Pope in Islam. Sunni Islam then is struggles, like Protestantism, to find a center, a stabilizing guiding institution.

The question is only whether a quasi-modern theology will arise out of this as acceptable to the masses–how that will occur (God’s will) and in what way can that movement be aided? What we do know is that no religion that has undergone a modern turn–Judaism and Christianity being the only two to actually do that for real–only did so after the populations had reached stable middle income brackets.

Catholicism only had Vatican II in the late 50s/60s by which time Southern Catholic Europe was starting to catch up economically to Northern Protestant Europe, which had undergone the modern turn 100 years prior.

And the Islamic world is not yet reached that economic plateau and the West’s refusal to get smart on rule-building, institutional ventures, in that part of the world bodes ill for the theological turn necessary in the religion.

In other words, all the debate about self-censor/free speech/hate speech, what is wrong with them, why we are so mean, etc. All of it takes place outside the context of the inner Islamic Reformation. Which is why to me the debate is so sterile and on such an abstract level.

Published in: on September 20, 2006 at 6:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Benedict-ion II

Benedict’s speech again is here.

A less charitable interpretation of Pope Benedict’s statement (from the Guardian) here. One I don’t totally subscribe to btw.

Aside from the polemic, this tidbit of important info:

In fact, Pope Benedict XVI’s short papacy has marked a significant departure from the previous pope’s stance on interreligious dialogue.

For Benedict, inter-religious dialogue must occur on the level of “culture”–that is reason. Hence his speech in Germany was how reason must be seen as compatible with faith (by which he means Christian faith). Irrationality, such as violent compulsion in religion, is contrary to God’s plan.

John Paul II was a personalist in philosophical terms–much more existential and phenomenological. [When he was readable that is]. He allowed dialuge on the level of faith and did not distinguish so sharply as does Benedict, between reason/faith. John Paul was more a pastor as well. Benedict the theologian.

Ratzinger–er Benedict–is a medievalist. Interestingly he was the first non-Thomist/non-Dominican to hold the post of Cardinal Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine and Faith (formerly until the 1960s, the Office of the Holy Inquisition).

Ratzinger while not Thomistic is Medieval.

A lot to go into, like the entire history of ancient Greek philosophy and its translation through Christianity and Islam. But a brief thought or two.

Benedict is an Augustinian. In fact he is a medievalist Augustinian. The closest Christian thinker to Benedict, in my mind, is Bonaventure, 13th century Franciscan and friend/sparring partner with Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas was from the Domincan order and was a student of Aristotle. What the meddieval Catholic tradition sought was a union fo the Hellenstic and Biblical frames—that union has been de-coupled through the Renaissance/modernity and Reformation (voluntarism) on the other, what Benedict calls the “de-Hellenization” in his speech.

So Christian medievalists sought to unite the Hellenistic and Christian Biblical frames (emphasis on Christian there are huge differences in the way that Jews, Chrsitians, and Muslims read the Abrahamic tradition).

Thomas sought this union through the Aristotlean notions of form/matter. For Aristotle, the form of a substance is the inner mover/shaper of the matter. The soul Aristotle reasoned is the Form of the Body. Forms are more immanent for Aristotle (than Plato). So in Thomistic theology that comes out as grace is the form of nature. Grace transcends and includes, if you like, nature. Thomas famously said that grace perfects nature not destroys it. While grace is the form of nature, the two have relative boundaries. Later Roman Catholic theology–up until Vatican II–was dominated by the Neo-Thomistic Revival which depicted this nature/grace relationship as like two layers of cake, grace stacked up on top of nature. Though more “earthy” if you like in Thomas himself.

For Bonavneture, in the Augustinian-Platonic frame, nature and grace were separate but given nature’s profound wounding in Original Sin, nature needed “illumination” to reach into the realm of grace. This illumiation comes particularly in Bonaventure from/through the Church–as well as in mystical union with God; Bonaventure being one of the greatest Christian mystics, one read in both the Eastern adn Western Chrsitian traditions.

Platonism recall saw everything in the finitie world as a mere glimmer/copy of the eternal pre-existent forms of being—which Augustine placed inside the mind of God and therefore as one with God’s essence. So theologically, Augustinian thought is suspect insofar as to any degree of illumination we receive, we are connecting with the Divine Essence–not the Divine as the Divine is for us as in Greek Theology (God’s Existence).

The issue only arises in Western Chritian theological discourse because only Augustine and the entire Western theological tradition separated grace from nature. For the Greek Eastern Christians, grace and nature co-arose (a position I find more tenable).

So Benedict is towing a fine line here. He is not trying to return to Thomistic thought per se, although Thoomas/Bonaventure did both hold to the basic compatiblity/capability (in Latin capax) between human reason and the divine.

Benedict’s Platonism got him in a thoelogical dispute with Cardinal Kasper (head of interreligious dialogue) over the nature of the Church. Benedict argued that at the feast of Pentecost (see The Book of Acts in the New Testament) the universal Church pre-existed particular (local) churches.

In other words, the unitary Church was already there prior to its actual hstorical instantiation in individual churches. So the Church, Capital C is like a Platonic Form, of which the individual churches of Christianity are just imperfect modifications in time-sapce.

That view not suprisingly supports a unitary, non-transparent Roman Curial System. That view is also countered by the evidence of the entire Patristic era (100-800 CE). The Church was always defined in Greek thought as the communion of saints.

“I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints….”

The Church was not other than the relatinoship/communion (koinonia) of the churhces that confessed the true disicpline and doctrine of the faith. Only a medievalist could say that the unitary [Roman?] church existed first to be lovingly given downward to all the rest.

Not the least of the problems with that theory is that the event known as Pentecost never actually took place–at least not as depicted in teh Book of Acts. The Acts depiction is a theological story, told to make a point of meaning about faith.

So all of Benedict’s thought can be seen around the issue of illuminationism and Roman authority. Thomas Aquinas, btw, was not as strong on papal power as was Bonvaenture.

–Buddhist meditation, because it is non-theistic is “mental masturbation”.
–Liberation theology is suspect because it questions the right of authoritarian/medieval Church structures.
–Empiricism has forgotten its Platonic roots and hence disallows reasonable discussion of faith (right on that point…..why for most scientists the Laws of Nature are their god).
–Volunatrism/Romanticism/Theologies of the Will (e.g. Duns Scotus) deny the rationality inherent in the divine act.

It is also noticed in his famous break from the early liberal Ratzinger (Ratzinger 1.0) to the later conservative one (2.0). But this break never really occured too much. Ratzinger did participate in the Second Vatican Council as a peritus, theological advisor. He strongly supported the renewl/reform of the Church. For example the Document Lumen Gentium (Constitution on the Church in theh modern world)–all Conciliar Documents take their names from the first words, in this case “A Light to the Peoples/Gentiles”.

But Ratzinger vehemently opposed the final VII document called Gaudium et Spes: Hope and joy. Which begins paraphrasing: The hopes of joy’s of man [world], are those of the Church.

It was here that Ratzinger disagreed because the Church needed to reform (Lumen Gentium) because it was the Light–to “illuminate”–the world. The Church was not of the world. It was the light to the world. Not arm in arm with the world and its struggles but above it (medieval). He wanted to reform the Church because he felt its mission down to the world was impaired by out of date modalities. But it was in no way a concession to the idea that the Church itself needed to question basic core structures/beliefs about its superiority. In this regard, Benedict is the true heir of John Paul II’s vision.

And just to bring it back to Islam, for a second. In Islam there was a similar set of arguments in their medieval scholastic theologies. Which took place earlier since the Arabs were the ones who actually had the Greeks and were the forefront of Medieterranean civilization at that point.

The argument grew out of the question of the relationship between God and the Quran. Similar to the debate in the Christian circles about whether God’s Laws were God’s Laws because they were rational or because God made them.

Was the Quran created? If so, then how had God revealed God’s Nature in it? For God is not bound by time. Some theologians said yes.

Was the Quran uncreated? This takes care of the Revelation issue but then beg’s the question is the Quran another god? Are there two gods? Just as with the Chrsitian example, if God choose the Natural Law because it was right is there another standard by which God is measured? Other thoelogians–particularly more hardline elements (Hanbalis) said yes.

The Ashtarites brilliantly said that the Quran was eternal (uncreated) but existed so in the mind of God—just as Augustine put Plato’s Forms in teh mind of God. This allowed certain Ashtartie theologians to say that the Eternal Quran was perfect in the mind of God but was imperfectly mediated/contextualized through human consciousness/language. Hence, they were able to do critical Quranic exegesis.

Unfortunately, to make a simplified version of this, the Ashtarites lost out in the later middle ages. Just as the Bonaventure-Thomistic harmony between reasn/faith lost out to later volunatristic and nominalistic theologies (William of Ockham).

The Hanbali postiion triumphed–which again is a theological issue open to debate. The Hanbali position of the (unquestioned) Eternal Quran being the one we have directly dictated to Muhammad has cost Islam the ability to undertake the historical criticism/contextualization of the Quran necessary for Islamic theologies to reach a modernist wave of development.

The results are in the streets. Islam needs a neo-Ashtari like school of thought. complete with itjihad “the gates of reason”. This position would actually be very close to some of Benedict’s thoughts on faith/reason.

However, for me, the Ashtarite/Benedct position is actually only at best a substitute position.

It correctly emphasizes the ways in which thought has become too secularized and theologies too dependent on otherness of will of God–like Karl Barth and Neo-Orthodox Reformed theology.

But it can not and does not take into accoutn the modern Kantian critical turn to the subject. And the deconstruction fo the realist mindset. [Empiricism is just realism in drag]. Nor yet the intersubjective hermeneutical turn.

The human mind inherently bifurcates. It must therefore crate mental system that say that reason is comptabile with faith and others that say reason is incopatiable with faith. And that those two systems can not defeat the other finally–except in their own minds. Which is exactly what has happened.

On that level there is no working out of these differing belief systems–at best a non-aggressive sorta of separation of the two (Gould’s non-overlapping magisteria). But all of that is deeply disjointed from what is arising. By dissolving those fixed systems into perspectives, then things come better into focus. Why start digging underneath to why people are saying what they are saying, why they believe what they believe, what those beliefs have in the way of light and shadows, and not focus simply on what they said. What the content alone of the beliefs supposedly are.

Benedict’s schema can not also account for the fact of states of consciousness. Plato, as I read him, was a Nondual thinker. He attained states of consciousness, normally in Chritian thought, referred to mystical/supernatural. Technically neither mystical nor non-mystical but beyond both. And Benedict tries to fit that into the bubble of reason. So it only takes certain aspctes of Platonism and those even arguably misread.

There is proof, I hold, that reason is automatically compatible with faith nor incompatiable either. I think the question is wrongly framed or rather is a product of an inadequately developed (relative to higher later standards) mode of thought. It can’t be solved so much as transcended and then never arisign again in the first place.

I’ll do one more on the questions of whether he should have said what he said, practical implications.

Published in: on September 19, 2006 at 11:48 am  Comments (2)