Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
I'm feeling kind of religious this Sunday morning, wanting to go to church but just cannot find one compatible with my postmetaphysical "beliefs." Which led me to realize, yet again, that this virtual online monastery/seminary is as close as I get to going to church so I might as well share where my religious impulse led this morning. The following reminds me of some of the discussions of late in the Big Stories thread, the differences between religious (or spiritual) and scientific cosmological stories, and how sometimes their mix just leads to a muddle (but not necessarily). Anywho, here is my Sunday Sermon by Saint Caputo from the brief essay "Radical Hermeneutics":
"By "radical hermeneutics" I mean a theory of radical interpretation, and by radical interpretation I mean that interpretation goes all the way down, that there are no uninterpreted facts of the matter that settle silently at the bottom that can be unearthed by patiently peeling away the layers of interpretation. To say that interpretation matters all the way down is not to say that "anything goes;" it is simply to recognize that we are not God. The charge of "relativism" thrown up against theories of radical interpretation is a confusion and an obfuscation. "Relativism" is a red herring used by the God-and-apple-piety crowd; it does service for thinking when the discussion gets too complicated.
When it is rightly framed the debate about interpretation matters is not between "relativism" and "objective truth" but between conditional and unconditional understanding. True understanding is never unconditional, but always a matter of finding the right conditions under which understanding can take place-like possessing the complex preconditions involved in understanding an ancient language and a long gone historical context. Understanding is always interpreting, and to interpret means to locate and acknowledge the relevant presuppositions. Absolutely unconditional understanding means understanding under no conditions. Just so: Under no condition is this possible: we are not hardwired to assume an absolute standpoint. We are not omniscient eternal beings outside every context. We are not God, but what Soren Kierkegaard liked to call "poor existing individuals," people who pull on their pants one leg at a time. Understanding always has a point of view, otherwise it has no point and it has no view.
The radicals who attacked the World Trade Center, for example, were not radicals of the sort I am describing, but exactly the opposite. They had among other things swallowed a bad line about how to read, about how to understand what one reads, and about what it means to say that a text is sacred. The latter is a complicated business. It involves getting to know what the conditions were under which the text was written, what has changed since then, and above all sorting out what is human and what is divine in the text-what has the ring of God about it and what has the ring of men (sic!). Killing in the name of God, killing because God is on your side, is the human-all too human-part of these texts, which has to be sorted out from the divine side.
The Bible itself warns us that idolatry is one of the most fundamental perversions of the God relationship: confusing a golden calf with the living God, confusing humankind made in the image of God with a God made in the image of humankind, confusing our politics, our preferences, our institutions, our hierarchies, our power-plays, our religion, our gender, our egos, or our science with God. That's idolatry. If hermeneuticists could be said to have a religious view of life, interpretation would constitute a powerful and systematic critique of idolatry. Two potential idols to worry about are science and religion, both of which are humanly constructed interpretations, one of the world, the other of the relationship between the world and God. When physicists explain the world in terms of the principles of a mathematical science, that's an interpretation. When the unknown authors of the opening pages of Genesis carved out highly Mesopotamian myths about the genesis of the kosmos, that was an interpretation as well, but it was not a theory. It was an imaginative and poetic act of affirming God's lordship over things, but it was not a testable mathematical theory. They were both interpretations, but only one was a theory. Neither was an uninterpreted fact of the matter. The overarching point in any debate between science and religion is to get one level or layer of interpretation out of the way of the other so that each one can get a clean shot at doing what it does, the one imagining our relation to God in poetico-religious categories, the other calculating (with no little imagination) the way the world runs in mathematical categories. They don't conflict because they don't compete and they don't compete because their interpretative schemas don't play on the same plane.
The problem in scientific interpretation is figuring out what is good science without being too rigidly rule bound, lest you dismiss groundbreaking discoveries as mere anomalies. The problem in religious interpretation is figuring out what is divine and what is human, what is a human construction and what is from God. The solution to these problems is not available in some overarching formula that covers everything. But the precondition to finding a solution is to keep in mind that interpretation goes all the way down, so that the notion of absolute scientific truth or absolute religious truth, as if physicists were but the mouthpiece of nature, or religious people were but the mouthpiece of God, makes no sense."
As to the charge of pomo relativism, he goes on:I think it thinks in terms of situational, contextual, pragmatic conceptions of truth. I don’t think it’s relativistic, but I do think it’s relational. It’s very sensitive to the context in which you make judgments. It thinks in terms of the singularity of the situation. It doesn’t think that anything goes, because take this distinction that I referred to earlier, between justice and the law. With someone like Derrida, and I think most of the other post-structuralists are like this, too, they think justice has to do with the singularity of the situation, with what this situation, this context, demands. So, something is demanded of us. We are responsible before this singular situation. There’s nothing “anything goes” about this.
Relativism means anything goes. There’s no “anything goes” element at all here, because there’s the demands that are placed upon me by the other. The other is one of the holy words in this vocabulary right there. There’s all this stuff about the ethics of the other.
So, the other one is the one who lays claim to me, which makes demands upon me. There’s no subjectivism. There’s an alterism or an altruism, an otherness, an other-directedness in ethical decision-making, which is the focus of the idea of justice.
Justice is what the other one lays claim to, demands of me. It’s an ethics of not so much my rights, but my responsibilities before the other, so no relativism. But, what is it that the other demands of me?
Well, it depends. I mean every time someone thinks that they have been done in, been treated unjustly, they say, “This case is different.” And when the law is applied to someone in such a way that the application is injurious, on the one side they say, “This is the law.” And the other side just says, “But, this case is different.”
Well, that’s true. This case is always different. It has a unique, singular, contextual quality about it, so that the law is not disregarded, but the law is reinvented.
It’s a little more like — and this is not an accident because these are largely French philosophers. It’s a little more like a Napoleonic code than the Anglo-Saxon conception of law with whether it’s a theory of legal precedent. There is no notion of legal precedent in the Napoleonic code.
There’s the law, and then there’s this concrete situation in which the law has to be brought to bear. So, the law has to be brought to bear, but there’s an emphasis on the flexibility of the law. There’s no attempt or element of trying to do away with the law, or with obligation or with the demands of justice. But, there is an attempt to be flexible and to allow a maximum amount of leeway in adjusting to the singularity of the situation.
My last comment in the Kingsley thread is relevant here so I'll cross-post:
In reading the last post in the 2012 thread it reminds me of the GD stuff, how when I got to the portal of the inner order and read this stuff I just thought, like Caputo speaking for Lyotard in this thread, I "just don’t believe that stuff anymore and [I'm] going to spend [my] time doing something more constructive." The last posts in the Caputo thread emphasize that it's not about doing away with a tradition but merely "reinventing" it. I re-joined the GD over a year ago with that intent but the work is just so contaminated to its core with the metaphysical that it cannot be merely opened up. At least I couldn't do it, instead being drawn back into the same type of new agey, theosophical, apocalyptic and what I now consider nonsense to continue with it, so gave up up again.
Unless of course what I'm doing here and at my blog is indeed my own idosyncretic way of reinvention. I'm trying ways to include a lot of different schools of though and practice, including my hermetic training, in an individual, singular way. Granted it's not safe and secure like being part of an Order or a Church or a Religion but it's the way I have to go. As in the Caputo thread I am the "singular" situation which is different than all others, while nonetheless being the same in a general way. And I really have no other choice but to be me in this way, to carve my own path through the jungle, and hope that at least in some small way it provides some benefit to those traveling the well-worn byways of metaphysics.
More Sunday sermon from Caputo. In 2007 he wrote a book called What Would Jesus Deconstruct. Following are a few more excerpts from the last interview referenced above about this book. When asked what is the good news of pomo for the Church he said:
It’s the deconstruction of the church. It’s the conversion of the church into a prophetic ministry.... I just take the New Testament and I say, look, if you take the New Testament seriously, certain things follow from that. Certain things about the lives that we live and the political world that we should inhabit.
What doesn’t follow is the church, or most of the churches as they’re presently constituted, with their authoritarianism, their homophobia, their xenophobia, their alignment with right-wing, reactionary political movements.
He’d be against [this].... He didn’t like the settled power of authority, the settled structures of religious authority. And he got himself into a considerable amount of trouble with the Romans and the temple because, to be hyperbolic, he was a deconstructor.
He was. And he was trying to break up the encrustations of power. That the right-wing version of Christianity that we get right now, which is racist, xenophobic, homophobic, is at odds with everything that Jesus stood for. Everything.
What would Jesus deconstruct? He would deconstruct most of what calls itself the Christian church right now. Where would he make himself at home? Well, in certain radical churches. At the very end of that book, I point to some radical churches, one of which is the work that is being done by this young man, Peter Rollins, that we were talking about.
From Peter Rollins blog post of 5/26/11:
Take the example of buying chocolate from a corner shop. If I know, or suspect, that the chocolate is made from coco beans picked by children under the conditions of slavery then, regardless of what I say, I believe in child slavery. For the belief operates at a material level (the level of what I do) rather than at the level of the mind (what I tell myself I believe). And I can’t hide in supposed ignorance either for if I don’t know about how most chocolate is made it is likely that my lack of knowledge is a form of refusal to care. For the very fact that there is Fair Trade chocolate, for example, should be enough for me to ask questions about whether other chocolate is made in an unfair way. Or take the example of buying cheap clothes from a department store. Regardless of what I say, if I don’t ask some basic questions about where the clothes come from I believe in sweatshops. Or at best I believe in ignorance, in not asking questions and in the virtue of being an uncritical consumer. Again these beliefs are not ones I will admit to myself (bring to my mind) but rather they are beliefs I enact as a result of my basic desires (arising from my heart). Finally, if I didn’t stand up to protest against rendition flights, if I didn’t voice my disgust at the practices that go on in places like Guantanamo Bay in my name, then I believe in torture.
In my research I came upon an Integral Life post of no significance with the usual kennilingus, but the comment by Cameron Freeman basically stopped the thread with his heresy. Excerpts of his sin follow:
I want to focus here on the connection between Judaism and the work of Jacques Derrida, arguably the most dangerous thinker in post-modernity – in order to show that Derrida is probably a more integrally orientated writer than many people realize. For my taste Derrida is a modern day Jewish prophet, for he exposes a certain "coefficient of uncertainty" in all of on our favorite texts and institutions, which causes all of us, democrats and republicans, religious and secular, the reasonable and the faithful, considerable discomfort.
He showed the green v-meme (post-modernity) that the destabilizing agency in his work is not a reckless relativism or nihilism but rather an affirmation, a love of what in later years he would call the “un-deconstructible.” For Derrida, the un-deconstructible is both a “singularity” as well as a pure and unconditional affirmation...an affirmation of something un-imaginable and inconceivable by our current standards of imagining and conceiving.
So Derrida is post-post-modern (or integral with a hermeneutic of humility) and deconstruction is a lot like what Jews would call the “critique of idols.” Deconstruction is satisfied with nothing because it is waiting for the Messiah, which Derrida translated into the philosophical figure of the “to come” (à venir), the very figure of the future, of hope and expectation... a singularity that simply cannot be foreseen or anticipated.
And in a similar vein to Nagarjuna’s (Mahayana Buddhist philosopher) dialectical demolition of reason, Derrida also visits upon us the unsettling news of the radical instability of the categories to which we have such ready recourse, which thereby opens the conditions of possibility for a mystical apprehension of un-qualifiable Emptiness (i.e. Consciousness without an object), a realization that confesses our lack of categories with fixed meanings that can be employed to make things make sense. So as a post-post-modern mystic Derrida exposes us to the “secret” that there is no Big Capitalized Secret to which we have been wired up - by scientific reason, religious revelation, or by political ideology. That is not nihilism but a quasi-mystical confession, the beginning of self-knowledge, the onset of wisdom and compassion...
Some excerpts from a Caputo interview. The first could be aimed at a kennilingual obsession with boundaries and meta-paradigms, which seems more inherent to the modernist project.
"The...paradigmatic modernist would be Kant, who divides the world up into three critical domains.... And so modernism is very emphatic about drawing borders between things and enforcing those borders, policing those borders. Kant’s philosophy is a kind of meta-philosophy of meta-critique, which is a kind of science of science which polices borders. So it makes for very strong distinctions between subject and object, between politics and between public and private."
This one debunks the notion that deconstruction is purely negative, a fallacy promoted by modernistic formalists that cannot get past their own dualistic definitions.
"Deconstruction...is a very affirmative operation, despite the fact that it’s about dissolving those kinds of borders, because it’s trying to get at something which the borders tend to close off, and which are blocked by rigorously formalistic conceptions of things.... The affirmation comes first. That’s the not the case with the word. The word 'deconstruction' is grammatically negative, so it makes it sound like the negation comes first."
On FB recently, Trevor Malkinson shared these two passages by John Caputo:
"The cosmos opened up by Copernicus collapses the distinction between 'heaven' and 'earth,' one of the most cherished distinctions religion knows. The earth is itself a heavenly body, one more heavenly body made up of stardust, as are our own bodies. We are already heavenly bodies, which means that 'heaven' and 'hell' must report back at once to headquarters for reassignment, where they turn out to be ways of describing our terrestrial lives here 'below.' Every body- everybody, everything- is a heavenly body. Heaven is overtaken by the heavens. Dust to dust, indeed, but it is all stellar dust. Our bodily flesh is woven of the flesh of the earth, even as the earth itself is the debris of stars, the outcome of innumerable cyclings and recyclings of stellar stuff, all so many rolls of the cosmic dice. We are not 'subjects' over and against 'objects,' but bits and pieces of the universe itself, ways the world is wound up into little intensities producing special effects of a particular sort in our bodies in our little corner of the universe."
“The insistence of God spells the end of the spell that the figures of 'transcendence' and 'eternity' have cast over religion. The insistence of God enables and disables the classical distinction between transcendence and immanence. What theology was searching for under the figure of the 'transcendence' of God -- 'transcendence' is not a bad word! -- as a force arching over or 'crossing beyond' the world, is here redescribed as a modality of the world, an unforeseeable worlding of the world, as a way the world catches us up in its sweep, makes itself felt in all its intensity. Transcendence is not the opposite of immanence but another way to configure the plane of immanence, another way the lines of force that traverse the field of immanence are redrawn, intensified and made salient, the way the plane of immanence is bent or warped. Such transcendence can happen anywhere -- in Eros or art, in politics or everyday life, in the transcendence of the exceptional or the quotidian. What is coming is not another world but another coming of the world, another worlding of the world, a coming otherwise. Transcendence is the insistence of the promise of the world.”
- John D. Caputo, 'The Insistence of God- A Theology of Perhaps' (2013)
My sense is that a deeply perichoretic cosmotheology invites an immanent dispersal of transcendence -- naming the ontological and epsitemological discontinuities among persons, among beings, always in perichoretic play. When earth and her beings are gathered up into the heavens, recognized already as heavenly bodies, transcendence no longer seems to point to the One Exception outside of multiplicity, but rather to actualize perichoretic interrelationality in the bosom of heaven itself. Transcendence in a perichoretic cosmotheology is intersubjective and interobjective -- it is transcendent-immanent -- opening horizons in and as every multiplistic fold, calling beings at once into ecstatic movement towards the other (you transcend me, calling me out of myself to meet you in love) and into the grace of agapeic opening and astonishment.