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Showing posts with label Saint Augustine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Saint Augustine. Show all posts

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Feast of Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons


Irenaeus served as the bishop of Lugdum (now Lyons), in France. He was born c. 130 CE and died c. 202 CE, serving during the Apostolic era, and he is listed in the ranks of the martyrs of the Church, though the details of martyrdom are unknown.

Irenaeus was a prolific writer. He was connected to the Bishop Polycarp who was himself connected to the Apostle John, making him only three steps removed from the ministry of Jesus.

Irenaeus’ surviving works show how he was deeply committed to the unity of Christian doctrine. He ardently opposed the heretical sects of groups like the loosely affiliated Gnostics, as well as the Montanists, and he was among the first to argue for the doctrine of apostolic succession, positing that a bishop of the church should stand in an unbroken line of succession that goes back to the first apostles.

What is most important about Irenaeus’ work is something referred to as the Irenaean theodicy, this is why I lift him up and write about him.

Theodicy is the specific field of theological work devoted to understanding the problem of evil, and its ultimate resolution by God.

The Irenaean theodicy was the leading doctrine in the church up until the time that it was supplanted by Augustine’s teaching on original sin, three centuries later, after which Saint Augustine’s teaching became normative throughout the Christian world.

St. Augustine suggests that creation was made perfect and without blemish, and then there was a fall into sin, which came from nowhere and nothing resulting in a degree of chaos and disorder which completely separates creation from God. Whereas Irenaeus posited that the though the world is fallen it is not wholly fallen, making it so that the breach is not irreparable, putting forward that God’s plan for the resolution of evil is to slowly draw all things to the divine.

For saint Irenaeus the perfection of the created order happens as a process of assimilation, which he calls recapitulation, imagining that each individual-being is on a journey, coming ever closer to God; as we draw near our imperfections fall away.

Irenaeus’ theology, which was never condemned, provides a strong theological grounding for the theology of universal salvation which has persisted as a teaching among Christians from the very beginning of the Church, though only among a stark minority.



Saturday, November 24, 2018

Blame it On the World - Editorial, The Week in Review


Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
11.24.2018

Blame it the World


“Blame it on the world,” the fake President said, in reference to the murder of a journalist, a man who wrote for the Washington Post, a newspaper the fake president has decried as a purveyor of fake news, which according to the fake president’s rhetoric makes them the enemy of the people.

“Blame it on the world, the world is a nasty vicious place,” the fake President said, about the murder of this man who lived in Virginia, who was a permanent resident of the United States, who was lured to Turkey, by the government of Saudi Arabia on the grounds that he needed to visit the consulate there to acquire the paperwork that would allow him to marry.

Mr. Khashoggi was a citizen of Saudi Arabia, and a vocal critic of the House of Saud, the Crown Prince, his government and their horrible record of human rights abuse.

The Crown Price is on record for stating that he wanted this journalist silenced. The Crown Prince ordered that they lay a trap for Khashoggi in Turkey. The Crown Prince sent fifteen members of his personal security detail to Turkey to murder him, including a doctor equipped with a bones saw to oversee the dismembering of his corpse, and a man who played as a body-double posing as Khashoggi, wandering around Istanbul in the murdered man’s clothes, after the killing had been done.

“Blame it on the world,” the fake President said, “the world is a nasty vicious place.”

I know that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is nasty and vicious. T-Rump is nasty and timid, he is a coward, but he delights in the viciousness of others, that much is clear.

The CIA, and numerous other intelligence agencies around the world, among our allies have reviewed the evidence of this murder provided to them by the Government of Turkey, they have authenticated it and concluded the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is responsible for ordering Mr. Khashoggi’s murder.

T-Rump has opted to take the word of the murderer instead, accepting his denials, even though they were preceded by numerous other lies, which the Crown Prince walked back, he accepted those denials for some murky reason we have yet to discern.

It is reminiscent of his acceptance of Vladimir Putin’s lies and denials about interfering with the 2016 election.

The fake President cannot help himself when he thinks there is a dollar to be made, and he is hungry for those dollars.

“Nature is red in tooth and claw,” Saint Augustine said.

Thomas Hobbes wrote his seminal work Leviathan, as a reflection on this premise. “We live in a Hobbesian World,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, and that is why the founders took such pains to draft our constitutions with its extensive system of checks and balances in place..

The recognition of this reality is not a cause to excuse it. Rather, the recognition of this reality is what requires us to adhere to the dictates of our social compact. It is why we need a government derived from the consent of the governed, and this is the principle motivation behind the American experiment in self-government.

Without this social compact the strong will always tyrannize the weak, in keeping with the nature of the world, as a nasty vicious place. We cannot allow this to be the way of our world. We cannot look away from the face of brutality. We cannot excuse the tyrant.

It is the duty of the American President, of whoever holds that office, their legitimacy notwithstanding, to represent the American ideals to the world. We cannot abandon American principles for cheaper oil, for an arms contract, for a fistful of dollars, or a pocketful of lies.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Tragedy - Editorial, The Week in Review; Analysis, Commentary, Opinion


Tragedy


The tragic death of Anthony Bourdain, of Kate Spade; wealthy and famous, influential-glitterati should give everyone pause to consider just how fragile we all are, how easily any one of us may succumb to despair.

The things you have, or have done, the stuff you have accumulated, the accolades; by themselves they are not enough, and they will not sustain us, or keep us whole.

There are billions of us in the world, human beings, most of whom have no choice in what they do with the hours in their day, they are busy surviving, with no spare minutes to set aside for reflection, or to wonder why, to contemplate justice, the meaning of existence, or the purpose of life.

Woe to those who do, because the world is a troublesome place, both beautiful and grotesque, like the flight of an eagle, as Saint Augustine said; nature is red, in beak and claw.

I have no insight into the lives of Kate and Tony, the particularities of the despair they endured, but I have dozens of friends that took their life into their hands, to end it, to set aside their burdens and move on.

I grieved for them, I grieve for them still, crying at the memory of them and over my own helplessness sin the face of what they endured.

I could not help them.

They could not help themselves.

Many of them suffered in silence, with few people, or even no-one knowing what was happening inside of them, behind the veil of their persona, in that infinite-space behind their eyes.

There are moments, especially when I am driving on the freeway at night, when all I see are taillights in front of me and headlights passing me by, when I get caught up in the sense that every-single light, lights as far as the eye can see signifies the presence of an individual human being, a person just like me. Each one carrying with them their own private world of experience, their own collection of hopes and dreams, of pride and shame, of successes and failures. Each has their own story of trauma; traumas they have endured, traumas the have witnessed, traumas they have inflicted on others.

I call that moment the existential fugue, because in that moment time becomes meaningless.

The demands of compassion are such that we are called on to remember this, to at all times keep in our heart that we do not know what is taking place in the lives of the people we encounter in the world, even in the lives of our friends and family, of those closest to us, let alone the stranger. There are places within each of us that we cannot share, that we never disclose, that we can hardly look at ourselves, for the pain that it brings.

Compassion call us to simply accept this and them, as they are, as we in turn desire to be accepted and understood.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Illusion of Individual Reality

It is a popular belief in the Western World, in our academic centers, in our books on “self” that every individual dwells in their own unique “reality,” that each of us possesses our own distinct “truth,” justifying our adherence to individuated sets of absolutes.

There is a school of thought associated with this world-view, in academics it is Logical Positivism, it is the promotion of philosophical relativism.

It is a problem.

The school of Logical Positivism gave us the classic philosophical trope:

“If a tree falls in the woods and there is no-one there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Suggesting that the answer is unknowable, because it is unverifiable.  

This is false: trees do fall in the woods, and when the do they obey the laws of physics, they make noise. It does not matter if there is a person present to see it, the tree and the forest are their own witness.  

These positivistic and relativistic notions, come to us out of a worldview known as mind-body-dualism. There are many philosophical traditions rooted in mind-body-dualism, most of which do not go so far as to promote the conclusions of the positivists and the relativists. Nevertheless, the position that the positivists and the relativists have arrived at is the logical end of dualistic bias.

The dualistic worldview has been more corrosive and corrupting than any other set of beliefs that have been disseminated through the world, because it divorces the individual first from their own self, then from their neighbor and ultimately the world.

Dualistic thinking is ancient, it is rooted in preliterate assumptions concerning the nature of reality. Its primary proponents in the literary tradition of Western Philosophy are Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, from the 6th through the 4th century before the common era; followed by Plotinus in the 3rd century C.E., who was the greatest synthesizer of their thought, and who transmitted it to the Christianity through the writing of Saint Augustine of Hippo, in the century C.E..

The tradition of mind-body-dualism entered the enlightenment, and the so-called age of reason without challenge into the modern world through the work of Descartes, Kant and Hume by way of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor of the Church, the Patron Saint of Philosophy in the 13th century, and through the entire structure of the Catholic University system.

All of the aforementioned thinkers were essentially dualists.

As I have said, dualistic thinking is a problem, not merely because it does not accurately represent reality, which it purports to do, therefore distorting our point of view.

Dualistic thinking is a manifestation of grievous selfishness, self-centeredness, and this is dangerous.

Dualism is harbored in our culture by people who do not want to accept responsibility for themselves or their relationships.

They fear to be incriminated by their own actions, or to take responsibility for their faults.

Dualism establishes the paradigm of “otherness.”

When we see ourselves as separate from one another, as dwelling in our own unique reality, as possessing our own unassailable truth, then we do not see others as a part of ourselves (which all people are, as we are of them), as sharing in the same experience, we do not see our relationship with them as a part of what makes us who we are, and this is the cause of great suffering in the world.

When we separate our experience from the experience of our sisters and brothers we establish the foundation for indifference and find opportunities to act for what we think is in our “self-interest,” through the denial of the legitimacy and rights of the other.

When we view others as objects, when we view them as competitors rather than co-operators and co-creators, when we see them as “things” with a destiny that is different from our own, when we cling to the notion that we have our reality, our own truth, we systematically invalidate own, and through this process we justify our crimes against them.

We victimize them, and ourselves in this way.

When we are blinded by the illusion of individual reality, then we have destroyed the basic bond that ties humanity together, and we have obfuscated the bond that links us to God, the creator of the universe, the sustainer of all that is.

While it is true that we each perceive the universe, reality in different ways, nevertheless, it is the same universe that we are perceiving. The distinctions in our perceptions only manifest themselves according to the differences in our points of view.

Our point of view will always be different, but our common experience will always be the same.


We are one.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Faith Seeking Understanding

Belief Beyond Knowing


Does God exist?

Does the universe, and do we human beings as a part of it, have a purpose beyond the fulfillment of our immediate desires?

Is the entire construct we call reality just an accident, a random sequence of events that are completely unnecessary, un-called for, and as meaningful as the void?

Listen to Aristotle: one moment instantiates another, there is a cause behind every event (no matter how small), but there cannot be an infinite chain of causality.

There must be a first cause, a first source and center to all that is, a prime mover we call God.

God exists!

This is more than a statement of faith.
           
We human beings are not merely organic machines.

The existence of the universe is not an accident.

We are not gears spinning in a wind-up toy.

The universe is not a random event, an unnecessary phenomena. It is not the product of chance.

The universe did not emerge from nothing, because nothing is nothing, and from nothing, nothing comes.

Saint Augustine was wrong when he penned his doctrine creation ex nihilo, for ex nihilo nihil fit.

In nothingness there is not even the chance for something, not even the possibility of something.

Nothing is not, it does not exist.

As human beings we have been given the cognitive capacity to comprehend the notion of the infinite, but we cannot imagine it in its particularities.

The universe itself is the existential infinite, the eternal thing/being, that/who beneficently confers the reality of existence on every other thing and being.

While I cannot know it, while I cannot grasp it in its entirety, I can imagine the universe without end, imagine the unbound material order, a limitless electromagnetic field, with every galaxy, every star, every world, and every person in it, conscious and aware.

I can imagine it, and believe in it, though I cannot know it in the same way that I know my name, or yours, the name of our world, the star we orbit, or the spinning milky-galaxy we were born into.  

In science, God is the first cause.

In philosophy, God is the one being who exists sui generis, by its own self, independent of any other being, while beneficently conferring the reality of existence on everything that is.

In religion, God is the universal and loving Parent.

My personhood, my sentience, my consciousness, as well as that of every other person on Earth, is a construct of tissues and neurons, of fibers and cells.

We are an electromagnetic phenomena.

My own consciousness is a minor part, a miniscule subset of the broader electromagnetic field that envelopes the world I was born to, Earth.

Planet Earth, our mother, is alive, she is sentient as well. Her sentience is different than mine, but nonetheless real, Demeter, Ceres, Gaea…you have so many names.

Like us, the field of her electromagnetic consciousness is but a subset of a broader field, with our bright yellow star Sol Invictus, at its center…and so on, and so on, ad infinitum.

The entire universe is one vast electromagnetic field, a field that carries within it each and every person, planet, star, thinking and alive, as a subset of it.

If it makes me a pantheist to call this thing, this field, this structure God, so be it, this being is God. As a twenty-first century Christian, not bogged down by the neo-platonic dualism that provided the intellectual framework of Christian thought, I am untroubled by that heresy.

Pantheism, pan-entheism, these systems of belief are not contrary to the teaching of Jesus, at all.

Logic tells me that these claims are true, my faith is ratified by my understanding of science, and ratified directly through my own experience.

Knowing, is a tangible force. Certainty is a feeling.

What a person believes they know is what drives them.

This is true to the extent that our constructs of knowledge are always the controlling factor in the decision making processes we are engaged in. This is true whether or not the knowledge we possess, the things and categories that we imagine to be true, are objectively true and accurate.

Truth does not motivate us, only what we believe to be true about the things we believe we know, whether or not our knowledge is real, only that motivates us.

The truth beyond all knowing is this; while lies are counterfactual, which is to say, they does not represent what is real, the lies we tell ourselves are real, regardless of the their factuality.

A lie is a lie, and that is true, I know it.

When it comes to our discussion of God, the infinite and eternal creator, the source of all things and beings, the navigation of objective realities amid the hidden currents of relativism becomes tricky.

How do we test our assumptions?

How do we come to understand the veracity of our faith?

First we first believe it, we must act as if the things we believe are true, we must trust in the propositions that we have put forward, and we must do it without reservation.

Again, we must act as if our beliefs are true. If we are able to, the world itself will provide us feedback regarding the integrity and coherence of our faith, and we must be sensitive to it.

We must operate under the pretense that the beliefs we hold are true, we must do this without reservation, and then incorporate those beliefs into our daily lives, and then we are able to generate feedback from the world around us, which is evidence concerning the value of those beliefs.

Were your beliefs helpful or hurtful, kind or mean?

The community you live in will let you know, it will tell you in thousands of little ways.

Did your beliefs promote justice or injustice, violence or peace, did they harm or heal?

Be mindful and you will see.

By the fruits of our actions we will be known.

With certain knowledge we may determine how good it is to believe what we believe, what good it promotes in our lives, and in the lives of others, whether our beliefs illuminate, edify and harmonize with the world.


We will see if they do not.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

War and Delusion

Nature is red in tooth and claw, or so Saint Augustine said
See beneath the placid waters of the calming lake, where it is eat or be eaten
There is always a bigger a fish

Peer beyond the gold and purple of the meadow, flowering
The snake and the fox are on the hunt, the spider is weaving, and the cat is prowling
We humans are the worst of all 

We languish in the comfort of peace, smothered in its balmy illusion
Delighting in the sweet euphoria of the warming breeze, soft and wet, and smelling of the sea
We are the swine-herd of Calypso

The world is at war and its burning with a magnificent heat, a nuclear fire
Violence tearing continents apart, consuming cultures, and nations, and tribes, devouring them 
Hungry America, daughter of Liberty

She walks the earth like a Titan, pissing and shitting everywhere
Leaving fields of corpses, each body a seed of resentment, filling rivers with blood, and waste
She is not America, she is Kali Amer
            Amer Kali, the goddess, The Destroyer of Worlds, bitter and raw
                       
It happens in an instant, depending on how you measure time
A tiny event, a million minutes, a blink of the eye, an episode of pain
A flash of white and it is gone

We view the past in abstracted pieces, frame by discontinuous frame
Memory never captures reality, it reconstructs, creating something new
A conditional aesthetic

A lawn chair, a sun tan, the oil coated skin, bright and glistening
Bronzed and warm, fractals repeating, a desperate nation, a starving child
The intoxication of peace, inebriating war
            Our comforts are not free