Philosophical Beastiality

30 10 2008

…What a difference there is between the justification of human free will in Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on Human Dignity and the agonizing sense of responsibility experienced by the Protestant Kierkegaard! The idea of liberty, which allowed man to belong to the higher beings, ends by becoming a crushing burden, for there are no longer any points of reference. As soon as God withdraws into his complete transcendence, every human attempt to examine his design runs into a ghastly silence. This ” silence of God” is, in reality, silence of the world, silence of Nature.

To read in the “book of Nature” had been the fundamental experience in the Renaissance. The Reformation was tireless in seeking ways to close that book. Why? Because the Reformation thought of Nature not as a factor for rapproachment but as the main thing responsible for the alienation of God from mankind.

-Ioan Couliano, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance

I offer this and Monday’s post as a response to Fearsome Pirate’s critique of traditional religion. In religion and philosophy, the attempts to make a angelic system for men left us a little better than beasts. The apparent distrust here is that Nature is deceptive and not to be trusted. This is at the heart of Mr. Pirate’s citing of William of Ockham’s nominalism as an attempt to find out what is the will of God and only the will of God. Nature and reason are like dishonest women trying to seduce the believer into believing things that are not true about God. They had to be thrown aside in favor of the famous “solae”.

This tendency in Western thought sparked a radical transformation in how we see the world. We went from a discourse of divine nobility to a discourse of metaphysical poverty and abjection.  The purpose of philosophy used to be the contemplation of lofty and beautiful things; now at best it is a meek apology for why human beings matter at all. The purpose of religion used to be to lift us to the Throne of God besides the Cherubim and Seraphim; now all it does is give us “meaning in life” and personal fulfillment. Pico della Mirandola in his oration mentioned above wrote that man is a mutable creature who could either take up the likeness of God or of beast. In modern belief systems, it is clear what path of transformation he has chosen.

I should mention that I along with Couliano would include many tendencies in modern Catholicism as being just as culpable in this as the Protestants, deists, and atheists. Even if we have more of the trappings of traditional culture, much of the Catholic Church has long ago ceased to employ them in the traditional manner. To want to know God’s will without the intermediary of Nature, history, and tradition is an impossible task for human knowledge and only leads to atheism.

Before, philosophy longed for the sweet inspiration and songs of the Muses. Now it wallows in anti-metaphysical snivelling, growling, and yelping. Western thought must once again cast its die in the game of the great chain of being. It must move away from existential angst and build again a magical realm where man is microcosm, mystery, and king of all that is. The surest way to give glory to God is to re-establish the audacious dignity of man. For that, we must leave our epistemological and ontological obsessions behind and create a new philosophical poetry, a new alchemy, a new art of man acting as a god in the image and likeness of God. Ironically, this will take the form of a “ludus puerorum”, a sacred game of children, seeking to recover the divine beyond thought that is deep inside the soul.

And that is the reason, Mr. Pirate, that the Church needs more Plato. It is no longer a question of Athens or Jerusalem, but of Galilee and Parnassus.


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3 responses

2 11 2012
Norma Guzman

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26 05 2010
kim

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16 04 2010
Andrzej Dzienski

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