Physics in images – II

3 03 2010

Who’s Afraid of “Folk” Catholicism?

If divinity is understood as a reference to principle (whether of life, death, love or affinity, war or conflict, etc.), the insistence of the primitive that all physical phenomena are animated by divinity, his refusal to conceive of accidental – i.e. un-principled – phenomena, and his conviction that even the most minor detail is an expression of a major force- these beliefs are consistent extensions of the conviction that the universe is completely integrated and entirely logical, however devious or obscure that logic may sometimes seem. The Voudoun loa do not have a supernatural prerogative of arbitrary decision. An event which, to the serviteur, does not seem logical is not accepted with good grace as the “will of God”; on the contrary, the serviteur is aggressive in calling the loa to account and in exacting the explanation to which he feels entitled and which would indicate the corrective procedure he should follow. This belief that all phenomena must contain some logical principle, this concept of a pervasive logical causation is, as a matter of fact, identical with the premise underlying scientific investigation.

-Maya Deren, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti

What freaks people out about “folk” Catholicism is that it comes dangerously close to the same exact attitude: a saint #1 is good for X. If saint #1 doesn’t work, turn him upside down until he does, or go on to saint # 2. And so forth. It makes it seem that matter is involved, that there are laws of exchange between humans and the divinity other than Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. I leave you with exhibit A:

This also challenges the idea that Christianity gave birth to modern science. The Voudoun practitioner does not believe in a universe run according to the arbitrary plan of a personal god, and neither does the modern scientist have the luxury of assuming the existence of such an entity. Some food for thought, at least.