Deus sub ratione Deitatis

26 07 2020
I love the frolicking Krishna' - The Hindu

In summer, I sleep badly. I have come to expect this from the humid swampy nights. In the last decade or so, summer has been both a time of rest and exhaustion, of trying to keep up with the time clock and suffering through periods of languid repose. There are long days and short nights, fits of furious activity and weeks when less gets done than expected. In this subtropical heat, I have to catch up on a lot of neglected reading. Time for this slips through my fingers quite easily. It is in this heavy air, amidst the buzzing of insects and continuous discomfort due to the climate, that I have to contemplate the higher things. It’s not ideal.

In my express sightseeing tour through the Srimad Bhagavatam, it is precisely at this time that I have come to the most significant stop in the whole scripture, and that is the description of the rasa-lila: Krishna’s dancing with the cowherd maidens of Vraja in the luminous autumn nights. In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the socially inappropriate dancing of Krishna with the wives and daughters of Vrindavan is the highest manifestation of the love of God, and of God’s nature itself. Though it may be inappropriate for a relative neophyte to comment on the mystery of the rasa-lila, I am a man in middle age so I don’t think it will be any more appropriate later in life. As I have said elsewhere, I am probably about as wise as I will get in this lifetime.

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Hog of God

12 07 2020
https://www.templepurohit.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Varaha-Avatar-Story-Dashavatar-Lord-Vishu.jpg

Gaura Purnima 2020

Part of me will never get used to the idea of mangala aarti. It’s not the idea of the service itself: getting up at 4 am to greet the Deities in the temple by singing and dancing before them. I am an early riser, and always have been. It’s the drums (mridangas), cymbals (kartals), and the loud noise that are strange to me. It’s a shock to the system to start banging these instruments in the darkness. I like my mornings calm, and this hour long service is the opposite of calm.

Eastern Orthodox monastic Matins is more what I am used to, and that service is mostly a dull and very hushed recitation of prayers, with some chants interspersed. It is quite a monotonous affair, day in and day out. In seminary, the only times we had Matins was for Christmas and Holy Week (Tenebrae), and the assigned time for these services isn’t four a.m. Most days, we had Prime at 6 am, followed by a a period of silent meditation and Low Mass most days. So my mornings were by and large quite quiet and contemplative.

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A God who waits

14 05 2020

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/eb/Patala_Shesha.jpg

A possible advantage of Dharmic religion over Christianity is not having an idea of an eternal Hell. Getting deeper into Gaudiya Vaishnavism, however, this supposed advantage becomes a bit complicated. I will start in the Sixth Canto:

[Nārada Muni had described that there is a bila, or hole, from which, having entered, one does not return. The Haryaśvas understood the meaning of this allegory.] Hardly once has a person who has entered the lower planetary system called Pātāla been seen to return. Similarly, if one enters the Vaikuṇṭha-dhāma [pratyag-dhāma], he does not return to this material world. If there is such a place, from which, having gone, one does not return to the miserable material condition of life, what is the use of jumping like monkeys in the temporary material world and not seeing or understanding that place? What will be the profit? Read the rest of this entry »





Supernatural

1 05 2020

So I watched the above presentation and since I am cooped up inside with nothing better to do, I will just make some loose comments on it. I read a lot of De Lubac when I was involved in the Eastern Church a little less than two decades ago. Honestly he was one of the only recent theologians who impressed me, and probably one of the reasons I didn’t convert to Orthodoxy. I really liked his book Catholicism, Corpus Mysticum is a good read, etc. Then I went down the rabbit hole of his writings on the supernatural, which is the subject of this video.  The only aspect I will deal with is what the speaker says was the purpose of de Lubac critiquing the idea of pure nature in the first place, namely, de Lubac was concerned that is was a fifth column of secularism in Catholic theology.

As I said, I was involved in the Eastern Church at the time, and also was engaging with a lot of recent Eastern Orthodox theologians, so this would sort of resonate with those who insinuate that errors in “Latin theology” led to secularism, as if intellectual history is one long equation and getting one variable wrong at the beginning ruins the whole solution. Not sure I buy it, but like I said, it resonated with me at the time. I believe this person when he says that de Lubac was sincere. All of these New Theologians were sincere. It’s true that a lot of 19th and 20th century Thomism was a ramshackle assemblage of premises that were flawed at their heart. The whole idea of the harmony with faith and reason presumes a mind that is capable of belief and which can healthily reason. I am skeptical on both counts. What you are dealing with isn’t really even a matter of first principles, but of primordial subterranean intuitions that you can barely speak of. Catholic philosophy came to the table expecting a rational interlocutor with good intentions, and instead got sucker punched in the face. Read the rest of this entry »





Service in separation

10 04 2020

Having been born into a Hispanic culture, bloody melodramatic imagery both draws and repulses me. Here I speak of the bloody crucifixes, the Virgin Mary with seven swords sticking out of her heart, and the intense emotions these images are meant to evoke. I had an odd formation, both official and informal, of living in Latin America and experiencing the role that this imagery plays in culture down there, both sacred and profane. Death and gore are to an extent revered, many an academic could write a series of well-cited papers about this. The only problem is that my own metaphysical inclinations have been consistently anti-corporeal.

The philosophical problems boil down to: Does suffering have redeeming power? Is pain therapeutic? Is blood sacred? Being in the midst of the Holy Triduum, I will never be able to shake these questions from my mind during these days, even if I have definitively come to my own conclusions. Added to all this is the rather intense Holy Week that Christians have to live through this year. Their churches are empty, the anticipation is muted, and the devout must experience the high holy days at home or on a screen. Many faithful used to regular access to the church and sacraments are acutely suffering during this time. I sympathize with them on many levels: though I am at best a lukewarm church-goer, I have a private prayer rule and I look forward to feasts breaking up the monotony of daily life. Most responsible mature adults understand that we can’t always be as outwardly observant as we would like, but still, this extraordinary circumstance is a difficult trial that the world must endure.

My focus here is the question: Is there such thing as spiritual pain? Or is the spiritual pure bliss? Can separation from God being something greater than His presence? The obvious answer from Catholic tradition would be to mention St. John of the Cross’s dark night of the soul. Though I haven’t really engaged with that concept in the last decade or so, I don’t think it touches on what I am talking about. I am speaking of separation as an inherently good thing, not as a means of purification to achieve deliverance from pain, spiritual, psychological or otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »





God has no enemies

5 04 2020

https://harekrishnarevolution.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/jagai-madhai-chastized.jpg

Lord Chaitanya threatening to castigate Jagai and Madhai with the Sudarshana Chakra

The Seventh Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam is widely loved by devotees of Krishna because it tells the story of how five year old Prahlada Maharaja is saved from his father’s wrath by Nrsimhadeva, Krishna’s half-man, half-lion avatar. More on this in a future essay, but here I would like to describe the first chapter of the canto which Srila Prabhupada in his translation entitled, “The Supreme Lord is Equal to Everyone”. The reasoning of this chapter goes that, since the material world is merely the external energy of the Lord, it is both different and non-different (achintya bheda abheda) from Him, or to put it my own overly-simplistic terms, you can’t run from God because you sort of are God, like your finger is you but not quite. In Krishna consciousness, you can’t be totally Other from God, you can’t eternally separate yourself from Him because you’re never independent from Him. Read the rest of this entry »





Luminous shadows

20 01 2020

As indicated previously, Thomism and I started off on the wrong foot when I was a teenager, when I tried to study it with the aim of getting a jump start on ecclesiastical studies. Instead I became enamored with modern philosophies that were more in sync with the times. I will admit, my inability to adequately engage with Scholastic philosophy was due to my intellectual isolation. I was in a small town, the local clergy didn’t particularly care for my piety (looking back, I can’t blame them), and Catholic conservatism looked substantially different back then than it did today. This was the time of John Paul II, and as much as modern Thomists try to reclaim him as one of their own, you would be hard pressed to try to jam that phenomenological square peg into the round Aristotelian hole. I am sure many graduate papers are being written trying to do just that, but I’m not going to bother here.

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Why I didn’t become Orthodox

18 01 2020

I want to keep this one short because there’s really not much to say about it.

As background, there was a time in my youth when I spent more time in Orthodox churches than I did in Catholic ones, and made friends and acquaintances of a few Orthodox priests. Orthodox theology and Patristics was all I read, and so on and so forth.

For me, Orthodoxy isn’t the answer for the same reason Catholic traditionalism isn’t the answer. It’s because quantity counts. That is to say, especially in approaching the inherent logic of the Christian faith, universality isn’t a minor detail, but its essence. Whether Orthodoxy didn’t spread because of legitimate and unfortunate historical reasons is beside the point. The fact that it hasn’t really achieved universality beyond certain ethnic and national manifestations means that it is not the Faith preached in the Gospels. Read the rest of this entry »





Dying

10 12 2019

One of the most convincing challenges to Western monotheist theodicy that I can think of is one I will term the “finitude of the good.” That is, how can people we love end up doing evil things, or on the “wrong side” of morality? This question poses itself starkly when a loved one dies “outside the faith”, or if they were not a particularly pleasant person, but may have been dear to us. This person did some good, they were not an absolute waste of humanity (people seldom are). The cliché of the serial killer’s mother protesting that he was a “good boy” once rings hollow to both his victims and decent people alike. Where did that good innocent smiling boy in the photograph go? What of any of the good acts he did? Do they merely magnify the turpitude of his later actions, as Catholic theology claims when the mystery of the world is laid bare at the Last Judgment? Are they the result of karma which keeps the spirit-soul in the cycle of birth and death as the Vedas and Puranas of India indicate? Or are love and kindness just a temporary illusion of synapses flashing in the brain as the atheists proclaim? Just chemicals sloshing around in the skull… Read the rest of this entry »





On authority

25 10 2019

I have toyed with the idea of writing some informal reflections on my time at the Society of St. Pius X seminary of La Reja, Argentina. As this happened half my life ago, it appears now that these were among the most formative years of my life so far. You only get to be young and foolish once, I suppose. This might be of particular interest to some as I am far from a Catholic traditionalist now, though I have not discarded this identity for any other equally certain worldview. In other words, I don’t have a negative view of Roman Catholic traditionalism, or at least I don’t view it in more of a negative light than I do any other ideology. Read the rest of this entry »