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 »





Catholic guru-tattva

25 04 2020

Because the Supreme Personality of Godhead does not actually touch or mix with matter, there are three intersections of Krishna and the material manifestation that are the hardest nuts to crack theologically. The first is Siva-tattva: in Krishna consciousness, Lord Shiva is the Supreme Personality of Godhead as He touches and mixes with matter. Shiva presides over the mode of ignorance (tamas), He is God as He works in matter. That is why in the Puranas He is known as Mahadeva, the Great God. But He is not Krishna: if Krishna is milk, Shiva is yogurt which is milk altered in a process to make it “not-milk”. Nevertheless, Shiva is unique in the material manifestation: He stands on the border between the spiritual and material worlds. Read the rest of this entry »





Deus furens

21 04 2020

https://arturovasquez.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/1b8e6-narasimhadeva-hiranyakashipu.jpg

As is the case with many people, my forced exile from the world due to a medieval plague has been far less intellectually fertile than initially expected. I thought I would write all those brilliant thoughts down that came to me in the middle of going here or there or doing this or that. At most, my quarantine has been devoted to endlessly surfing the news and social media, and perhaps creating the “dank meme” or two. It turns out that not being able to go anywhere but the “essential places” darkens the brain as much as being too busy. As I say professionally, “more” doesn’t often seem like more, it just seems a wasteland, as when I would look out over the Argentine pampa and know it goes on for hundreds of miles without anything of significance impeding it. 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 »





The past I never lived but prefer to forget

5 04 2020

As an introverted teenager, I watched a lot of TV. Watching TV in the 1990’s without cable (too poor for that), you didn’t just watch snippets of things here and there. If something was on and you wanted to watch it, you ended up watching the entire series, some episodes multiple times. One of the basic cable channels we got was A&E, which became my second favorite channel after PBS. It was on this channel that I binge-watched the 1981 Australian series, The Brides of Christ. The story of the mini-series follows two young women who enter the novitiate of a religious order during the Second Vatican Council. They get to experience the changes in Catholic life happen over a very brief period. Both women are faced with the choice of staying in the order (and perhaps the Church itself) or leaving altogether. Overall, it’s bad melodrama in the same league as a Hallmark Channel movie or Mexican soap opera. Having grown up with the latter, I can stomach such maudlin story lines, but I would still counsel conservative and traditional Catholics to look into watching this mini-series. 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 »





Neither deceive nor be deceived

28 03 2020

द्यूतं छलयतामस्मि तेजस्तेजस्विनामहम् ।
जयोऽस्मि व्यवसायोऽस्मि सत्त्वं सत्त्ववतामहम् ॥ ३६ ॥

(I am also the gambling of cheats, and of the splendid I am the splendor. I am victory, I am adventure, and I am the strength of the strong.)

Purport

There are many kinds of cheaters all over the universe. Of all cheating processes, gambling stands supreme and therefore represents Kṛṣṇa. As the Supreme, Kṛṣṇa can be more deceitful than any mere man. If Kṛṣṇa chooses to deceive a person, no one can surpass Him in His deceit. His greatness is not simply one-sided – it is all-sided…

-A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Chapter 10, Text 36

There is a saying in Krishna consciousness that if Krishna wants to kill you, no one can save you; and if He wants to save you, no one can harm you. The same goes for cheating. One of Krishna’s ten major avatars is Vamanadeva. When the asura (demon) Bali Maharaja took over the entire universe, there was a cry to Narayana to deliver the living entities from bondage. The Lord then appeared as a dwarf brahmin named Vamana who asked Bali Maharaja for only three steps of land where he could live. In spite of counsel from his guru that it was a trick, and somewhat suspecting who that dwarf really was, Bali agreed. The dwarf then grew into a giant, and with one step, He covered the entire Earth, and with the other step, the entire universe. Having nowhere else to place His foot, Bali Maharaja offered his own forehead as the landing place for the last step. With a trick, the Supreme Personality of Godhead freed the entire universe from bondage. Read the rest of this entry »





Two minds

26 03 2020

Although in general I have thought Chesterton overrated, I appreciated and have recommended to friends his book, St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox. As I read it years and years ago, I remember only a few passages. This one, however, is the first one I think of when mentioning that book:

Siger of Brabant said this: the Church must be right theologically, but she can be wrong scientifically. There are two truths; the truth of the supernatural world, and the truth of the natural world, which contradicts the supernatural world. While we are being naturalists, we can suppose that Christianity is all nonsense; but then, when we remember that we are Christians, we must admit that Christianity is true even if it is nonsense. In other words, Siger of Brabant split the human head in two, like the blow in an old legend of battle; and declared that a man has two minds, with one of which he must entirely believe and with the other may utterly disbelieve. To many this would at least seem like a parody of Thomism. As a fact, it was the assassination of Thomism. It was not two ways of finding the same truth; it was an untruthful way of pretending that there are two truths. And it is extraordinarily interesting to note that this is the one occasion sentences, which is a thing like the tone of a man’s voice, is suddenly altered. He had never been angry with any of the enemies who disagreed with him. But these enemies had attempted the worst treachery: they had made him agree with them when the Dumb Ox really came out like a wild bull. When he stood up to answer Siger of Brabant, he was altogether transfigured, and the very style of his sentences, which is a thing like the tone of a man’s voice, is suddenly altered. He had never been angry with any of the enemies who disagreed with him. But these enemies had attempted the worst treachery:they had made him agree with them. Read the rest of this entry »





Archimandrite Anastassy (Newcombe)

6 03 2020

Since I don’t have a lot of “fresh” materials, or I don’t really have the time and energy to develop anything new, I am re-editing and altering things that I previously wrote. Someone asked my where my involvement in the Eastern Church came from, so here is the origin story written well over a decade ago.

It was raining that day in San Francisco. I was concerned we were not going to be able to park close enough to the Old Cathedral on Fulton St. in order to get to our appointment with Fr. Anastassy on time. He was expecting us for tea, and I was eager that my young friend J. meet him. Fortunately, we found parking close enough and we were twenty minutes early for our meeting. Read the rest of this entry »





Loose thoughts on Jansenism etc.

29 02 2020

I hate writing about books I haven’t read yet, but an interview with Shaun Blanchard, author of The Synod of Pistoia and Vatican II: Jansenism and Catholic Reform, has given me some food for thought. I haven’t studied Jansenism in depth for years. It’s one of those subjects I have written about in the past which I would like to return to, but unfortunately I simply don’t have the time. If I could reach back into memory and summarize why Jansenism has fascinated me, the reason is that I find Jansenism as  tragic on all sides of the debate. In many ways, Jansenism itself, as ambiguous as it is historically, represents for me the heroic tragic. It sought to bring back and re-embody what it saw as ideals from the Primitive Church in a decadent present. Class and the hypocrisy of the ancien regime in France also played an underappreciated role in the appeal of Jansenism as far as I can tell. People today associate permissiveness with freedom and the fight against oppression, but the reality is that a libertine and “merciful” approach to pastoral issues usually results in forgiveness of the haves and the continued suffering of the have-nots. It is for this reason that I associate a lot of anti-Jansenist sentiment with the foolish tragic: people who think that everything is mostly fine but seem to complain at every turn about the current state of things. Their criticism of Jansenism is often based on ignoring the issues that this movement sought to address. Read the rest of this entry »