Credo, Part 1: Small Answers (S2E9)

Credo, Part 1: Small Answers (S2E9)

The leap of faith as a disposition toward being, vs scientific or ideological reductionism. A meditation on “small answers,” wholeness, and the credo.

I Small Answers

Small answers are tied to questions that the large answers cannot see.

We begin with Elizabeth Jennings’ poem, “Answers.”

Dana Gioia’s article from First Things (May 2018) about Elizabeth Jennings, which I mention early in the episode.

Discussion excerpts:

We’ve often talked [previously, for instance,] about the importance of loving the questions. [We have furthermore stressed] staying away from flattened thinking in the form of the “large answers” offered by ideological and other systems of thought.

But what of the small answers? […] Elizabeth Jennings is drawing our attention to something important here.

For there is a certain obviousness to me […] of the importance of loving the questions while avoiding the traps offered by those large answers.

[…]

Many of us seem to know, implicitly, that the ideological, technocratic, or corporate solutions […] will not work when it comes to addressing problems that are spiritual in nature. [Indeed,] [t]he large answers offered by a world full of certainty and empty of faith will never amount to anything more than an adolescent way of relating to being.

II Wholeness relates to a Disposition, not an End Product

Discussion excerpts:

Our minds have been trained to grasp even for the ungraspable, and therefore, to search for the large answers that seek to quiet the questions. [Therefore], we tend to forget the ground of Being itself, ungraspable as it is.

And this is [also] one major reason why large answers of the kind that I have discussed, especially of the modern world, such as science in the form of scientism, for example, or ideology, are so incompatible with the search for wholeness.

(…)

[Indeed,] the wholeness that I describe is not an end-product, but in fact, a starting-point.

Wholeness, to my way of thinking, is [therefore] not a large answer or conclusion, not holism, not progress, not a gnostic pursuit devoid of the transcendent.

[Additionally,] [w]holeness, as I often like to say in agreement with Philip Sherrard, presupposes the sacred.

(…)

[Therefore,] [w]holeness is a starting-point, yet not as an initial stage from which to advance from Wholeness 1.0 to Wholeness 2.0. [Wholeness functions as] a small answer that helps us to dwell in something other than Newton’s single-vision.

III Credo

In the final part, I examine a passage from Introduction to Christianity by Benedict XVI / Joseph Ratzinger.

Above all, Benedict’s exploration the meaning of “credo” is a profound meditation upon one’s disposition vis-à-vis reality. We then explore this passage and its emphasis on the “leap of faith.”

In conclusion, we see how the “credo” relates as well to wholeness and to “small answers.”

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Finally, if you have questions and/or comments, please use the Contact page or look up the Wholly Orders Twitter feed. If your preferred social media are not among the current sharing options atop the post, let me know. (In connection with questions, see also FAQ.)

“Don’t talk about Catholicism”: Poetic Vision & Catholic Tradition (S2E8)

Catholicism

I respond to those who would like me to talk only about poetry and philosophy, not about Catholicism. References: Les Murray, T.S. Eliot, Christopher Dawson, Nicolás Gómez Dávila

I “Poetry is Catholic, Poetry is Presence” – Les Murray

I reflect on Les Murray’s poem, “Distinguo,” while addressing listener response to the more openly “Catholic turn” in my presentation in season two of the podcast.

This discussion serves in part as a general response to those who have written with doubts about the relevance of the Catholic sacred tradition to the idea of wholeness.

My approach to faith, the sacred, and wholeness is not one of argumentation, explanation, etc. It is, rather, of a direct showing. It is a poetic response that aims to make connection(s) present to the listener.

II Poetry and the Sacred: In the world, but not of it

There is much in common between the sacred tradition and poetry also in the way that the world of today understands them, or if we’re being honest, misunderstands them, or fails to understand them at all.

We live in a world, in which people are used to reason, explanation, definition, quantification of all things and experiences. More significantly, they see that way of describing the world as not merely necessary but also as sufficient for all understanding. Faith and poetry are out of step with such understanding in a similar manner.

Presence is something that resists such definition. And, as Les Murray put it so succinctly, poetry is Catholic, poetry is presence.

When one is talking about the presence in poetry and in the Catholic tradition, there is a different sense and relationship to time altogether than that of the everyday world. There is a connection to the eternal, a connection between the transcendent and the immanent — connections that our world today denies.

III Presence vs Worldliness, Faith vs Ideology

Presence is opposed to worldliness. Presence is not escapism.

Philosophy can be a form of escapism, especially when decoupled from the sacred.

Finally, I answer a question that I received about whether or not religious faith itself isn’t a form of ideology.

Contact / Sharing

Finally, if you have questions and/or comments, please use the Contact page or look up the Wholly Orders Twitter feed. If your preferred social media are not among the current sharing options atop the post, let me know. (In connection with questions, see also FAQ.)

Against Ideology, Part 2: My Personal Metanoia (S2E7)

Against Ideology: My Personal Metanoia

The second in a two-part discussion critical of ideology. I discuss a personal metanoia that helped me to overcome ideological thinking.

The first part of this discussion is here: Against Ideology, Part 1: Ideology vs Philosophy (S2E6)

How a personal metanoia informs my approach to ideology

This episode is much more highly personal than most. I have alluded in the past to the importance of a personal metanoia to my current way of thinking. A number of listeners have asked if I would share more details.

While I prefer to focus on philosophy as opposed to myself, this topic seems relevant and useful to address at this time.

This discussion of my personal experience comes with a twofold purpose. One of which is to clarify my position on ideology as we prepare to tackle topics that are fraught with the possibility of ideological misunderstanding. The other of which is to serve as an aid to anyone who is caught in the vicious circle of ideology and may need some help to free themselves from it.

This metanoia was really, for me, not an instance of philosophical argumentation in the way that I was accustomed. Yet at the same time, I do not regard it simply as some sort of private revelation, either. It was instead a philosophical insight that came to me, inspired by a contemplative turn that removed a blind spot in my perspective.

If you find this episode interesting, you may also enjoy:

Letting Go: Meister Eckhart & Overcoming Dualism (Episode 016)

Meister Eckhart & Detachment: Contemplative Knowledge (Episode 017)

Meister Eckhart & Chasing the Merchants from the Temple (Episode 018)

Contact / Sharing

Finally, if you have questions and/or comments, please use the Contact page or look up the Wholly Orders Twitter feed. If your preferred social media are not among the current sharing options atop the post, let me know. (In connection with questions, see also FAQ.)

Against Ideology, Part 1: Ideology vs Philosophy (S2E6)

Against Ideology: Ideology vs Philosophy

The first in a two-part discussion critical of ideology as inadequate to the tasks of philosophy. Ideology is a false substitute for philosophy.

The second part of this discussion is here: Against Ideology, Part 2: My Personal Metanoia (S2E7)

I Reasons for addressing ideology in general

I’ve realized that many are still interpreting my anti-ideology arguments in an ideological sense.

The problem has been possibly somewhat of my own making. My own explanation of ideology has perhaps been itself too rushed, too reduced, and too simplistic. To that end, I’d like to use this opportunity to give a fuller explanation. Maybe I’ve pushed too much of my own experience into these terms without thinking about how others will hear them.

Given some of the topics to come in this season, it might be best to address this now.

II Some possible misconceptions

It might be best to first address what I am not doing or saying when I talk about ideology.

I’d like to make it clear that I’m not trying to avoid offending anyone by “refusing” to take an ideological position.

What I am saying, instead, is that I long ago recognized ideology for what it is, a limited way of seeing the world, one that really flattens Being and thus tends to address reality in an inauthentic, and often times, immature way.

And even though I am claiming that all ideologies tend to reflect certain of these limited characteristics, in as much as they are often a reflection themselves of the flattened sense of the world in which they arose, I would never claim, either, that all ideologies are morally equivalent.

III Ideology is not the same thing as Philosophy

When I criticize ideology, I am actually pointing toward it as a prime example of calculative thinking.

Ideology functions in a way for many people that is not only not what I would call (contemplative) thinking, but is often, rather, an indication of when thinking has stopped.

One of the grave intellectual mistakes of our time for many to confuse the terms philosophy and ideology as being one and the same, as being somehow interchangeable.

When I use the term philosophy, I am speaking of the love of wisdom, and the search for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Ideology in general is not concerned with these eternal things, for it falls in the realm of opinion.

In the final segments I criticize the current ideological climate within academia.

If you find this episode interesting, you may also enjoy:

Keep Calm and Do Not Immanentize the Eschaton (Season 2, Episode 2)

Contact / Sharing

Finally, if you have questions and/or comments, please use the Contact page or look up the Wholly Orders Twitter feed. If your preferred social media are not among the current sharing options atop the post, let me know. (In connection with questions, see also FAQ.)

A World in a Grain of Sand: The Poetic & the Sacred, Part 2 (S2E5)

Blake's Jerusalem

Second in a two-part meditation on the relationship of the poetic, the sacred, & Enlightenment. References: Hopkins, Sherrard, Raine, and Blake.

The first part is here.

I A Meditation on Hell

We start with Hopkins’ “Spelt from Sibyl’s Leaves.” This poem presents the end of the world in a way that connotes fragmentation and the loss of a sacred center.

Moreover, I cite this poem as an example of Nicolás Gómez Dávila’s reflection that modern literature is in rebellion against the Enlightenment and its usurpation of the sacred.

II Critical Observations of the Enlightenment

Next I discuss what it is that many of the defenders of Enlightenment cannot see about the Enlightenment itself. I explain the attendant problems in this regard.

After this, I segue into Philip Sherrard’s characterization of a world without the sacred as a “torture-chamber.”

III Kathleen Raine on Blake and Religion

Finally, I take a look at a talk by Kathleen Raine on William Blake. The talk itself is not about religion per se. Nevertheless, she makes several relevant observations for our purposes about Blake and religion. Most important, perhaps, is her claim that for Blake, religion is the externalization of poetry.

After my remarks about the Gospel of John, we reconnect to the ‘grain of sand’ via Blake’s Jerusalem, The Emanation of the Giant Albion.

Links

Notes from the International Hopkins Association website, mentioned on the program.

Another good, succinct write-up of Hopkins’ Spelt from Sibyl’s leaves. (Poetry Society of America)

Kathleen Raine – William Blake and the City (YouTube Video)

Contact / Sharing

Finally, if you have questions and/or comments, please use the Contact page or look up the Wholly Orders Twitter feed. If your preferred social media are not among the current sharing options atop the post, let me know. (In connection with questions, see also FAQ.)

A World in a Grain of Sand: The Poetic & the Sacred, Part 1 (S2E4)

Poetic & Sacred

The first in a two-part meditation on the poetic, the sacred, and the Enlightenment. With references to William Blake and Nicolás Gómez Dávila.

The second part of this discussion is here.

I Approaching the Sacred

I begin with Blake’s first lines of “Auguries of Innocence.” This is part of a longer response to a listener who claims to have no sense of the sacred.

A discussion of Blake’s lines helps us to understand how the poetic vision relates to the sacred. Through meditation on his lines we can lift ourselves out of the technocratic single vision of everyday and experience a glimpse of wholeness. A sense of the sacred.

I then offer a response to those who seem to misunderstand my use of religious language.

After this, I compare and contrast the language of sacred tradition and the language of poetry.

I suggest that the sacred tradition and poetic vision are two sides of the same coin. With this view we can actually see more clearly why the Enlightenment, with its scientific and technological worldview, treats them both as debased currency. Consequently, we may also see why they are so valuable to those of us exiled in flatland.

II Poetic Rebellion Against the Enlightenment

We then discuss a passage from the ‘glosses’ (Escolios) of Nicolás Gómez Dávila.

Dávila first argues that modern literature is not a satanic rebellion against God, as it might seem. Rather, he sees it as a rebellion against the nullification of Christianity and the sacred. Thus, it is a rebellion against the Enlightenment. In particular, he cites many of the poets that we have cited on this program. E.g. Goethe, Blake, Hölderlin, Yeats.

This argument also takes the position that Christianity did not emerge intact from the eighteenth century. We explore what Dávila likely means.

In conclusion, Dávila’s insights help us to build a bridge from the discussion in season one of this program to season two. Namely, that poetic vision as a response to technological flattening is not separate from a poetic response to the loss of the sacred.

Links

A bit more background on Nicolás Gómez Dávila for the English-speaking audience.

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Finally, if you have questions and/or comments, please use the Contact page or look up the Wholly Orders Twitter feed. If your preferred social media are not among the current sharing options atop the post, let me know. (In connection with questions, see also FAQ.)

My Harvard Talk: Recovering Poetic Vision in a Technological Age (S2E3)

Andover Hall, Harvard Divinity School

In this episode I read afresh the talk that I gave at Harvard Divinity School on 3 November 2018. The title of the talk was “Recovering Poetic Vision in a Technological Age.”

This talk I gave as part of the proceedings of the inaugural Sound Education conference. Incidentally, this was also my first public appearance as the host of Wholly Orders.

Here I draw out the red thread of Season One of the podcast. It amounts to an abridged version of the approach to poetic vision. This I contrast with the scientific and technological thinking dominant since the Enlightenment.

It occurred to me that this Harvard talk might be useful to post, for listeners both new and old. There’s really no way to sum up season one in roughly 20 minutes, of course. New listeners who find the themes in this talk worth exploring in more depth may want to go back and listen to the archive. Those who are not new may appreciate this effort at trying to articulate a red thread from the first season. The talk draws upon several episodes from the first season for inspiration.

I would like to thank everyone involved from Harvard Divinity School and Sound Education for the invitation to speak and for being such gracious hosts. Special thanks to Zach Davis for reaching out to me last summer.

Additional new material is coming soon. As we counter the “flattened” view of Enlightenment thinking, we will deepen our philosophical exploration of the Christian tradition. Watch this space.

Contact / Sharing

Finally, if you have questions and/or comments, please use the Contact page or look up the Wholly Orders Twitter feed. If your preferred social media are not among the current sharing options atop the post, let me know. (In connection with questions, see also FAQ.)

Keep Calm and Do Not Immanentize the Eschaton (Season 2, Episode 2)

Keep Calm and Do Not Immanentize the Eschaton

This is the second in a two-part introduction to season two. After addressing the loss of mystery, I clarify my position on ideology.

Those who follow sacred tradition, and love the mystery, have no desire to immanentize the eschaton.

I Lost Ways of Seeing

We have lost our sense of Mystery in Western thinking.

I do this with the help of poetry by Edwin Muir and Matthew Arnold, ruminations on a long ago conversation with a fellow philosopher, and by discussing the idea of faith as a dimension of one’s soul.

In this age, the world is flattened. More than that, it is the age of embracing flattening. For those who seek wholeness, one cannot literally take a secular (‘of this age’) approach. The most terrifying aspect of losing one’s faith, for instance, is that one does not know that one has lost it. This is analogous to our understanding of wholeness in a flattened world. It is almost impossible to see that which one can no longer recognize.

II A Word on Ideology and the Culture Wars

Silence is often misunderstood

I’ve long expressed a desire not to discuss these popular themes of our time. This ambiguity on my part may have caused misunderstanding as a result, which I would like to address. However valid my reasons for not wanting to talk about this have been, it’s time to clear things up. Also, I recognize that I cannot firewall these topics and really engage thinking on the level of the whole.

Don’t get me wrong, I remain as firmly committed as ever to pursuing the true, the good, and the beautiful. I have no desire to discuss politics on this program, or to join the overflowing ranks of the philodoxers. Such tedium is not our concern.

Indeed, all around us there are people in high dudgeon, doing their best to immanentize the eschaton. I am not one of them. And if you are, may I suggest to you that you stop doing so?

In the world, but not of the world

One basic message for season two, at least at this early stage, is this:

We may find ourselves in ‘Flatworld,’ but we do not have to be of ‘Flatworld.’

In other words, I am neither blithely indifferent nor blandly neutral in the culture wars. But I also see that the field of conflict is tilted from the start toward a certain end, so I am not placing my hopes in political solutions to our problems. Therefore, I render unto Caesar his due, but no more.

In addition, I find it quite interesting that the terms that are still used so often today in the culture wars, of the ‘left’ and the ‘right,’ come to us from the time of the French Revolution, and are then, in a sense, relics of the Enlightenment.

Changing direction by means of return to tradition

Therefore, I’d rather change the direction of thinking entirely.

For without doing so, we might well be forever in the stage of fighting culture wars over arbitrarily drawn and ever-shifting lines, against those woebegone waifs for whom the world can never be flat enough. This certainly seems to be a dead end pattern for Enlightenment thinking.

In conclusion, we can start changing direction by recognizing that we must not reduce tradition, or the pursuit of the true, the good, and the beautiful, to a political manifesto, nor objectify it at all.

Sacred tradition can and should instead be the rallying point for the soul.

Contact / Sharing

Finally, if you have questions and/or comments, please use the Contact page or look up the Wholly Orders Twitter feed. If your preferred social media are not among the current sharing options atop the post, let me know. (In connection with questions, see also FAQ.)

Recovering Sacred Tradition (Season 2, Episode 1)

Recovering Sacred Tradition

The first in a two-part introduction to season two. This season will deepen our focus on the sacred religious tradition in connection with the same goals and aims of last season.

I A Deepened Focus on Sacred Tradition

After opening remarks, I restate the goals and aims of the program from the first season. Season Two adds a dimension to those same goals. In Season Two my approach comes with a deepened focus on the sacred religious tradition. We are speaking primarily of Christianity, in its more traditional and orthodox sense.

II A Criticism of Heidegger with respect to Tradition

Heidegger provides a sweeping, insightful, and trenchant critique of Western metaphysics. His critique of calculative reasoning and the technological paradigm is extremely valuable in understanding the problems in Western thinking.

However, Heidegger sees himself at the end of Western metaphysics. He is, therefore, prone to making sweeping assessments of the tradition itself. For instance, his focus is on the question of fundamental ontology. He thus reduces traditional study of the true, the good, and the beautiful to a question of Being disclosing truth.

This reduction does not help us with how to live in the face of the today’s problems. In addition, it is also a flattened view in itself of tradition.

I then compare Heidegger with Meister Eckhart. Eckhart’s work speaks to me on not merely an intellectual, but also spiritual level. This is perhaps because Eckhart participates in a living sacred tradition.

III The Sacred and Holistic Thinking

Some may ask, however, why sacred tradition should be included in the search for holistic thinking. Others, such as ecologists, make earnest efforts at holistic thinking without doing so, for instance.

Yet I agree with Philip Sherrard, as discussed in season one. Wholeness presupposes the sacred. Indeed, turning away from the sacred has increased fragmentation and flattening in our thinking.

Indeed, many now fail even to see tradition or the sacred itself now in anything but a two-dimensional, flattened way. Nevertheless, we will endeavor to do so.

Contact / Sharing

Finally, if you have questions and/or comments, please use the Contact page or look up the Wholly Orders Twitter feed. If your preferred social media are not among the current sharing options atop the post, let me know. (In connection with questions, see also FAQ.)

Gathering the Appearances: Poetic Innocence & Tradition (Episode 030)

Gathering the Appearances: Poetic Innocence & Tradition

A discussion of the poetic gathering of appearances in connection with innocence and tradition. Revisiting Heidegger’s treatment of Hölderlin, we compare this poetic approach with holistic approaches to science. The relationship of image to the questions of how we see and dwell in our world also comes up. The pure heart of Hölderlin and the poetic innocence of Yeats come together as well to show an alternative to the ‘flattening’ of our world by technology. In addition, the writing of Kathleen Raine and Philip Sherrard is important in aiding the discussion.

References within this episode presume awareness of previous discussions.  See Love the Questions: Poetic Measure & The Unknown (Episode 029). Also, Poetic Measure and the Sacred: Raine, Heidegger, Sherrard (Episode 028).

I Gathering and Dwelling

The discussion opens with a look at Heidegger’s treatment of Hölderlin. ‘Gathering the appearances’ is means by which poetic dwelling occurs. In this respect, there is a similarity to holistic approaches to science. For instance, Bortoft’s Goethean approach involves ‘Taking Appearance Seriously.’ Barfield writes of ‘Saving the Appearances.’ For more on Bortoft, see (especially). Not Your Grandfather’s Empiricism (Episode 006).  Let It Be (Episode 007). For more on Barfield see (especially). Collective Representation or ‘Is It Really There?’ (Episode 010)Sense and Non-Sense (Episode 011)Dashboard Knowledge and Technology (Episode 013).

There are similarities in discussing the limitations of the modern scientific approach and in explaining the essence of what it means to dwell poetically. They point toward our relationship with nature. The crux of the matter deals with how we see and contemplate that which shows itself to us.  Our aim is, therefore, to relate to experience or appearance without immediately reducing it. We tend to remove ourselves from appearances and return to that with which we are familiar.

II The Image

We then build upon previous discussions of Heidegger, Raine, etc., and the role of image. Furthermore, the mechanistic worldview itself has roots in an image, from which we also see ourselves.  Image is at the root of cosmology. Eventually, we connect this to the notion of the ‘flattening’ and to the work of Philip Sherrard on sacred cosmology.

III Historical versus Metaphysical

In discussing the difficult notion of non-quantitative measure in poetry, we then turn to Kathleen Raine. Raine’s contrast between Eliot and Yeats seems especially relevant. With Eliot, his poetry reflects the ‘known’ and the ‘historical tradition.’ While with Yeats, there is the presence of the ‘unknown’ as well.  Here we have rather the ‘metaphysical Tradition’ (capitalized in reference to the tradition of the sophia perennis).

IV Announcement

In addition to the discussion of poetry, I also address the coming next phase of the Wholly Orders project.

Link(s)

A Prayer for My Daughter,” by William Butler Yeats

Contact / Sharing

Finally, if you have questions and/or comments, please use the Contact page or look up the Wholly Orders Twitter feed. If your preferred social media are not among the current sharing options atop the post, let me know. (In connection with questions, see also FAQ.)

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