Saturday, August 17, 2019

"Marriage" in heaven

"It’s hard for me to think that I could be me and have a relation to everybody else that’s the same as the relation to my wife.  I just don’t see how I’m me.  Not the me that [is] the life I’ve led.  So even if there’s no marriage or giving in marriage in heaven, . . . nevertheless I can’t imagine how I cease to be my . . . [how] that history goes.  I mean, that history seems to be a part of who I am.  There will be a radical openness to all things, but I think I’m still me, and I don’t see how that disappears. . . . I can’t imagine me being me without my history. . . .  So I would think Yes, we will remain who we are, and I think who we are—who we’ve come to be—involves a set of relations.  They may be expanded, but I can’t see them being erased, and we still are particular individuals."

"As time goes on, the acceptance, the appreciation, even the understanding of nature, will be less and less needed. In its place will come the need to determine the desirable form of the humanly-controlled universe"

Communist Party of Ireland
"The art of the future will, because of the very opportunities and materials it will have at its command, need an infinitely stronger formative impulse than it does now.  The cardinal tendency of progress is the replacement of an indifferent chance environment by a deliberately created one.  As time goes on, the acceptance, the appreciation, even the understanding of nature, will be less and less needed.  In its place will come the need to determine the desirable form of the humanly-controlled universe which is nothing more nor less than art."

     J[ohn] D[esmond] Bernal, The world, the flesh and the devil:  an enquiry into the future of the three enemies of the rational soul (London:  Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1929), 78-79 (chap. 5).
     I was put onto this by Rémi Brague, whose The kingdom of man:  genesis and failure of the modern project (trans. Paul Seaton, Catholic ideas for a secular world (Notre Dame, IN:  University of Notre Dame Press, 2018), 111) sets this powerfully in the context of the whole of the modern "project" (5 and therefore passim).  Bernal was a communist of some sort.  On p. 119, Brague connects "The dream of the indefinite malleability of nature" up with "the Soviet Union, poor in real inventions, armaments excepted," but "the country of regimens of longevity, youth serums, even 'resurrections' (anabiosis) of animals drained of their blood" (most notably, presumably, Lenin himself (on which see, for example, Yuri Slezkin, The house of government:  a saga of the Russian revolution (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 2017)).
     Needless to say, by "art" Bernal means not the fine arts but, in the words of Brague, the "domination of external nature, perceived as an object to conquer" (6).  And then, of course, internal nature, too.  For "Where action (praxis) is reduced to making (poiēsis), man loses what he alone was able to do, since he alone 'acts' in the strict meaning of the term", such that "There is therefore no longer any reason for which he could exempt himself from production, and he must himself become its object" (165).  Thus, "A self-destructive dialectic is . . . unleashed.  The project of a radical immanence ends by reversing the project of a domination of nature by man into a domination by nature over man" (197), [à la C. S. Lewis' The abolition of man.]  "A dialectic is put in place by which the ambition of man to total dominance leads to his own effacement" (201).

Friday, August 16, 2019

John Wesley on the British Museum

Wikimedia Commons
"At the desire of some of my friends, I accompanied them to the British Museum.  What an immense field is here for curiosity to range in!  One large room was filled from top to bottom with things brought from Tahiti; two or three more with things dug out of the ruins of Herculaneum!  Seven huge apartments are filled with curious books, five with manuscripts, two with fossils of all sorts, and the rest with various animals!  But what account will a man give to the Judge of quick and dead for a life spent in collecting all these?"

     John Wesley, Journal, Friday, 22 December 1781; BEWJW 23 =Journals and diaries 6 (1776-1786), ed. Reginald Ward and Richard P. Heitzenrater (Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 1995), 190.  Ward's comment:  "JW's almost automatic recurrence to the theme of the transience of this world's goods, is singularly inappropriate both to the permanent intellectual significance of the collections, and to the instinctive engagement with them of his own intellectual curiosity" (n47), not to mention not only his positive or at least neutral references to the collections of the likes of the British Museum and the Bodleian Library elsewhere, but his own lifelong engagement with books and collections (his own, his Christian library, the Kingswood library, etc.).  Perhaps the operative term here is "curiosity."  But what is a mere "curiosity" to one can be (or become) a source of inestimable value from another point of view.  I was put onto this comment (I trust it was this comment) by Michael Paulus.

Pascal's wager

"Certainties of this kind are experimental [(expérimentales)].  But if we do not believe in them before experiencing them, if at least we do not behave as though we believed in them, we shall never have the experience which leads to such certainties.  There is a kind of contradiction here.  Above a given level this is the case with all useful knowledge concerning spiritual progress.  If we do not regulate our conduct by it before having proved it, if we do not hold on to it for a long time only by faith, a faith at first stormy and without light, we shall never transform it into certainty.  Faith is the indispensable condition.
     "The best support for faith is the guarantee that if we ask our Father for bread, he does not give us a stone."

     Simone Weil, "Reflections on the right use of school studies with a view to the love of God," in Waiting on God, trans. Emma Craufurd (London:  Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, 1951), 52.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

"The recognition of human wretchedness [(misère)] is difficult for whoever is rich and powerful because he is almost invincibly led to believe that he is something. It is equally difficult for the man in miserable circumstances [(au misérable)] because he is almost invincibly led to believe that the rich and powerful man is something."

     Simone Weil, "Attention and will," in Gravity and grace, trans. Emma Craufurd (London:  Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1963 [1952]), 110.  "human wretchedness is as great in the absolutely sinless man as in the sinner", but also an image of God, "who is what we are not", i.e. infinitely blessed.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

"The amount of creative genius in any period is strictly in proportion to the amount of [prayer] . . . at that period."

"Extreme attention is what constitutes the creative faculty in man and the only extreme attention is religious.  The amount of creative genius in any period is strictly in proportion to the amount of extreme attention and thus of authentic religion at that period."

     Simone Weil, "Attention and will," in Gravity and grace, trans. Emma Craufurd (London:  Routledge and Kegan, 1963 [1952]), 106.

Monday, August 12, 2019

"Attention signifies [both] a highly elevated act of knowledge and the most complete renunciation [(dénuement)] in the face of [its] object."

"L’attention signifie un acte très élevé de connaissance et le dénuement le plus complete n face de l’objet."

     Paul Ricœur, "L’attention:  étude phénoménologie de l’attention et de ses connexions philosophiques" (Cercle philosophique de l’Ouest, Rennes, 2 March 1939), Studia phænomenologica 13 (2013):  40 (21-50).  Immediate context:
an act of the mind can be adynamic:  neither active nor passive.  Or, rather, because to know is not to suffer, knowing can be experienced in the passive mode (fascination) or in the active mode (voluntary attention).  There is no contradiction about an act’s being at once receptive and active; or indeed [(bien)] receptive and passive.  Fascination is at once receptivity inasmuch as it knows, and passivity inasmuch as [it is a] duration endured [(durée subie)]; voluntary attention is at once receptivity by its adherence to the object and activity by its inherence in the subject and by its liberty of focus [(orientation)]. 
. . . knowledge can be experienced in the active mode without being productive of its object. . . .  By attention, I place myself actively at the disposal of [(me mets activement au compte de)] the object.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

"To destroy cities, either materially or morally, . . . this is to sever every bond of poetry and love between human beings and the universe. . . ."

"Mais détruire des cités, soit matériellement, soit moralement, . . . c'est couper tout lien de poésie et d'amour entre des âmes humaines et l'univers."

     Simone Weil, "Love of the order of the world," in "Forms of the implicit love of God," in Waiting on God, trans. Emma Craufurd (London:  Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., 1951), 115-116, italics mine.  Context:
The love of the beauty of the world, while it is universal, involves, as a love which is secondary and subordinate to itself, the love of all the truly precious things which bad fortune can destroy.  The truly precious things [('the pure and authentic achievements of art and science', 'everything which envelops human life with poetry through all the social strata')] are those which form ladders [(échelles)] reaching towards the beauty of the world, openings [(ouvertures)] on to it.  He who has gone farther, to the very beauty of the world itself, does not love them any less but much more deeply than before.
French from Œuvres, ed. Florence de Lussy (Paris:  Le Grand Livre du Mois < Éditions Gallimard, 1999), 744.