Wednesday, August 21, 2019

"no unmediated divine actions, no unmediated divine gifts, no unmediated sources of sanctification"


"The sacraments are little Christs.  Just as the Incarnation of the Eternal Word establishes the framework of the Christian religion, so the sacraments define the parameters of sanctified life in the Church.  Once the Eternal Word becomes Incarnate, no unmediated divine actions, no unmediated divine gifts, no unmediated sources of sanctification are recognized by the Church.  Otherwise put, the sacraments have become the indispensable instruments for the communication of God’s love."


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.