Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Freedom

“Considered biblically... freedom is ... participation in being itself. It means to be the possessor… of being. Only on this basis can indeed God be defined as freedom in person, because he is the totality of the possession of being. We can… say that freedom is identical with exaltation of being, which admittedly only makes sense if exaltation of being is really exaltation: the gift of life and being given in love" [J. Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism and Politics, Crossroads (1988) 198]


Ann Murray's "You Needed Me" lyricizes this truth:



I cried a tear

You wiped it dry

I was confused
You cleared my mind
I sold my soul
You bought it back for me
And held me up and gave me dignity
Somehow you needed me.
You gave me strength
To stand alone again
To face the worldOut on my own again
You put me high upon a pedestal
So high that I could almost see eternity
You needed me
You needed me


And I can't believe it's you
I can't believe it's true
I needed you and you were there
And I'll never leave, why should I leaveI'd be a fool
'Cause I've finally found someone who really cares
You held my hand
When it was cold
When I was lost
You took me home
You gave me hope
When I was at the end
And turned my lies
Back into truth again
You even called me friend


Freedom, like love, is a distinct experience of reality. It is the experience of the self as ontological reality in a state of transcendence. Freedom is not primarily the experience of indeterminacy between rival options. It does not consist in choice. It needs affirmation from another in order to begin the process of experiencing oneself as a self. If that occurs, then the process of self-mastery (or failure thereof) can begin. It is in that process of the self “subduing” the self – as in the revealed initial command to subdue the earth to gain possession of it – that ur-freedom begins. In this primordial sense, man is cause of himself. He cannot be the absolute cause because he could not even begin without the initial affirmation from another.
As Ann Murray sings it:


I sold my soul
You bought it back for me
And held me up and gave me dignity
Somehow you needed me.
You gave me strength

Affirmation makes it possible


To stand alone again
To face the world
Out on my own again
You put me high upon a pedestal
So high that I could almost see eternity
You needed me
You needed me



The very act of determining the self to be “I” immediately coincides with the meaning that one gives the “I.” The SCDF over Ratzinger’s name, “Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation,” said: “Freedom which is interior mastery of one’s own acts and self-determination immediately entails a relationship with the ethical order. It finds its true meaning in the choice of moral good.”[1] It goes on to say: “In exercising his freedom, he decides for himself and forms himself. In this sense man is his own cause. But he is this only as a creature and as God’s image. This is the truth of his being which shows by contrast how profoundly erroneous are the theories which think they exalt the freedom of man or his `historical praxis’ by making this freedom the absolute principle of his being and becoming. These theories are expressions of atheism or tend towards atheism by their own logic.”[2] So, the determining of the self which is the act of autonomy as “cause of who one is” (and hence, the very meaning of freedom) can only be done as a choice as to who one “should be” or avoidance of who “one should not be.” Notice, it is not simply that one is already constituted as “I” and then chooses to perform a good or bad action as an accidental adjunct to already established “substance.” Rather, one is defining who one’s very being will be.

But, how does one know this “truth” of his being as “creature and as God’s image?” Being a contingent being in a continuous state of flux, what is the source of the absoluteness of the truth of the self and goodness and evil. Where does one find the absolute in physical and historical contingency that is always relative? This has been the perennial question since the onset of the Enlightenment. I offer a concise and to the point presentation from Wikipedia of what has come to be known as “the naturalistic fallacy:”

The Naturalistic Fallacy (Wikipedia)
In meta-ethics, the is-ought problem was raised by David Hume (Scottish philosopher and historian, 17111776), who noted that many writers make claims about what ought to be on the basis of statements about what is. But there seems to be a big difference between descriptive statements (about what is) and prescriptive statements (about what ought to be).
Hume discusses the problem in book III, part I, section I of his A Treatise of Human Nature:

"In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark'd, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a
God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surpriz'd to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it shou'd be observ'd and explain'd; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it.

Hume then calls for writers to be on their guard against such inferences, if they cannot give an explanation of how the ought-statements are supposed to follow from the is-statements. But how exactly can you derive an "ought" from an "is"? In other words, given our knowledge of the way the world is, how can we know the way the world ought to be? That question, prompted by Hume's small paragraph, has become one of the central questions of ethical theory, and Hume is usually assigned the position that such a derivation is impossible. This complete severing of "is" from "ought" has been given the graphic designation of "Hume's Guillotine".
A similar (though distinct) view is defended by
G. E. Moore's 'open question argument', intended to refute any identification of moral properties with natural properties—the so-called 'naturalistic fallacy'. And, like the naturalistic fallacy (which is often misunderstood to involve the arguably fallacious inference from 'this is (un)natural' to 'this is (im)moral'), the is-ought problem has been misunderstood as related to a less deep, but more common, issue. Namely, many people think the is-ought problem is related to the arguably true claim that, just because something is the case, that does not mean that it ought to be the case. On this misunderstanding, Hume was arguing against those complacent moralists who hold that the world is just fine as it stands, and needs no improvement. This, of course, is not Hume's point—he meant to challenge the transition from any set of descriptive claims to any prescriptive claim. This is a very general and very deep challenge to any descriptive account of moral thought, a challenge that is in keeping with Hume's anti-rationalist bent as a moral theorist.
Many people find Hume's thesis compelling, and see no hope for grounding moral statements in purely descriptive ones.
The apparent gap between “is” statements and “ought” statements, when combined with Hume's fork—the idea that all items of knowledge either are based on logic and definitions or are based on observation—renders “ought” statements of dubious validity. Since “ought” statements do not seem to be known in either of the two ways mentioned, it would seem that there can be no moral knowledge. Two responses to this are moral skepticism and non-cognitivism.
The answer of those who believe in actual moral knowledge depends upon a few presuppositions. One has to do with the definition of reality that descriptive truths are said to correspond to. Another has to do with the existence of indefinables.

By reality, an effective moral cognitivist response assumes it means those things actually existing independent of the mind, rather than those representations of such things in the mind that we call knowledge, or of wishes entertained that things might be otherwise. In that more actual sense of the meaning of reality, an effective moral cognitivist response can agree that the truth of “is” statements are ultimately based on their correspondence to reality (both in the realm of actuality and the ideal) while “ought” statements are not.
By indefinables, this refers to concepts so global that they cannot be defined; rather, in a sense, they themselves define our reality and our ideas. Their meanings cannot be stated in a true definition, but their meanings can be referred to instead by being placed with their incomplete definitions in
self-evident statements, the truth of which can be tested by whether or not it is impossible to think the opposite without a contradiction.
An example of this is of finite parts and wholes; they cannot be defined without reference to each other and thus with some amount of circularity, but we can make the self-evident statement that “the whole is greater than any of its parts”, and thus establish a meaning particular to the two concepts.
These two notions being granted, it can be said that statements of “ought” are measured by their prescriptive truth, just as statements of “is” are measured by their descriptive truth; and the descriptive truth of an “is” judgment is defined by its correspondence to reality (actual or in the mind), while the prescriptive truth of an “ought” judgment is defined according to a more limited scope—its correspondence to right desire (conceivable in the mind and able to be found in the rational appetite, but not in the more actual reality of things independent of the mind or rational appetite).

To some, this may immediately suggest the question: “How can we know what is right desire if it is already admitted that it is not based on the more actual reality of things independent of the mind?” The beginning of the answer is found when we consider that the concepts “right”“good”, “bad.”, "right" and “wrong” are indefinables. Thus right desire cannot be defined properly, but a way to refer to its meaning may be found through a self-evident prescriptive truth.
Solution to the “Is” – “Ought” Conundrum


The grounding of what “should” be done must always be the real that we have taken from Greek perception as “Being.” The nub of the problem is, as seen above, that the real, or being, is always perceived through external sensation to be factual, concrete and contingent. And since it is always such, one cannot deduct the dynamic from the static. You cannot derive absolute dynamic imperatives from static, value-neutral indicatives.

But things change if there is another kind of experience that is not less experiential such as joy, sadness, moral responsibility, guilt, peace, anxiety. With regard to these during the last 400 years, the philosophy of the street has consigned these “experiences” to the realm of psychic and emotional states. They are considered “subjective” as in "subjectivistic" and therefore not to be classified as “real.” They were classified as "epiphenomenal," and as such, unreal as other subjectivities such as abstract concepts, feelings and dreams. However, the line of demarcation between the externally experienced “real” and interior consciousness as “unreal” is breaking down thanks to a universally burgeoning insight that what is subjective is not necessarily unreal, but that, quite to the contrary, it might be what is most real and perceived most directly without the distortion of mediation. That is, the self is in direct contact with itself without the distortion of sensible perception or abstract images. Thanks also to the recognition of the validity of some strains of phenomenology that are validating what seemed before to be only subjective consciousness, and therefore unreal, to be very real indeed. Case in point is Wojtyla’s “Acting Person.” On this point, he (Wojtyla) commented: “Today we are seeing a breakdown of that line of demarcation – and or some of the same reasons that gave rise to it in the first place. By `some of the same reason’ I mean that this is also happening as a result of phenomenological analyses conducted in the realm of `pure consciousness’ using Husserl’s epoche: bracketing the existence, or reality, of the conscious subject. I am convinced that the line of demarcation between the subjectivistic (idealistic) and objectivistic (realistic) views in anthropology and ethics must break down and is in fact breaking down on the basis of the experience of the human being. This experience automatically frees us from pour consciousness as the subject conceived and assumed priori and leads us to the full concrete existence of the human being, to the reality of the conscious subject. With all phenomenological analyses in the realm of that assumed subject (pure consciousness) now at our disposal, we can no longer go on treating the human being exclusively as an objective being, but we must also somehow treat the human being as a subject in the dimension in which the specifically human subjectivity of the human being is determined by consciousness.
“And that dimension would seem to be none other than personal subjectivity.”
[3]

Freedom is the exercise of determining the self in accord with “the inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine.”[4] Where does this tendency come from? It comes from the mimicking of the Self-transcendence which is prototypical freedom. The Three Divine Persons are not only free; They are Freedom itself. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger commented: “The real God is bound to himself in threefold love and is thus pure freedom.”[5] Freedom means to become fully who one is. God the Father is fully Himself as Father by being the act of engendering the Son. He is not Father, and then engenders the Son. He is the very act of relating. He is not substance who “then” engenders the Son, thus becoming Father. His totality of Being as Father and Person is the “relating.” And this, of course, is what true freedom means in us as images. To be free will mean to be fully who one is and is supposed to be.

To be as act of relation constitutively, of course, sounds unthinkable – precisely because it is our way of thinking that we impose on the revelation. And it is because we think by the mediation of abstract concepts – “kataphatically,” i.e. by the mediation of symbols and words - that we insist that there must be a substance in which relation is grounded as an accident. But the God of revelation is not the God of the philosophers. Ratzinger remarked that “The Fathers [of the Church], who started from the assumption of this harmony between philosophy and biblical revelation, realized that the one God of the Bible could be affirmed, in his identity, through two predicates: creation and revelation, creation and redemption. But these are both relational terms. Thus the God of the Bible is a God-in-relationship; and to that extent, in the essence of his identity, he is opposed to the self-enclosed God of philosophy.”[6] After the likes of the “Da Vinci Code” we are aware of the tension that preceded the Council of Nicea, and continues today. To say that the man Jesus of Nazareth is the divine Person, Logos, Absolute God, Creator and Lord of all reality, and that He is such in that He is equal to the Father in Godhead but dissimilar as Person-Son engendered from all eternity – explodes the meaning of “Being” substance-in-itself that was received from Greek metaphysics. That is, how can a being be one with another yet be irreducibly different. “Being” for Aristotle and Plato – perhaps they themselves are a decline from the higher metaphysics of the 5th and 6th centuries of Anaximander, Parmenides, Heraclitus, etc. as suggested by Heidegger[7] – meant precisely to be an individual “substance” or the “One,” but not a relation.



For Heidegger, there is a “concealment of Being” = the concealment of the "I" (discovered in the experience of his s0-called “Dasein,” the existentially experienced "I") by sensible perception (of “things”) and concepts (judgements of “fact”). That is, the unmediated experience of reality that is the “I” as activated in self transcendence is lost in the neglect of this experience and forgetfulness of it. Since consciousness is necessary for remembering the before and after – the potency and the act - of self-determination that goes into self-transcendence, any interior laziness (acedia) of the activity of self-determining - letting oneself “go” so as to merely respond passively and “necessarily” – “unfreely” - on the level of stimulus and response, produces the loss of the experience that facilitates the confusion of the ontological “I” and consciousness (that is not the “I” but constitutive in its perception). The hard part has been to see through consciousness to the hard reality of the “I” as Being. This has been the great masterwork of Karol Wojtyla in deploying his own brand of descriptive phenomenology and recognizing what he found as “Being.” Hence, his master work, “the Acting Person.” In a word, the “I” has been concealed under the disguise of “consciousness” for the entire modern period, and prior to that as “substance.” At least “substance” was recognized as real although it was distorted by working only on the level of sensible experience and abstractive, conceptual knowing. This observation is the underpinning Ratzinger’s pejorative remarks about same. As we have seen, “substance” for him was “entirely insufficient”[8] as unable to “clarify anything about the Trinity or about Christology,”[9] and therefore about anthropology (in that Jesus Christ is the revelation of man [cf. GS #22]).

This in turn left any distinction between consciousness and concepts undifferentiated, which took over the entire content of the interior terrain. What was going on in the interior of the human person in human activity was camouflaged as “thought” leaving the only experience, and therefore “empiricism” of “Being” on the “outside” through sensible perception. Of course, Bishop Berkeley saw though sensible perception as undeniably subjectivist since it is always “our” perception as the phenomenal, and therefore, considered only in itself as mediation, not trustworthy of experience with reality. In his later works, he grounded the true-to-reality experience of the senses as grounded in the more profoundly true-to-reality experience of the self experiencing through the senses. It is important to note that whenever there is experience, the self is involved actively as in existentially. There is real agency involved. This is basically the why Wojtyla begins “The Acting Person:” “Man’s experience of anything outside of himself is always associated with the experience of himself, and he never experiences anything external without having at the same time the experience of himself.”[10] This is the nub of Wojtyla’s realism that is vastly greater than anything previous since the experience of the self in the moment of self-determination and action is unmediated by perception or concept, and hence vastly real as direct.



Heidegger on “Un-concealment.” and “Concealment”



Heidegger’s work on the early Greeks shows the tendency of the mind to lose contact with reality precisely because of the non-involvement of the self-in-act. When the "I" (or "dasein") is not experienced as going forth from itself (as in Christian Faith), there is no context of "meaning" for the experience of sensible perceptions. Sensible experience then becomes absurd. He suggests that both Plato and Aristotle were already a degeneration from the pre-Socratic personalist experience of reality, such as in “The Anaximander Fragment” as well as in writings of Parmenides and Heraclitus. This also suggests what Benedict referred to at Regensburg concerning the Exile to Babylon in the 6th-5th century: that there was a reciprocal cross-over between Judaic faith as self-transcendent faith and Greek philosophy. Israel communicated the experience of faith, while Greece communicated the conceptual use of reason. The intercommunication combined as a first “Enlightenment” as Judaism began to live out its destiny as a covenant for all nations (Abraham), and the rational Greek mind was broadened to the experience of the "I-believe" as the prime locus of Being-in-act. Heidegger shows the decline of ontological experience semantically from Homer to Plato and Aristotle:
In Plato and Aristotle we encounter the words ον and οντα, considered linguistically, are presumably somewhat truncated forms of the original words εον and εοντα. Only in the latter words is the sound preserved which relates them to estin and einai. The epsilon in eon and eonta is the epsilon in the root es of estin, est, esse and “is.” In contrast on and onta appear as rootless participial endings, as though by themselves they expressly designated what we must think in those word-forms called by later grammarians metoche, participium, i.e. those word-forms which participate in the verbal and nominal senses of a word.

“Thus on says `being’ in the sense of to be a being; at the same time it names a being which is. In the duality of the participial significance of on the distinction between `to be’ and `a being’ lies concealed. What is here set forth, which at first may be taken for grammatical hair-splitting, is in truth the riddle of Being. The participle on is the word for what comes to appear in metaphysics as transcendental and transcendent Transcendence.
“Archaic language, and thus Parmenides and Heraclitus as well, always employ eon and eonta,
But eon, `being,’ is not only the singular form of the participle eonta, `beings;’ rather, it indicates what is singular as such, what is singular in its numerical unity and what is singularly and unifyingly one before all number.
"We might assert in an exaggerated way, which nevertheless bears on the truth, that the fate of the West hangs on the translation of the word eon, assuming that the translation consists in crossing over to the truth of what comes to language in eon.”[11]


The Concealment of the “I,” The Absolute Value: Good and True

You put me high upon a pedestalSo high that I could almost see eternity”


We saw above the “Is – “Ought” Conundrum. The so-called “naturalistic fallacy” consists in attempting to draw moral obligation from factual states of affairs. It is a fallacy because “Ought” can never be derived from “Is.” The conundrum is correct given the presumed dualism between mind and matter where there is only one empirical experience, that of sensible matter, and the knowledge of the sensible world is judged in propositions made up of concepts that have been abstracted: signs through which we access the real. These judgments are “facts” of nature which can ground no moral obligation save utilitarianism or proportionalism, which in themselves are never absolute.
But what happens if there is another empirical level that is not sensible matter, but being-in-act that is the “I” in the moment of free self-determination? What happens if by “reason” we mean intelligence that is perceptive of both levels of empirical experience, one of sensible perception, and another of the experience of the self that we refuse to “reduce” to the sensible and material experience. What happens if we "pause" (Wojtyla's word) that is understood as mere subjectivity. Is it merely a reducible sensation that Helen Keller “(s)uddenly…felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten – a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me "? Helen goes on: "I knew then that `w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free... As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I say everything with the strange, new sight that had come to me. On entering the door I remembered the doll I had broken. I felt my way to the hearth and picked up the pieces I tried vainly to put them together. Then my eyes filled with tears; for I realized what I had done, and for the first time I felt repentance and sorrow.” Walker Percy commented: “If there was a bifurcation in our knowledge of ourselves and our peculiar and most characteristically human activity, with a terra incognita in between concealing the mystery, surely I was straddling it and looking straight down at it. Here in the well-house in Tuscumbia in a small space and a short time, something extremely important and mysterious had happened. Eight-year-old Helen made her breakthrough from the good responding animal which behaviorists study so successfully to the strange name-giving and sentence-uttering creature who begins by naming shoes and ships and sealing wax, and later tells jokes, curses, reads the paper, writes La sua volontade e nostra pace, or becomes a Hegel and composes an entire system of philosophy.”

Walker Percy asks: “What had happened inside Helen’s head?” The old model of two dimensional stimulus-response broke down. “Before, Helen had behaved like a good responding organism. Afterward, she acted like a rejoicing symbol-mongering human. Before, she was little more than an animal. Afterward, she became wholly human. Within the few minutes of the breakthrough and the several hours of exploiting it Helen had concentrated the months of the naming phase that most children go through somewhere around their second birthday.” Helen had exercised her “I.” She had experienced herself as “I” in naming the water very like Adam had suddenly felt alone amidst all the “objects” because he had become a subject. He and she had activated the ontological “I” in the exercise of freedom.



The Absolute
The short answer to the "Is - "ought" problem is the the following: the experience of the "I" is the experience of the image of the only real ontological absolute that is God. Only God is absolutely good. Only God is absolute, and man is absolute in so far as he images God. If there were such a thing as a real experience of the image of the absolute, there would be an experience of the absolute by the image experiencing itself.

The Presumed Absolute as Thought in an Anthropology of Substance


Freedom, in a metaphysic of substance (= to be in self and not in other [accident]) such as in St. Thomas, must be explained in terms of the spiritual faculties (accidents) of intellect and will since substantial being can identical with its own action (of which freedom is predicated). Substance means simply to be in self. Freedom in thomistic metaphysics and anthropology has to do with finite, moral action as accidental.

St. Thomas's metaphysical anthropology is intellectualist and deductive rather than experiential. In its genre, it is masterly. He asks in the First Part of the Summa Theologiae (Question V, Article 1, Respondeo): "Whether Good Differs in Reality From Being?" and answers (my loose translation): "The concept of the good consists in this, that something be desirable... And something is desirable in so far as it is perfect, for everything desires its own perfection. And since each thing is perfect in so far as it is in act, and the act of all acts that makes every being "be" is esse, it follows that good and being are the same in reality."

This intellectual and deductive account deals with the spiritual faculties of a rational substance.
Since the proper object of reason is Being as such (in common), when the faculty of the will is presented with Being as act, it tends toward it "necessarily" and cannot-not will it. The intellect, "seeing" the desire for Being in the will, "understand" that Being is "Good."

This "necessary" attraction toward Being as act and therefore perfection, endows the will with a "non-necessity" with regard to every finite, individual instantiation of Being, such as vanilla or chocolate. This "non-necessity" is what is called "freedom." The whole account takes place with the supposition of Being as substance and the interplay of the accidental faculties as the locus of what is understood to be freedom. Pinckaers says : "Thus freedom was based on the very nature of our spiritual faculties. Their inclination to universal truth and goodness created an opening upon the infinite. This freed the will in regard to all finite, particular goods, among which could be included the act of choice itself. This, emanating from the person, was contingent and individual" (Servais Pinckaers, O.P. "The sources of Christian Ethics," CUA Press [1995] 393).

The Absolute as "Experience" of the "I" in the Act of Transcendence

Having seen the Absolute in thought within an anthropology of substance, what would happen if, in the face of all the disclaimers of Enlightenment dualism that there can be no absolutes in the real, material world of sensible experience, we were to say that there is precisely an empirical experience of a real ontological absolute in the experience of the self in the moral act; that, in fact, the "I" is that very absolute. And that it is that very absolute in so far as it has been created in the image and likeness of the divine Person who alone is Absolute Good.

It will be objected that we are bringing revelation into the argument, and that reason may only be permitted to assign reality to what can be empirically sensed.

At that point it would be important to suggest that the limitation and restriction of reason to only the materially sensible is unwarranted since it flies precisely in the face of the universal experience of men. Regarding the range of reason, Josef Pieper remarked: Reason includes a reference to reality; indeed, it is itself this reference. `In accord with reason' is in this sense that which is right `in itself,' that which corresponds to reality itself. The order of reason according signifies that something is disposed in accordance with the truth of real things" ("The Cardinal Virtues" UNDP [1967]155-156).

The ultimate criterion for realism as access to the real is experience. If one refuses to accept that such and such phenomena are real experiences, and that the only experiences that qualify as "experience" are phenomena through the senses, distinctions are in order. Ratzinger agrees that "sensory perception is the indispensable gateway to all knowledge as such." ("Principles of Catholic Theology," Ignatius [1987] 343.). But what about the intellectual correction that must interpret what is sensed such as whether the sun rises or whether the earth is rotating. "The senses experiencd nothing if no question has been raised, if there is no preceding command from the intellect without which sensory experience cannot take place... It is only when the intellect sheds light on sensory experience that this sensory experience has any value as knowledge..."(Idem, 348).

Finally, Ratzinger offers the reality of specifically Christian experience in the form of the interaction of self-giving betweenChrist and the Samaritan woman. Christ is at the well. She comes to fetch water. He asks her for a drink. She responds that he has no bucket. He answers that if she knew who he was, she would ask him for living water. She says: give me this water. He says: bring me your husband. She says: I have no husband. He commends her for the gift of herself to him in the act of sincerity and comments that she has had five men and none have been her husband. She says: I see you're a prophet. He says that religion comes from the Jews. She says, I know the Messia is coming. He answers: I am the Messiah.

Ratzinger comments that throughout the narrative, the experience passes from the sensible thing - water - to the "I" of the woman and finally to the knowledge of the transcendency of Christ as God. There was "a transition from empirical and experimental to `existential' experience" (Idem. 354). "The woman stands face to face with herself. It is no longer a question now of something but of the depths of the I itself and consequently, of the radical poverty that is man's I-myself, the place where this I is ultimately revealed behind the superficiality of the something" (idem 354). The woman has passed from her reduced state of being an individual within the constraints of being interested only in self and her water (substance and the experience of sensible perception), to the dynamic experience of interior relation on the level of the ontological "I" where she has told the truth about herself and thus entered into a likeness to the interior of Christ who is pure relation to the Father. Such a likeness made it possible for Christ to reveal who He was as Messiah to her, which in turn dynamized her into the mission of giving testimony concerning Christ to the poeple of the town. She now enters into the economic mission of the Trinity. Ratzinger comments: "Catechesis must lead to self-knowledge, to the exposing of the I, so that it lets the masks fall and moves out of the realm of something into that aof being. Its goal is conversio, that conversion of man that results in his standing face to face with hmiself. Conversio (`conversion,' metanoia) is identical with self-knowledge, and self-knowledge is the nucleus of all knowledge. Conversio is the way in which man finds himself and thus knows the question of all questions: How canI worship God? It is the question that means his salvation; it is the raison d'etre of catechesis" (Idem. 355).

All of this is the meaning of freedom as fullness of being. As the woman lives the sincerity and becomes relational, she becomes "like" Christ in his interiority of relation to the Father. She becomes free as He is free. She becomes "being" as He is "Being." She begins the entry into eternal life, as Christ is eternal life: "Now this is everlasting life; that they may know you the only true God, and him whom you have sent, Jesus Christ" (Jn. 17, 3). This is the experiential-existential meaning of freedom that has been lost from modern culture. Only by experiencing the Absolute in the Person of Jesus Christ does one experience the freedom of achieving the fullness of being that is imaging.

John Paul II explains this best. Christ says to the rich young man, “There is only one who is good” (Matt. 19, 17). He says: “To ask about the good, in fact, ultimately means to turn towards God, the fullness of goodness.” The short answer is that only God is the Absolute Good. The human person has been created in the image and likeness of the absolute good. When the human person exercises the subjectivity of being an “I” the way the Persons of God are “I,” that is, as relation - as gift, then the person becomes absolutely good and experiences in himself the absoluteness of the divinity. Ratzinger describes the awareness of moral value in conscience by precisely this experience. He says: “the first so-called ontolgoical level of the phenomenon conscience consists in the fact that something like an original memory of the good and true …has been implanted in us, that there is an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine. From its origin, man being resonates with some things and clashes with others. This anamnesis of the origin, which results from the godlike constitution of our being is no a conceptually articulate knowing, a store of retrievable contents. It is so to speak an inner sense, a capacity to recall, so that the one whom it addresses, if he is not turned in on himself, hears its echo from withy,. He sees: That’s it! That is what my nature points to and seeks.”[12]

Therefore, absolute value comes from experience of a singular, empirical being, the “I” of the human person. This is a staggering assertion after 400 years of not being able to say such a thing. But it can be said theologically because of taking the notion of imaging the divine Persons seriously and not trivializing it as mere capacity to think and will as added to the substance taken “from below.” It can be said philosophically because of the realism of pausing at the irreducible experience of man’s interiority and giving an ontological account of it


.

Benedict XVI on the Schizophrenia of the Present Moment


“The modern development of the sciences brings countless positive effects, which must always be acknowledged.
“At the same time, however, it must be admitted that the tendency to consider true only that which can be experienced constitutes a limitation for human reason and produces a terrible schizophrenia, evident to all, because of which rationalism and materialism, and hypertechnology and unbridles instincts, coexist.”
“When Christian faith is authentic it does not mortify freedom or human reason; then, why should faith and reason be afraid of one another, if on meeting one another and dialoguing they can express themselves in the best way?”
[13]

The great task then is to overcome what the Greek poet Homer called λήθη which is forgetfulness (the river of Homer), and to remember αλήθεια (the alpha privative of forgetting is to remember by experiencing the self as the real.[14] This is what Benedict XVI is focusing his Magisterium on: the “presencing” of Christ by self transcendence of the self. In his November 7, 2006 ad limina visit to the Swiss bishops, he remarked that the guests invited to the wedding feast did not come because “they have never had an experience of God.; they have never acquired a `taste’ for God; they have never experienced how delightful it is to be `touched’ by God! They lack this `contact’ – and with, the `taste for God.’ And only if we, so to speak, taste him, only then can we come to the banquet.” The he warned: “when a man is entirely caught up in his own world, with material things, with what he can do, with all that is feasible and brings him success, with all that he can produce or understand by himself, then his capacity to perceive God weakens, the organ sensitive to God deteriorates, it becomes unable to perceive and sense, it no longer perceives the Divine, because the corresponding inner organ has withered, it has stopped developing.



“When he overuses all the other organs, the empirical ones, it can happen that it is precisely the sense of God that suffers, that this organ dies, and man…no longer perceives God’s gaze, to be looked at by him, the fact that his precious gaze touches me!
“I maintain that St. Gregory the Great has described exactly the situation of our time – in fact, his was an age very similar to ours. And the question still arises: what should we do?”…
“Learn to think as Christ thought, learn to think with him and thus, when we learn to think also of his failure. Of his passage through failure and the growth of his love in failure
“If we enter into theses sentiments of his, if we begin to practice thinking like him and with him, then joy for God is awakened within us, confident that he is the strongest; yes, we can say that love for him is reawakened within us. We feel how beautiful it is that he is there and that we can know him – that we know him in the face of Jesus Christ who suffered for us.
“I think this is the first thin: that we ourselves enter into vital contact with God – with the Lord Jesus, the living God; that in us the organ directed to God be strengthened; that we bear within us a perception of his `exquisiteness.’”

This is the same point brought out in his understanding of the symmetrical self gift going on in Christ’s Self-revelation, and the self-gift in the act of faith of the believer. Benedict maintained that “the receiving subject is always also a part of the concept of `revelation.’ Where there is no one to perceive `revelation,’ no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed. By definition, revelation requires a someone who apprehends it…. (T)his in turn means that revelation is always something greater than what is merely written down.”[15] The Second Vatican Council will not be understood – nor the Magisterium of John Paul II nor Benedict XVI – if this crucial point is not understood and lived. Reality – “Being” – is the person that must be un-concealed by experiencing itself in the act of relation as self-giving.

Contrarily, “Being” for the Fathers of the Church meant “relation.” Ratzinger says, “as a result of this struggle, a new philosophical category – the concept of `person’ – was fashioned, a concept that has become for us the fundamental concept of the analogy between God and man, the very center of philosophical thought.” Notice that the analogy between God and man is not “being” but person. He goes on: “The meaning of an already existing category, that of `relation,’ was fundamentally changed. In the Aristotelian table of categories, relation belongs to the group of accidents that point to substance and are dependent on it; in God, therefore, there are no accidents. Through the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, relation moves out of the substance-accident framework. Now God himself is described as a trinitarian set of relations, as relatio subsistens. When we say that man is the image of God, it means that he is a being designed for relationship; it means that, in and through all his relationships, he seeks that relation which is the ground of his existence. In this context, covenant would be the response to man’s imaging of God; it would show us who we are and who God is.”[16]

Ratzinger goes further when he directly says that the revealed concept of person “was quite foreign in its inner disposition to the Greek and Latin mind. It is not conceived in substantialist, but… in existential terms. In this light, Boethius’s concept of person, which prevailed in Western philosophy, must be criticized as entirely insufficient. Remaining on the level of the Greek mind, Boethius defined `person’ as naturae rationalis individua substantia, as the individual substance of a rational nature. One sees that the concept of person stands entirely on the level of substance. This cannot clarify anything about the Trinity or about Christology; it is an affirmation that remains on the level of the Greeks mind which thinks in substantialist terms.”[17]

To sum up: since the prototypical meaning of Being in Christian faith-experience is person-in-relation, and freedom takes its meaning from Being, then one “becomes” free to the extent that he/she enters the relationality of self-gift. The more one gives self, the freer one is. Hence, “If you abide in my work, you will be my disciple indeed; you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn. 8, 32); and “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom;” (VS #85).


I cried a tear
You wiped it dry
I was confused
You cleared my mind
I sold my soul
You bought it back for me
And held me up and gave me dignity
Somehow you needed me.
You gave me strength
To stand alone again
To face the world
Out on my own again
You put me high upon a pedestal
So high that I could almost see eternity
You needed me
You needed me...
You gave me hope
When I was at the end
And turned my lies
Back into truth again
You even called me friend
[1] Instruction on Christian Liberation and Freedom, 16.
[2] Ibid. #27.
[3] K. Wojtyla, “Subjectivity and the Irreducible in the Human Person,” Person and Community, Lang (1993)
[4] J. Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth,” Proceedings of the Tenth Bishops’ Workshop, Dallas, Texas (1991) 20.
[5] J. Ratzinger, “Freedom and Liberation, The Anthropological Vision of the 1986 Instruction Libertatis Conscientia,” Church, Ecumenism and Politics Crossroad (1988) 274.
[6] J. Ratzinger, “Many Religions – One Covenant,” Ignatius (1999) 75-76.
[7] Martin Heidegger, “Early Greek Thinking, The Dawn of Western Philosophy,” Harper Collins (1975- 1984)
[8] J. Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion Parson in Theology,” Communio 17 (Fall, 1990) 448.

[9] Ibid
[10] K. Wojtyla, “The Acting Person,” Reidel (1978), Introduction 3.
[11] Martin Heidegger, op. cit. 32-33.
[12] J. Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth,” Op.cit 20.
[13] Benedict XVI, “Angelus Message, Jan. 28, 2007.
[14] Mel Gibson wrote: “There is a classical Greek word which best defines what `truth’ guided my work, and that of everyone else involved in the project: Aletheia. It simply means `unforgetting’ (derived from lethe – water from Homer’s River Lethe cased forgetfulness). It has unfortunately become part of the ritual of our modern secular existence to forget. The film, in this sense, is not meant as a historical documentary or does it claim to have assembled all the facts. But it does enumerate those described in relevant Holy Scripture. It is not merely representative or merely expressive. I think of as contemplative in the sense that one is compelled to remember (unforget) in a spiritual way which cannot be articulated, only experienced;” The Passion, Tyndale (2004) Foreword.
[15] J. Ratzinger, “Milestones…” Ignatius (1997) 108-109.
[16] Ibid 76-77.
[17] J. Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion Parson in Theology,” Communio 17 (Fall, 1990) 448.

1 comment:

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