Monday, March 17, 2008

Email Exchange On "Knowing Christ" (for Karol Wojtyla)

For anyone interested in the interpretation of the mind of John Paul II, and Cardinal Ratzinger, I offer the following email exchange:

Party A: “Pardon me if I steer things back toward Wojtyla, which is what I know best. Your point recalls for me Wojtyla's first dissertation, on John of the Cross, in which through the gift of faith a likeness or species is given to the mind. But I think the gift of self is not reducible to faith, for Wojtyla. Rather, the gift of self is an act of love. Simply put, Wojtyla's gift of self consists in aligning one's will with that of the beloved (again, this is simply John of the Cross with some philosophical development). It is to love the end of the other as one's own end. In theology, wouldn't one have to distinguish between faith that saves and faith that does not, in terms of a gift of self? Even the devils tremble and believe. Wouldn't you say, then, that the act of self-gift is a response not to faith, but to Love (known and recognized through assent to the gift of faith)? In the end, there will be no faith, but there will still be self-gift. Just to play devil's advocate, if we remember that our reason is fallen, then faith is a gift that not only lifts us above our nature, but also perfects our nature. Even some of the truths revealed by Christ are truths that reason could, in theory, have accessed -- after a long time, with admixture of error, and only by a few. In faith, these natural truths are able, in theory, to be grasped at once, with certainty, and by all who assent to the faith. In that sense, how could one hold anything other than that faith helps reason to be more fully itself? What is actually new here? A few more questions, just out of curiosity: When you speak of sensible perception and concepts, are you distinguishing in any way between external and internal senses? Or simply excluding sense-knowledge as such? Also, reason is crafted for being . . . as true, not for being as such. We can speak of being as such, but we only know it as true, just as we love it as good. Or are you saying that reason illuminated by faith moves beyond the transcendental properties to a direct and in some ways immediate contemplation of being itself? I.e., that the intellect with faith is capable of knowing being as such under its own light, and not under the light of truth? And where do you distinguish between created and Uncreated grace in this picture? Faith is not, in and of itself, necessarily sanctifying. A soul in mortal sin may also maintain the gift of faith. Such a soul is not engaged in self-gift. If such a soul is in contact with reality without mediation of sensible perception and concepts, what does it receive? Is it a species impressa? Expressa? (This takes us back into the territory of John of the Cross). And is this reality that is the object of faith only God himself, or does one receive as well a renewed knowledge of all created being(s)? (And if the latter, does one then fall into immanentism?) In your own estimation, are you basically assuming a Thomistic vision of faith, and/or attempting to move beyond it to speak of faith-as-experience? I think I have an idea of where you are going on each of these points; I would just be interested in seeing how you would answer them. If you have time. I apologize if my questions display a lack of understanding of your position.

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My response: [I don't do justice to all the dimension of the question. However, I wanted to strike hard at the overall point of Wojtyla's thesis on faith in St. John of the Cross, namely, that it is not a facultative knowledge by formation of "species" (likenesses or "signs" that are called commonly called "concepts") but "Knowledge" as "Consciousness." This distinction between consciousness and concept is huge in the understanding of Vatican II, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. That is, instead of "species" or concepts, the very "I" of the believer as self-gift is the likeness, and therefore "identity" of knower and known].

"I think we are still two distinct sides of the river (and I may be on the wrong side). However: 1) I understand the gift of self to be the meaning of love, i.e. "I - gift." I don't understand the meaning of love in Wojtyla or Ratzinger to be the operation of a faculty that is an accident of substance (as essential or necessary as that accident may be denominated). Case in point is Wojtyla's thesis on St. John of the Cross. The burden of the thesis is to show that there is no proportionate means (cf. p. 238) between the divine essence and the human creature. Hence, there is no concept or intentional species (242) providing a "likeness." Without "likeness," there is no knowledge since knowledge means "being-one-with-another." Intellegere" = ab intus legere: to read another from within oneself.

Faith is not "intentional" knowing. By faith, the intellect "attains to the 'substance as understood'" and therefore "knows" the Person of the Word as "I Am:" "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt. 16, 16). But this "knowledge" is the experience of the self as gift responding to the Self-Gift that is Christ revealing Himself. This experience of self (I can only experience myself as "I") is then "transferred" to the Person of Christ. For "transference" see Wojtyla's "Participation or Alienation?" where he remarks: "For I have no other access to another human being as an I except through my own I" (Person and Community 204). This is also pure Ratzinger in "Behold the Pierced One" Thesis 3, 25-27, which he calls "theological epistemology."

Therefore, the "substance" is attained but not by species. "Psychologically the intellect lacks that 'substance as understood.' It does not have a clear apprehension of the divine essence, and hence it lacks an intentional species of the divine. Psychologically speaking, therefore, faith is not knowledge, nor science, nor understanding - all of which signify for St. John of the Cross the full possession of an intentional species - but it is the assent of the intellect to revealed truths. Psychologically, this is most certain" (247).

Then, the main point: "Love causes likeness. This means that the virtue of charity has an essential likeness to divinity not only in the ontological order, but it can produce and increase the likeness in the psychological order as well, causing a likeness between the lover and the beloved. And since the supernatural union is a union of likeness, tending even to the participated transformation of the lover into the Beloved, it is evident that the virtue that effects this transformation is the virtue of charity. Its primary operation is centered in the will, in which charity is rooted, but it likewise extends it influence to the other faculties, on which it impresses the psychological likeness of the Beloved" (249).

The point is that the "I" itself of the believer is the proportionate means of likeness with the divinity. I have found that Wojtyla uses the phrase "gift of self" for the first time on p. 96 of "Love and Responsibility." The isolation of the "I" as being and the experience thereof was the onus of "The Acting Person" coming in the late 60's. His doctrinal resume reads: "The possible intellect enjoys fruition in the loving 'touch' of the divine substance, and now the intellect has truly attained to the 'substance as understood' - the substance, because of the purity of the intellect, and understood, not through any intentional species of the divine, but through the redundance of love - understood through love. This is the height of the mystical experience possible in this life under the conditions of the obscurity of faith. This is also the high point of the union of the intellect with God, not only in the metaphysical sense, but in the psychological sense as well" 260.

The love Wojtyla is talking about is totally beyond the will as a faculty. He shows this in "The Personal Structure of Self-Determination" (Person and Community 190): "When I say that he will is the power of self-determination, I do not have in mind the will all alone, in some sort of methodical isolation intended to disclose the will's own dynamism. Rather, I necessarily have in mind here the whole person. Self-determination takes place through acts of will, through this central power of the human soul. And yet self-determination is not identical with th3ese acts in any of their forms, since it is a property of the person as such.... This property is realized through the will, which is an accident. Self-determination - or, in other words, freedom - is not limited to the accidental dimension, but belongs to the substantial dimension of to the person: it is the person's freedom, and not just the will's freedom... (190).

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