Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Non-Reductive (i.e. Relational) Anthropology

From “New Dynamics in Sexual Love”[1]

“If man is basically an animal, then an animal is basically a vegetable, or a plant-substance with vegetative powers for growth and reproduction. But the fact that animals grow and reproduce in common with plants does not warrant the assertion that animals are basically vegetative things or that the energy for an animal’s behavior is a plant energy. An animal’s walking, running, crawling, seeing and other acts of sensing are not expressions of a plant energy but of a new energy. This new energy assimilates or draws into itself the energy of vegetative life.

“Due to this phenomenon of assimilation, the very things that animals have in common with plants are basically different in animals than in plants. The animal is basically a sentient creature and not basically a vegetative creature. In a similar way, man, though he has powers in common with animals, is not basically an animal. In man, still another new energy, a mind-energy, assimilates and transforms the energy of animal life.

“Evidence of such assimilation of the lower into the higher appears already in the newborn child. On the first day of life his difference from the newborn of animals is striking. The latter are able to walk and run almost immediately. In most cases the characteristic animal-power of locomotion is ready to go at birth. But the newborn of man barely moves for months. If he is held erect with his feet touching a surface, his legs may begin a stepping motion. But because the child is unable to walk, he must mentally absorb his environment as the place where his walking will begin one day. He must discover his legs and feet. After pulling his feet toward his head, after feeling and biting his toes, he discovers that these belong to him and that they can be made to serve his purpose. Only after t he child’s legs and feet, as well as his environment, have been assimilated into his mental life is he able to begin his stumbling progress toward human locomotion. The walking of a baby is a human act with a mental foundation. From the very first this creature is not an animal.

Distinction between Training and Education:

“The well known experience of the Montessori schools have shown us that in a prepared environment children develop an affection for the materials they work with and have their inmost energy set free to assimilate movement and sense experiences into their own inscrutable purposes. Their growing toward maturity and loving union with the environment is not forced from without, as Freud would have it with his social pressures and sublimation, but by a spontaneous movement from within. This movement will depend on the degree and quality of freedom the child is given to be and to become himself. When the child’s mind is controlled and manipulated by adults, it is trained under social pressure. But mental training fails to release the inmost energy of the human mind. In fact, such a training forces the child to repress much of his true nature and to remain unconscious in his motivation. His sublimated behavior is willed behavior that does not benefit from his natural and spontaneous feelings. He is made to repress these feelings under the pressure of the superiority complex of adults and the ironic tyranny of loving parents. This tragedy of repression is the social sickness in man that Freud described well but did not interpret correctly, as his view of human nature is derived from sick, repressed man, not from man as he is when educated in freedom.

“Whether one approaches the subject form a philosophical or psychological point of view, the final conclusion is the same Training is an inadequate method of development man’s emotional and mental life, precisely because the human creature is not an animal! Education is based on respecting children as human beings, on giving them the freedom within a prepared and safe environment with an adult to act as a guide rather than a trainer. Only in education, never in training, are children allowed to be and to become with they really are: uniquely themselves. Only when affirmed by mature parents and educators, i.e. loved for being what they are, even for their ‘otherness,’ and allowed to assimilate spontaneously in their own tempo their whole being into their mental and spiritual life, only then will children find their unique identity and fulfilment, never to be plagued by an identity crisis in later life!”

Conrad Baars comments: “Theirs [the Joyces] is a much more profound philosophy than Freud’s expanded concept of sexuality. Although he intended it to be more than mere genitality, Freud and his followers never advanced beyond the view that the psychological eros in its genital functions formed the center of the human person’s sexual nature.

The Anthropology of Being Love (Relation)

“The Joyces, however, believe that contrary to ancient and even recent assumptions, genitality, as well as generation, is no longer to be considered the central value of our sexual nature. They believe the true center of the human person’s sexual nature to be something still more radical than these two sexual functions, namely: the persons’ power for actively being his or her sexuality without necessarily engaging his or her sexual functions. This is one way of saying that the original and most authentic meaning of genuine sexual freedom is the centering of the sexuality of man and woman in their capacity for being love without necessarily making love in a genital manner.

“This is another way of saying that the masculine and feminine aspects of human nature are not only or primarily physical and oriented toward sexual communication. Rather, they are also and primarily psychic and trans-psychic, i.e., oriented toward the being of all things. These masculine and feminine aspects serve the purpose of sexual communion, the revelation of what man and woman are, the being consciously aware of the goodness of the other, the process by whipchj they give the other to himself or herself, and the process by which they affirm each other.

The Joyces Again:

“The meeting of persons as beings – so necessary in the process of finding our identity and giving others theirs – is hindered severely if we place our primary value in the physical aspects of sexuality. To do so also leads to a grave misconstruction of the nature of sexual equality. Many women insist that the only difference between man and woman is a difference in anatomy, that sex is biological only. The only difference then left to man and woman – their physical difference – must be played to the hilt thereafter and exploited as a compensation for the lack of deeper difference and Complementarity. As a result, either women have become, more than ever, the play-objects of men, or both men and women have become slaves of the one sexual interaction they allow their nature to have. Women need to realize that the limitation of sexual difference to the human anatomy is not the way out of their ancient subservience to men, nor the way into the joyful freedom of friendship with man.

“It is very difficult for the human mind to sustain the notion of fundamental difference within fundamental equality. Through man and woman are equal they different in the very depths of their existence. Their more apparent anatomical differences are not mere accidentals or mere attachments to their common human nature; differences in the body are revelations of differences in the depths of their being. Since the human body is an expression of the human soul, an essential difference in any organ of the body is an expression of an essential difference in the whole being of the living person. If this is not true, the human body is not really untied with the human soul. The idea that the sex is biological only is a serious affront to the unity of the human person.

Hands and Intellect:

“Though the hands are not the organs in which man and woman differ most, their hands are revelations of the difference within equality that constitutes their true relationship. The hand may be described by its complementary acts of feeling and grasping. These physical acts are revelations of the deeper power by which man knows the existence and the natures of things in the world. The human intellect, in its complementary acts of feeling and grasping, is very much lie the human hand, and vice versa. In its intuitive act of perception, the intellect touches and feels the existence of things. In its act of abstracting, the intellect grasps the nature of things. Knowing that things exist and knowing what they are, are complementary acts of man’s spiritual hand, his intuitive-rational intellect.

“Even though man and woman both have hands with powers for feeling and grasping, it is apparent that their sexual difference extends to their hands. Generally, man has greater size and greater muscular strengths in his hand. He excels not only in the grasping power of his hand, but also in the grasping power of his intellect. This is why man was given dominion over the earth. Adam’s mental hand was able to grasp the essence of each creature individually, and his mind was so grasping strong that whatever he apprehended each creature to be, that was precisely its nature (Genesis 2, 19). But it was not good for Adam to be alone. It was not good for the master of the earth to be alone without another hand in his, keeping it flexible and open. Lest Adam forget that beings are good not only for their service to man, but primarily, and always, just because they exist, another hand was place in his. Grasping without feeling degenerates into exploitation.”

Baars Develops:

“The hand placed in his was that of a woman. Gentle and sensitive, it is oriented toward touching and feeling the existence of things, toward protectively taking hold of things. Her hand expresses the intuitive act of perception of her intellect. As intuition is knowledge of what is actually present, this intuitive knowing is without doubt the perfect form of knowing. Thinking, on the other hand, is knowledge of what is absent; the necessity for thinking is due to a failure of intuition.

“In our scientific age which expresses the power and the reason emphasized in man, it would be well for women to become aware of the crucial role they haveto play if humankind is to be saved from itself. The special sensitivity and intuitive intellection emphasized in woman is the source of the wisdom needed to modify man’s technical power before it degenerates into weakness. How man and woman are to experience sexual communion, their original and most fulfilling form of sexual relationship, one will learn frm reading and reading Mary and Robert Joyce’s revolutionary approach to marriage and celibacy.”

[1] Robert E. and Mary Rosera Joyce, St. John’s University Press, Collegeville, MN 1970. See also “Let Us Be Born” Franciscan Herald Press (1970).
[2] Conrad Baars, M.D. “I Will Give Them a New Heart,” St. Pauls (2008) 156-161.

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