Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blog Exchange

Rev. Connor,

I have been frequenting your blog for some days now and first want to thank you so much for your diligent and persistent work in relaying and expounding upon the thoughts of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

I have been struggling deeply lately with the notion of God as Other, and was hoping you might have some insight into this. I'm not sure if you are familiar with the work of men like Zizek, Tom Alitzer, Peter Rollins et al. (death of God theologians) but they all posit the (Hegelian, I think) notion of god not as some Other, but rather god realized through the action and community of human beings. The former two are self proclaimed atheists (Zizek is a 'Atheist-Christian materialist') while Rollins is part of the 'emergent' church movement (he sees the existence of God as a philosophical question, and one he refuses to answer).

I understand completely and have deep intellectual empathy with the position of these thinkers. However, my cognitive dissonance is most acute when I approach the subject of prayer. I so desperately want there to be some Other to pray to - a Subject that exists outside of myself (one who responds, hears, knows, listens) - quite frankly, a Father. But, on the other hand, I see the problem of such a Subject being infinite, and thus rendering such a Subject unlike any Other - in fact, an infinite subject (it seems to me) by definition, cannot be an Other.

(For an example of Peter Rollin's thoughts on prayer, see this.
A longer read, for Zizek's Hegelian perspective on Christianity, see this.)

Reverend, I've reached a point in my intellectual/spiritual life where I feel I am in a constant state of despair: I am uncertain about all the things that once gave be existential grounding - the existence of God, the notion of salvation, an afterlife etc… I slide between this world of darkness and the day-to-day world of happy ignorance that most enjoy.

Please pray for me, (as I hope in the power of prayer though I both doubt and may misunderstand it) and I would so appreciate a response, even if brief, concerning the question of God as an Other. Perhaps you know of some resources covering this topic?


Why not go beyond the entrapment in consciousness such that when you work within it, you can't find your way out and the whole is reduced to an endless and insoluble slope into despair? As you mention, the normality of ordinary life saves you from yourself, but that will be dismissed by the trapped mind as unexamined insignificance.
John Paul II is interesting here. He begins his assault on finding the "I" by re-cognizing that we are not merely cognitively reflecting on the "I," but experiencing the "I" as ontological reality. That is, you are not just "consciousness" but being that experiences self in a free moral act, and that the consciousness is an integral part, but a consequence of the experience.
The failure to recognize consciousness as the consequence of the "acting person" led Descartes and the whole of modernity into the epistemological error of thinking that the "I" is consciousness, when in reality i the "I" is the privileged ontological reality imaging the Trinitarian "I Am." The result of that was the separation of reason from being and we end in such a magnificent mistake as Kant's where he wants to save the consciousness of the moral absolute, and therefore all absolutes, and attributes them to "categories" of the mind. Why? Because he had not recognized that consciousness was accruing from an experience of self as being. Failure to do that results in entrapment in thought. Hence, the philosophers of Modernity boasted of the "insoluble" challenge that "ought" cannot be derived from "is."
Consider p. 34 of JPII's "Crossing the Threshold of Hope:" "It is not possible to affirm that when something is trans[sensory]empirical it ceases to be empirical.
"It is therefore possible to speak from a solid foundation about human experience, moral experience, or religious experience. And if it is possible to speak of such experiences, it is difficult to deny that , in the realm of human experience, one also finds good and evil, truth and beauty, and God... If God is a knowable object... He is such on the basis of man's experience both of the visible world and of his interior world. This is the point of departure for Immanuel Kant's study of ethical experience in which he abandons the old approach found in the writings of the Bible and of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Man recognizes himself as an ethical being, capable of acting according to criteria of good and devil, and not only those of profit and pleasure."

Your longing to pray is experiential proof that you are already transcending yourself and that you already have an experience of God as Father because you are experiencing yourself as Son. The missing key is to recognize "experience" and permit yourself to escape in the prayer that is already yours.
Similarly, the entire population is restriced intellectually by the idealogy of positivism and objectivism. As Benedict said in 1988 in N.Y.: "Pure objectivity is an absurd abstraction" ("Biblical Interpretation in Crisis," The Essential Pope Benedict XVI, Thornton and Varenne, Harper San Francisco, (2007) 247.

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