A couple of things today, short and sweet (“Thank God” says my reader (s))
First check out an excellent post over at David Warren’s blog entitled: “the downside of killing people”. Well worth the time, especially for Canadians who may not have noticed that it is now legal to kill folks in Canada now, not just babies who have no say.
The other point is to adjust a possible misconception or error (on my part) I chatted about three or so posts ago here and here, concerning the point of view of the Spirit. An authority who I respect highly (and thank for his generous direction) has commented:
“Some of your assertions have a dualist slant to them. So there is a seeming metaphysical difficulty in your take on human spirit. Soul and human body are intimately united. The soul, being the kind of thing it is, though spiritual and therefore immortal, is a little “out of sorts” without the body.
I don’t think you can, therefore, say the spiritual soul is outside space and time without qualification. It is spiritual and therefore not quantifiable but it “animates” a particular body located in relation to other bodies. It is immortal, so not time bound as to its persistence but it is created in time, coming into being with the body it vivifies.
As far as the spiritual is concerned, yes, the quality of the immortal soul is all, in the end, that matters. The body will return to dust. However, the sanctification of the spirit is in, many instances, the sanctification of the body and of the material. Conversely, the sanctification of the body, because of their unity, is the sanctification of the spirit or immortal soul.”
This is an important qualification, and one which raises it’s head immediately as you begin thinking about God, Infinity, and His “All-ness” when regarding our spiritual “Not-all-ness”. I am headed in this direction and I apologize for not having adequate words in my vocabulary to describe what I am thinking (yet).
More to follow as it appears on the White Board of my mind.
Charity and Humility, Remember, Remember, Remember
“En Priere”, Bill Douglas, from the album “Kaleidoscope”, (1993)
“Subsidiarity” as explained here, and “Spirit” (as discussed here and here) are two important Catholic ideas. Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. Political (and social) decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, with an eye to eternity, rather than by a central authority with an eye to the next election.
“Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community (what our society knows as “socialism”), so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association (such as the State) what lesser and subordinate organizations (such as communities or individuals) can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them.” Pope Pius XI’s encyclical “Quadragesimo anno” (40th year).
I am thinking that everything that presents to us or shows us “Truth” in this material world, the secular world, has it’s antecedents in the spiritual world, the extra universal world of spirit. So, with “subsidiarity” God expects us to accomplish, with our own initiative and industry, those tasks or goals which he has assigned to us!
He also does not intend for us to mistake the process of attaining our proper end, namely union with Himself, as an end in itself, or as a means to some other end in the temporal reality of the world we live in, however laudable it may seem to be.
I am charged, therefore, with the development of my personal spiritual life, my growth in holiness, and in submitting myself entirely to executing the will of God. I am specifically NOT charged by God with the development and growth of my own ambitions and secular goals, no matter how I dress them up in sanctifying rhetoric and do-gooder busy work, for my own good and the good of other people and the good of the community (social programs).
This is not to imply that “social programs” are not good but only that they must originate in the lowest level of authority possible acting in the execution of the “Corporal Works Of Mercy”.
So here I am, contemplating my “reality”. I’m just muddling along, hacking out a clearing in the close crowding trees of “reality”; attempting to see the forest, that is to shift my point of view from the temporal reality which we are all immersed in, and which we all take for granted as “the only reality”; when “reality” is, in reality, not temporal at all!
I appeal to authority in the person of C.S. Lewis who touches on this, “reality” and “means to ends” in Chapter 23 and Chapter 27 of “The Screwtape Letters”when Screwtape addresses his nephew Wormwood thus:
in Chapter 23: “… About the general connection between Christianity and politics, our position is more delicate. Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster.
On the other hand we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything—even to social justice.
The thing to do is to get a man (the human patient) at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy (God) demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice.
For the Enemy (God) will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist’s shop.
Fortunately it is quite easy to coax humans round this little corner. Only today I have found a passage in a Christian writer where he recommends his own version of Christianity on the ground that “only such a faith can outlast the death of old cultures and the birth of new civilisations”. You see the little rift ? “Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.” That’s the game!
Your Affectionate Uncle,
and in Chapter 27: “… You, being a spirit, will find it difficult to understand how he (the human patient) gets into this confusion. But you must remember that he takes Time for an ultimate reality.
He supposes that the Enemy (God), like himself, sees some things as present, remembers others as past, and anticipates others as future; or even if he believes that the Enemy (God) does not see things that way, yet, in his heart of hearts, he regards this as a peculiarity of the Enemy’s (God’s) mode of perception – he doesn’t really think (though he would say he did) that things as the Enemy (God) sees them are things as they are!
If you tried to explain to him (the human patient) that men’s prayers today are one of the innumerable coordinates with which the Enemy harmonises the weather of tomorrow, he would reply that then the Enemy always knew men were going to make those prayers and, if so, they did not pray freely but were predestined to do so.
And he would add that the weather on a given day can be traced back through its causes to the original creation of matter itself – so that the whole thing, both on the human and on the material side, is given “from the word go”.
“Aki”, Rodrigo Rodriguez, from the album “Inner thoughts”, (2006)
What he ought to say, of course, is obvious to us; that the problem of adapting the particular weather to the particular prayers is merely the appearance, at two points in his temporal mode of perception, of the total problem of adapting the whole spiritual universe to the whole corporeal universe; that creation in its entirety operates at every point of space and time, or rather that their kind of consciousness forces them to encounter the whole, self-consistent creative act as a series of successive events.
Why that creative act leaves room for their free will is the problem of problems, the secret behind the Enemy’s nonsense about “Love”. How it does so is no problem at all; for the Enemy does not foresee the humans making their free contributions in a future, but sees them doing so in His unbounded Now. And obviously to watch a man doing something is not to make him do it.
It may be replied that some meddlesome human writers, notably Boethius, have let this secret out. But in the intellectual climate which we have at last succeeded in producing throughout Western Europe, you needn’t bother about that.
Only the learned read old books and we have now so dealt with the learned that they are of all men the least likely to acquire wisdom by doing so. We have done this by inculcating “The Historical Point of View“. The Historical Point of View, put briefly, means that when a learned man is presented with any statement in an ancient author, the one question he never asks is whether it is true.
He asks who influenced the ancient writer, and how far the statement is consistent with what he said in other books, and what phase in the writer’s development, or in the general history of thought, it illustrates, and how it affected later writers, and how often it has been misunderstood (specially by the learned man’s own colleagues) and what the general course of criticism on it has been for the last ten years, and what is the “present state of the question“.
To regard the ancient writer as a possible source of knowledge – to anticipate that what he said could possibly modify your thoughts or your behaviour – this would be rejected as unutterably simple-minded. And since we cannot deceive the whole human race all the time, it is most important thus to cut every generation off from all others; for where learning makes a free commerce between the ages there is always the danger that the characteristic errors of one may be corrected by the characteristic truths of another.
But thanks be to our Father (Satan) and “the Historical Point of View“, great scholars are now as little nourished by the past as the most ignorant mechanic who holds that “history is bunk”,
Your Affectionate Uncle,
Well, that is quite enough for one day. Next post I am thinking will be about connections between seeing things from the point of view of the spiritual and subsidiarity as developed in the concept of “Distributism”. I am seeking, in today’s media storm, some island of peace on which to pitch my tent, somewhere between the Scylla of rampant Capitalism and it’s screaming acolytes on the right, and the Charybdis of Socialism and it’s howling zombies on the left.
“Old men in a hurry to realise their dearest dreams can be very short-sighted.” Dom Gregory Dix, 1944.
“A Dhia Ghleigil, Oh Glorious God”, Noirin Ni Riain & The Monks of Glenstall Abbey, from the album “Vox de Nube (Voice From The Cloud)” (1996)
Hoar Frost Sunrise – Dan Jurac
Now it’s snowing very lightly and bright sun – sun flurry? Pretty, were it not for having to clear it away regularly – 6 inches in the last 2 days, white Christmas and all, -26 Celsius, light wind. All the world about me waiting breathless in frozen anticipation of rebirth. Maybe if we didn’t have winter and rebirth and summer we would not have these thoughts, conceived on a cold winter morning in a comfortable chair over a good hot cup of coffee, beside a warm stove. Reading Frank Sheed’s “Theology for Beginners” which informs my thoughts on “Spirit” today.
Best Christmas Day in years – surprised – was very depressed for weeks coming into Christmas and now everything is looking good. Christmas miracle? My thoughts this Christmas are focused on “Spirit”. The “Spirit” of Christmas, the “spirit” of love, the “spirit of “Peace” and a “spirit” of “Goodwill”. The spirit which animates us, our immortal soul.
Our soul is spirit, designed from all eternity to be in and with God. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; ” Jeremiah 1:5. Without this soul/spirit we are nothing but a small pile of rotting offal. All animation, all creativity, all beauty, all quality, all selflessness, all thought, all action, all peace, and all fear, all comes out of the animating presence of our soul/spirit, without which we are nothing but rotting dirt.
“Spirit” is the key. “God is a Spirit” so Jesus told the Samaritan woman. Unless we understand what a spirit IS we do not understand what He told her, and we do not understand what God IS. Absent the concept, the idea, of “spirit”, we find ourselves struggling to explain most of what we experience in life. Without even considering what “spirit” is, we simply accept it.
Spirit just fades into the background noise of our lives, like breathing, and drinking, and all the autonomous functions of daily life. We accept it without thinking and do the “Nodding Donkey” performance whenever someone else tries to explain where we came from or where we are going or why we are here. The same is true of all doctrines, they all include “spirit”. We actually are studying “spirit” all the time and the “mind” with which we are studying is also (a) “spirit”. All ideas have their source in spirit.
“The Beatitudes”, Noirin Ni Riain & The Monks of Glenstall Abbey, from the album “Vox de Nube (Voice From The Cloud)” (1996)
What is quality? We know it when we find it and we certainly know it when we experience it’s absence. But defining it in isolation is very hard. It is an idea, like fear, absent the proximate cause of “fear” we have a lot of trouble coming to grips with what exactly “fear” is … an idea. Peace, another idea, maybe easier to conceive of as “the absence of fear”, but still impossible to explain except in the context or presence or absence of something else, some other idea.
And where do the ideas originate? I have heard some folks say that ideas originate in the “mind”, and they seem to use “mind” and “brain” interchangeably. But what is the mind? It is not the brain because it is obviously separate from the brain, although it is also obvious that the mind animates the brain.
Perhaps we can settle upon “spirit” being that in us by which we know and love, by which we decide. And spirit has power, it is the mind, the spirit, of man that manipulates the universe in which we exist, that creates the conditions by which we survive, that splits the atom. Atoms are stuff, without spirit, without mind, and everything in existence is just more stuff made up of ever increasing agglomerations of this “atomic stuff”, without mind, without spirit.
“Stuff” cannot know it’s own constituents, it is inanimate and unknowing. the atom doesn’t split the mind, or itself, it doesn’t even “know” that it has electrons, any more than our hand – removed from our animate body – knows that it is a hand or what it could be used for. But “spirit” knows. It doesn’t necessarily know everything but it knows and it knows that it knows and it also knows that there is much that it doesn’t know and it can even conceive that there are “things” or “concepts” or “ideas” which it knows that it does not know, and it calls these “mysteries”.
Mind/spirit splits the atom and drills the oil and calculates the trajectories and plots the course to the stars and builds the ships to travel there and it does all these things through it’s will by “using” the body to control the material world. But there is never any question of the body using the spirit. There is no doubt in anyone’s “mind” that we, the mind/spirit will the using of the body, not the other way around, no matter what we may claim upon waking up after a hard partying night.
Our body knows nothing, wants nothing, loves nothing. Bodily pleasure is not enjoyed by the body. It is the mind/spirit that wants, and the body reacts to our wants, providing the mind with sensual experience. It is the knowing mind/spirit that enjoys or dislikes the experiences of the body. A body without an animating mind is either in a coma (the monster on the slab) or dead.
I seem to be belaboring this point but I am simply pointing out that we in fact DO accept totally the idea of spirit and that it exists, independently of material “stuff” like bodies. I assume that with only a little thought everyone would agree with that. Spirit produces what matter cannot. Spirit exists and is separate from the material universe. Spirit acts through will upon the material universe.
“An Taiseirl – The Resurrection”, Noirin Ni Riain & The Monks of Glenstall Abbey, from the album “Vox de Nube (Voice From The Cloud)” (1996).
So the Spirit exists, and is separate from the material. In fact the spirit is so separate from the material that it has no parts. This is perhaps the greatest mental leap we can undertake. To have the idea of an entity, which we all agree exists, and which we all agree is separate from the material world, and, the leap … which has no parts. The spirit, or A spirit, is one integral homogeneous contiguous whole.
Now a part is any element of, or in, a being which is not the whole of it, as in my hand or my foot is a part of my body or a wheel is a part of my car or an electron is a part of an atom but a spirit has no parts. There is nothing in it that is not the whole of it. There is no division of parts as there is in matter. Our bodies have parts, our creations and manipulations have parts, but there is no element in the soul which is not the whole soul.
The soul does an amazing array of things, loving, animating, knowing, but they are all done by the whole soul. The soul has no parts amongst which its activities are divided up. So, first let us think of anything we can think of that that occupies space. Think about IT whatever IT you have settled on.
One sees that any thing that occupies space must have parts. There must be bits and pieces which make up the whole but which each are not the whole. If it occupies space at all then there must be some spread of space which it occupies, some width or height or depth, in which the inside is not the outside. Space is nothing but what matter spreads its parts in.
An entity with no parts is superior to the need for space. A being with no parts doesn’t occupy space. That being and space have nothing in common. The partless being does not occupy space. We cannot see it, taste it, or feel it. It has no material existence and yet we all acknowledge that it exists and acts upon the material in space. Space is just emptiness. So we agree and have accepted that we have a partless being who occupies no space and acts through it’s will upon the material, part filled, world.
What we are talking about, at least at this point, is really what we think of as our “Self”. We “judge” that this must be true and this act of judging is another manifestation of the partless being, occupying no space, and yet acting upon material space, and all it holds, through it’s will. So emptiness is not essential to existence and dividedness is not essential to action.
And judgement is perhaps the commonest act of the will. Judgement is the most frequent of all the willed “actions” which this soul/spirit exerts upon material existence. Judgement can only take place given one single undivided partless principle, or entity, to take hold of, draw together, and compare and decide, to “make the judgement”, and from that judgement to will action through the spirit’s power over the material world.
Now we can see that a partless being, a being who occupies no space, and which no element of it is not the whole of it, cannot be changed into anything else, that it cannot be destroyed by any natural process of the universe of parts because it does not occupy that universe of parts. It is invulnerable to forces and actions originating in the universe of parts, the material universe.
“Adoro Te”, Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, from the album “Mater Eucharistiae” (2013)
Spirit is A, or THE, sort of being which, having a permanent hold on the whole of what it is, can never be other than what it is. Material things can be destroyed by acting upon their parts in such a way that the remainder can no longer sustain existence. What has parts can be taken apart. But a being with no parts which doesn’t exist in the material universe cannot be taken apart. It cannot end, It is immortal. Our own soul is such a being.
Our soul is the spirit we know best, wholly itself, forever itself, doing each thing that it does with its whole being, its whole self. And our soul is the least powerful of spirits. WE cannot create matter. We cannot create galaxies, or stars or … anything. We are pretty good manipulators of “stuff” which we find lying around but we cannot create any of the “stuff” by ourselves. Even the weakest angel is unimaginably superior and more powerful than us. Remember earlier when I mentioned ideas and concepts which we know we don’t know? Here lie monsters … and angels. The philosophers tell us that angels could, if they willed, destroy our material universe.
This is the first part of the journey… to arrive at a place where we acknowledge and accept that we are spirit, that our spirit/soul exists outside of time and space and has the power to will “affects” in the material universe which our material parts occupy physically while being animated by our spirit, our soul. Seeing this spiritual reality, understanding our eternal spiritual soul and it’s needs is the first step to detachment from the material.
Seeing this spiritual reality and the importance of our spiritual needs is the most important first step to growing out of childhood and detaching from material pleasures and things which, after all, are frighteningly mortal, doomed to die, doomed to pass away. The spirit, the soul is THE most important self. All the rest is nothing.
“15 Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17And the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth the will of God, abideth for ever.”1 John 2 (First Epistle of John Chapter 2) In some Bibles it is found in the book “Catholic Epistles”.
I would guess thinking about the real time actuality of a real spiritual eternal soul is a big bite to chew. We will look at more next post
Always remember, “Be charitable in your judgements, and never take yourself too seriously”