Notes on person and will

The Two Energies of Christ

Person operates by will. Will is a property of nature and energy is operation proper to that nature. So in Christ Incarnate there are two will and two operations proper to each nature, but the divine energeia deifies the human will and energy.

 

The raising of the dead was a willed operation proper to the divine energy, while eating food was a willed operation proper to the human energy, albeit both are willed by one divine Person – the Logos.

The Notion of Will in Saint Maximus

 

Thelesis–basic term for “will.” Extremely loaded lexical background.
Gnome and proaerisis–a mode of willing bringing to mind sinful and post-lapsarian man.
Maximus makes the important distinction between willing and “mode of willing.” We can take the distinction even further to see the capacity of willing and the object of willing (119).
The “mode of willing” is the particular way in which a will is actualized.
More on Proaerisis–closely linked to the English words “choice” and “decision.”
Gnome is a disposition of the appetite: Maximus uses these words to refer to the sinful state. Maximus excludes these modes of willing from Christ firstly, because it would introduce a human person in Christ. Why? While will is a faculty of nature, natures qua natures do not will. Persons do. If Christ had a deliberative will per gnome, and this was part of his human nature, he would now have a human person as well as a divine person (152). Further, as Joseph Farrell notes, gnome is a sub-category of “the mode of willing,” it is not identical with the mode of willing. Excluding the former does not negate the latter.
The Willing of the Saints in Heaven
Can saints have free-will in heaven? Sort of. Obviously, they will not sin, but neither will they be robots. How? The wills of the saints in heaven will be one according to the logos of nature, but varied insofar as the mode of movement of the wills is concerned, for each saint will participate in God in a manner proportionate to his desire (157; Farrell also scores huge points on this, Free Choice in St. Maximus the Confessor, 124).
Nature
Nature exists in a “mode of existence,” which is the hypostasis (Loudonikos 93ff).
Every nature has an energy, and the energy is constituted by the principle of nature itself.  Each energy reveals God in his entirety in each entity in accordance with the logos of its existence.  Thus, the doctrine of the uncreated energies imply the doctrine of the logoi.  The distinction between essence and energy (this time with Palamas) promotes the distinction between essence and will in God made by Athanasius and the Cappadocians.
Having will by nature is not the same as the act of “willing.”  The former is a natural; the latter is modal and hypostatic.  The distinction between natural and gnomic is analogous to the distinction between logos and tropos.   However, we should not press the distinction too far:   Christ has two natural wills but he does not have a gnomic will (or more precisely, he does not “will” (verb) in a gnomic way, since the latter implies uncertainty.
Advertisements

Metaphysics of Symbol

Hans urs von Balthasar suggested that Letter is to be transformed into Spirit.  This isn’t necessarily a spirit-matter dualism (which I don’t think existed before the fall), though that is certainly true post-fall.  Man before the Fall saw the connection between the forms to the universal Form, or Logos.

sf._maxim_marturisitorul_1

St Maximus said that the one LOGOS is the many LOGOI (I am summarizing key parts from his Ambiguum 7). Collectively, the Forms are LOGOI, which is LOGOS, which is the Second Person of the Trinity. The Logos is revealed and multiplied in the Forms (logoi) which are then recapitulated back into the Logos (Ephesians 1:10). The Logos is the interconnecting cause that holds the Forms together. The Logoi, therefore, pre-exist in God.

The Logoi is the content of the manifestation of the Logos.  That manifestation is the Holy Spirit.

In Your Light We See Light

Christopher Beeley gives a fine summary and exposition of Gregory’s key orations. Beeley argues that Knowledge of God is a two-fold dialectic of purification and illumination. Our knowledge of God is intimately rooted in who God is. In the sense of God’s grandeur, he cannot be fully known or mastered (95). God isn’t different from us in degree, but kind. He is fully beyond time and space (Or. 2.5; 76).

beeley

Gregory’s epistemology: anything that can be understood, and all language, is mentally ‘embodied,’ so that we are incapable of transcending the corporeality of our knowing (99-100). This is the negative way of saying we know God. The positive is by the concept of “illumination.” God’s being/light overflows and fills us. This is a dynamic process in which we grow.

Jesus Christ: The Son of God

Gregory’s Christology is connected to the theosis tradition (116ff). As Beeley notes, “We have been created in a state of dynamic movement towards God” (118). Gregory is primarily interested in the dynamic economy of Christ’s divinity. Beeley has a fine explanation of Kenotic Christology: Kenosis and condescension are relative, not absolute terms. They describe the shape of Christ’s assumption (127).
The Holy Spirit

Like his Christology, the Holy Spirit is soteriological in character. Since the Holy Spirit deifies and is not deifies, then he is God, full stop. Gregory is drawing upon Origen’s Spirit-Letter dichotomy (166).

The Spirit is involved in the self-revelation of the Trinity. “The sequential self-revelation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reflects an increase in the power and intensity of that revelation, so that each successive stage prepares the recipients for the next one” (171).

The Trinity

Gregory is more interested in the theology of the divine economy than he is in consubstantiality. “Economy” refers to God’s governance. Monarchia of God the Father: Gregory anchors each person in the unique role of God the father as source and cause (204). It is the ground of the divine unity. In response to Meyendorff, Beeley notes that the first principle of the Trinity is not simply “personhood” but hypostasis + divine essence (212).

Conclusion

The book is top-notch scholarship. While it can’t stand alone as a text on St Gregory, if read in conjunction with McGuckin it will give the student a firm foundation in Patristic studies.

Notes on Liberal Democracy

While noting that Donald Trump is most likely a horrible person, one of the good things emerging from this political season (and to a much lesser degree from the Bernie Sanders campaign) is the fact that the “party system” in particular and “liberal democracy” in general is failing to make good on its post-Enlightenment promises.  Of course, I expect left-wing outlets to attack any criticism of liberal democracy, but I was surprised to see some anti-Trump conservatives defend liberal democracy. Moreover, they see, possibly accurately, that the attacks on liberal democracy come increasingly from the so-called “Alt Right” and from monarchists like myself.

I don’t want to identify with the Alt Right simply because too many of them are vile racists and post-Nietzscheans.  Nevertheless, in many of these conversations few have actually defined and identified liberal democracy.  Taking my cue from Matthew Raphael Johnson, I’ll give it a try.  You will note that both Establishment Republicans and Establishment Democrats agree with every one of these points.  This is why “voting” rarely changes anything.

most of these points are taken from Matthew Raphael Johnson)

(1) Commitment to a market ideology which sees the world in quantified terms (and by market I don’t necessarily mean “capitalism,” though that could be included)
(2) a web of relations that depends on social credit
(3) Commitment to representative institutions, albeit with a major caveat: liberal loyalty to representative institutions only makes sense if liberalism itself is served.
(4) commitment to some abstract idea of “universal human rights.” But of course, a universal right is often too vague to be useful.

In another essay, Johnson lists these tenets as defining liberal democracy (especially in foreign politics)

1. Liberalism alone grants legitimacy.
2. Liberal values are comprehensive and self-evidently true. They require no supporting argumentation.
3. The “global community,” is a real entity, but the “nation” is the product of “myth.” It has the right to intervene wherever “democracy” is threatened.
4. Implicitly, the American taxpayer should be coerced to pay for these actions.
5. Capitalism is the sole rational mode of production.
6. Liberal democratic capitalism should be (and is) the only ideology that has the right to be imposed and enforced with American arms.
7. The only objects that exist in the universe are individuals. Collectives are only conventions.
8. Nationalism (which is undefined here) is inherently monstrous and ruinous. This includes all forms of economic nationalism such as import substitution.
9. Only the leader of global liberalism has the right to intervene in the politics of other states. Anyone else, especially if they are against the liberal consensus, does not have this right and should be obstructed by force.
10. American influence and power, if it is controlled by liberal values, is inherently just

Call him not Pseudo-Dionysius

In terms of the developing Christian-Platonic tradition, this book is Plato at his near-finest. It marks a watershed in Christian reflection and will dominate Christian metaphysics for the next thousand years. In terms of authorship, it is certainly not Paul’s traveling companion, given that he quotes Ignatius of Antioch, who wrote after the turn of the century. Further, his discussion of monasticism reflects a reality that wouldn’t have been established until much later.

pseudo dionysius

Argument of book: whatever transcends being must transcend knowledge (593A).

The whole is reflected in the part: “Within its total unity it contains part and whole, and it transcends these too and is antecedent to them” (648C). Every part of the universe reflects God’s oneness. He is replicated and differentiated in the energies (is this the same as saying the Logos is replicated in the logoi?).

The Good shows forth the processions of God (680B). If we say the processions “go out” from God, we are speaking analogically, for the Trinity isn’t in a place, per se. The Good isn’t a being but excess of being. The Good returns (reditus) all things to itself (700A). All things desire it.

The source of every duality is a monad (721D). Every number preexists in the monad (821A). Every number is differentiated as it goes forth from the Monad. Every being derives from the Pre-existent. Being precedes the entities which participate in it. God is not a facet of being, but being is a facet of him (824A). The exemplars of everything pre-exist as a transcendent unity within God.

Mystical Theology

A negation is not simply the opposite of an affirmation, but that which is prior to affirmation (1000B).

Hierarchy = sacred order, activity or understanding (164D). Because the divine realities are invisible, they must be communicated and mediated through symbols.

Conclusion:

As is usually the case with Platonic and Neo-Platonic literature, it is often soaring in terms of beauty. Ps. Dionysius’s discussion of the priest-as-hierarch needs to be seen as hyperbole. Few people are at that level of Being.

Further, his discussion of monks, not only reflecting situation that wouldn’t have arisen some centuries later than 70 AD, places the monk at the highest level of being.  But when you read Paul’s comments on the equality of believers and table fellowship, it’s hard to square the two.

Eros and Civilization (Marcuse)

Marcuse reworks Freud’s categories from the individual to society. To paraphrase Henry van Til, Marcuse is Freud externalized. There is a dialectic between the Eros principle and the Thanatos principle. In order for civilization to thrive, it has to suppress the libido, the free drive.

Freud identifies civilization with repression.

The Frankfurt end-game is a “non-repressive civilization” (Marcuse 5). “The very achievements of repression seem to create the preconditions for the gradual abolition of repression.” “The reality principle materializes in a system of institutions” (15). In other words, our continually suppressing the Eros-drive reshapes our very psychology which is further instantiated in institutions. Yet this pleasure principle remains latent in civilization.

Man experiences a dialectical conflict between the “life instinct” (Eros) and the death instinct (Thanatos). Key argument: man’s primary mental processes are sustained by the life principle, which is the pleasure principle. The problem: how can man continue in civilization if civilization is a suppressing of this life principle?

Key argument: correlation between progress and “guilty feeling” (78). Civilization will be violent in its structure because civilization is simply an expanding of the Father-figure, against whom the sons will always war. technology allows man to increase output while minimizing input, thus freeing “time” for Eros. In other words, in previous eras an emphasis on Eros meant denying civilization, but now with technology we can emphasize Eros while promoting civilization (93).

But the “Regime” (for lack of a better word) won’t allow this to continue uncontrolled, for if man is utterly free, then he is free from external control. How will the Regime do this? Possibly by technology, since technology can abolish both the individual and the “social function of the family” (96). Since technology has negated the family, who is the new father-figure? The corporo-capitalist bureaucracy. Marcuse notes, “Social control and cohesion are strong enough to protect the whole from direct aggression, but not strong enough to eliminate the accumulated aggressiveness” (101).

Key argument: Man’s history represents a splitting between the fantasy principle and the reason-principle (142). Man has a divided ego. For Marcuse aesthetics is self-defeating. If art is committed to form, then it is negated for it cannot then pursue freedom. Form = negation.

reason has been reduced to the rationality principle (159). Narcissus gazes into the river, which symbolizes the flux of time. Narcissus and Orpheus represent latent desires which are at odds with rationality-principle.

Kant: the aesthetic judgment is the realm where sense and imagination meet; it is the medium b/t freedom and nature.

Marcuse wants to use Kant and Schiller’s aesthetic to base a non-repressive civilization, one that contains a new rationality-principle. But here is the problem: Marcuse claims to unify art with reason, but most of his discussion (184-185) seems like an antagonism between the two. For Marcuse sees art-beauty as arising from the dark, latent forces.

Combine this with the Eroticization of society where one frees the libido from non-repressive civilization, and you have the nightmare which is modern art. This explains why most National Endowment for the Arts is pornographic and interested in bodily fluids. They take the correct insight that we have these dark, primal forces and they externalize them in society.

Pros

(1) Marcuse has put his finger on the tendency of modern industrial world to alienate workers, and this alienation often moves in dialectical ways.

(2) Marcuse points out the dangers of reducing economics to simply raising production while lowering costs–such leads to alienation (156).

Criticisms

(1) As Nancy Holland notes, “ Although scarcity may not have seemed to be an irreducible given when Marcuse wrote his book, the limits of the world’s supply of food, water, energy, and even clean air are now all too obvious” (Holland 76).

(2) As it stands Freud’s apparent definition of freedom is untenable: freedom from authority (be it ego or society) to pursue the id. Such chaos would necessarily reduce to anarchy, which is no freedom at all. How far does Marcuse go with this? I can sense he rejects (correctly) Freud on the personal level but applies him on the social level.

Spirit and Word (Mowinckel)

This book is a collection of essays, which content is different from what the title suggests. The majority of the book is a collection of Mowinckel’s articles on Form Criticism. Only the final two chapters deal with “word” and “spirit” in ancient Israel.

mowinckel

Spirit

Mowinckel highlights that the later prophets never experienced the “ecstasy” that one finds among early, pre-Davidic prophets (possible exception being Jeremiah). In fact, a key argument in the reforming prophets (Micah, Amos) is that their prophetic word has rational, moral content and is not like the “empty wind” (ruach) of the ne’bim.”

Word

A word for ancient man was not simply a verbal utterance. It contained “force” as well as mental-content (Mowinckel 89ff). In short, speech was also act. As Mowinckel says, “One thinks ‘words’ and does ‘words.’ Yahweh’s word is also an action.”

Word also implies knowledge. Knowing Yahweh’s word implies conformity to Yahweh (93).

Conclusion

Most of the book is a laborious, extremely detailed survey of form and historical criticism. I grant that Mowinckel has an interesting point that form and content are correlative. True enough. I’m just not persuaded it took 70+pages to establish that fact. The chapter on Word and Spirit, similar to the Title, is worth the price of the book. The rest of the book, sadly, is not worth the price of the book.