Sunday, March 1, 2015

Conformation and other Chaosmic Accidents

Proteins fold, enfold and unfold. And fold again. complicatio, explicatio, implicatio.

The theme of folding, unfolding and differentiated entanglement runs though Catherine Keller's Face of the Deep, and (its redux) Cloud of the Impossible. Nicholas of Cusa turns out to have been a very tehomic thinker.

Precisely what the ruach Elohim is doing over the face of tehom is the stuff of the mystic. It vibrates, oscillates, flutters (Deep, 232); as I have suggested recently in this blog, it osculates, too.

That the universe, space-time (what I have called solid time) might be 'folded' makes astrophysicists yawn and poets dream. Whatever Elohim had begun in reshith, the universe seems to continue to do: creative calisthenics. If I may paraphrase Lacan ("The Insistence of the Letter in the Unconscious"), the universe is structured like a protein in a living organism.

Hemoglobin, the good stuff in blood, is a complex protein molecule whose function is determined by the way its proteins fold and unfold  to deliver oxygen to tissues (to quote the great American sage Yogi Berra, 'you can look it up in a book'). The iron-containing 'heme' group at the center of it all, oscillates in and out of its plane, picking up and dropping off air, breath, ruach, pneuma, spirit. The mechanism is so beautiful, so elegant, the only space in which a viewer can rejoice and express her joy is apophatic, the 'third space' of spirit and negative capability. I am really not going to discuss the quarternary structure of hemoglobin or any pulchritudinous polypeptides any further. I will, though, partake of the theopoetics of the via negativa of a living universe, whose entanglements with our deepest being bring us into the fold: enfolding, unfolding and implicating us in its deepest being: relationality.

The Cusanian theme that winds-down Face of the Deep revs- up Cloud of the Impossible, and for good reason. Keller's theopoetics presents the apophatic space in the living, breathing entanglements of the relationality of a rhythmic and ongoing creation of the world. Karl Rahner's notion of the hearer who can approach the 'absolute mystery that is God' only asymptotically finds a safe place to land in Keller's gymnastic relationality. Rahner's ontotheology is supple enough, tehomic enough, to adopt a conformation within a thorough-going process of transforming, creative relational attitudes in the chaosmic entanglements predicated of Cusanian creative 'unknowing,' docta ignorantia

In the self-organizing process of the  world, the oscillation between tehom and elohim, complication and explication, creates...Creation begins--continually--in this relation, this incipient incarnation...[And] that relation, "the relation of relations," may be called the implication of the spirit of God...[T]his spirit will not transcend or obliterate differences; rather differences are intensified precisely by being brought into relation. So the  third capacity thus signifies the relationality itself... [Such] a definition sounds a lot like the Holy Spirit of the classical trinity (Deep, 232).

If I may paraphrase Rahner, the Trinity we experience is the Trinity that is. We learn in the 2012 film,  Cloud Atlas, that our lives are not our own, that we are entangled in the past, present and future, in space and time, in a forever of reshith, a repetition of fluttering tehom, in an apophatic space of the Spirit, where we inhale and exhale inseparably within the divine insistence of intersecting planes of living. 

The pneumatological reduction of Keller's strategy tends to enlarge the role of the third Person as it attempts to magnify the 'third capacity' within the divine perichoresis. I do not think she has collapsed the 'classical trinity' into Spirit, something that Roger Haight was accused of doing in his Jesus: Symbol of God . Instead, I think she has identified an analogical platform in language itself that provides a view to what is happening when ruach elohim shimmers above the deep in order to allow the release of the event. In retrospect, I think it is pretty clear that Haight was doing the same thing, though in language felt by some to be far more metaphysically threatening. But I digress.

There are no doctrinal issues for the Catholic understanding of Trinity in Keller's work. The very processions and relations of trinitarian theology come to life in Keller's work in wonderful and unexpected ways. That we could not really see it coming on the horizon of the deep speaks to the eventive instincts embedded in her process theology.

I personally come very late to the party when it comes to the remarkable theological gestures inaugurated by Caputo, Zizek, Keller, Marion, Levinas, Deleuze, and countless others. The speculative realists and object oriented on[tic]tologists have in their own way taken a theological turn in the turn away from the theological turn, in their response to Derrida and his disciples. The entanglements between the new realists and theopoetics are  still to be elucidated. Things always seem to be on the verge of getting interesting. It is my hope that I have contributed the chaosmic accidents of proteins, hemoglobin and the view of the universe as something like an organism to the entanglements that Erwin Schroedinger so long ago anticipated. The cat, it seems, will simply not stay in the bag.

The chaosmos is quite a bit tent, too, you know.

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