Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Again, Reshith: Analogy and Oscillation

Reshith has undergone some modifications since I first employed the term to respond to Catherine Keller's 'tehomic' creatio ex profundis---not a creation from nothing/no-thing, ex nihilo---but from ruach's oscillations over the deep (Face of the Deep). My concept of reshith maintains the otherness of God, maintains his freedom from a chain of being, from a causation in the scheme of things, from being merely another being among other beings. This is an admittedly anti-metaphysical gesture, one that I had hoped would operate in the spirit of Jean-Luc Marion's God Without Being, which  seeks to avoid conceptualizing God within the category of being. The goal is admirable enough, to prevent dissolving God into a hapless idolatry of ontological difference. Still, causality grips God in the metaphysical causa sui, which Marion demonstrates to be a 'conceptual idol,' an idol that locks God into an impoverished likeness of being. Instead, reshith situates the eternal giveness of God on the horizon of Love, through which creation itself must pass before it enters the horizon of being. Just as God loves before he is, creation is loved before it appears.

The very giveness of beings is democratic in precisely the manner Levi Bryant has suggested in his Democracy of Objects. Objects enjoy their being prior to their becoming known to sentient beings. While it is the very nature of the human mind to interpret objects ontologically, that has no effect onticologically upon them. Causality is an irrelevant category for the way things are in themselves, and the way God is in itself.  God's own giveness, his infinite nature, creates as love loves, bringing things into existence from absolutely no-thing. Love always already has its object, which makes its appearance ex nihilo as a new creation.

Creation ex profundis is a shaping; wonderful as it is, it binds the lover into causality: shaping through the hovering above the deep. What a tehomic creation has got going for it, is its self-evident relationality. But this relationality is also and already in reshith. Analogically speaking, reshith is there already, anterior, before (a temporal adverb, but meant atemporally) tehom, which is simply there to be acted upon to become what it will become. Analogically, God is the observer of the no-thing, giving appearance to the material world in an erotic reduction of pure will, act and love. God, therefore does not act within the created order upon some pre-existent substance, but a true creation from pure thought, yet in an image and likeness. This creation is one whose origin is in relationality apart from a causal nexus, not an origin in causality: creation without causality.

As reshith comes into focus, so does a creation that is itself atemporal and one in which conservation and concurrence is already a part. While the theory of rapid expansion of an occurrence in time 14 billion years ago is appealing for its suggestion that the beginning of the universe can be extrapolated to a singularity, that beginning is not reshith, which disabuses us of a God at the head of a moment, the first cause in a series of causes. Causation, like spacetime, is a function of the category of being, which in a strange way, tends to relocate, metaphysically, the notion of causa sui away from God and into the plane of existence.

Reshith, then, trumps tehom in the gentlest of ways. Analogically, it is the condition for the appearance of the there-ness of tehom that establishes the relation of ruach to matter. Indeed, analogy itself is the very oscillation between ruach and tehom. As Karl Rahner has noted in his Foundations of Christian Faith (57-80), analogy is the hovering (is hovering) that constitutes the finitude of creation. And, analogically again, Rahner identifies this hovering/oscillating (Schwebe) with the human creature itself, as the thing that oscillates between spirit and matter. As image and likeness, the human creature is already the analogy of God, and this event is the revelation of the first lines of Genesis. And though Rahner would not countenance a creatio ex profundis, he would likely marvel at the transformational and generative quality of Keller's 'tehomic' theology, and quite possibly delight in the shape his Schwebe has taken in her theological turn in general. Certainly the centrality of relationality and dialectical method to his entire theological project links him to the apophatic entanglements in the Cloud of the Impossible.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Atheists say the Darndest Things

I rarely engage the atheist narrative in this blog, though sometimes that point of view emerges in the comments section. The problem with engaging atheistic world views, and by this I mean the so-called naturalist, materialist, positivist vision of reality, is that it flirts dangerously with apologetics, which I gladly abandoned many years ago. Besides, there will always be Christian apologists, and even if I were interested again, what more could I offer than the work of a Robert Barron or a David Bentley Hart? They pull out all the metaphysical stops, assuring once and for all that the stalemate continues. Apologetics is about winning arguments, not changing hearts; apologetics is about foreclosure, not disclosure. Either 'side' remains committed to an entrenched position and a perpetual extortion of ideas, which blackmails (as John Caputo notes time and again)  the hearer to choose between evidence and phenomena, between the empirical and phenomenological.

The perennial problem does not dissolve in the adamantine binarities of physics and metaphysics, method and truth, spirit and matter, theist and atheist.

OK, let's say I'm gonna be an apologist just one more time, and I am a very good one. I've convinced my atheist interlocutor that what theists call God is the ground of all being, of all contingency, being itself.  How do I move from the metaphysical God to the God of religion, the God of theism? She asks an inevitable question: how is she to move from this God to worship? She is as committed to the truth, truth-telling, truth-seeking as I am. Do I simply tell her that such acts are already devotional, already an act of love, already worship? Will she simply acknowledge that the metaphysical God, the God of the philosophers already is the God of theism?

I add that God is not just the ground of being and being itself, but also the ground and condition of all other metaphysical corollaries, the transcendentals of truth, beauty and good.

She is unmoved. She wonders if I am an atheist. We have agreed to eradicate this true God from the order of being---that God is simply not the superlative being among other beings. She complains that my argument is every bit as positivistic as her own materialist dogma, even though I'm a bit more generous than that dogmatic position, granting that her reality is part of a larger more complete and intellectually honest one, one disregarded by the materialist dogma as nonsense. She liked, at first, that my reality is a patchwork quilt of many patches, and her reality was a very nice patch in the larger reality of theism. The question persists: how does one worship the 'ground of being,'  the 'ground of contingency?' She does not experience the connection between this rarefied God of our newly found common ground and the response of genuflection. She determines that our positivisms, however generous or ungenerous, are intellectually and even morally equivalent, and she retreats. I overreached.

I'm a rotten apologist. Hart might be better. Though he does not admit that his brand of metaphysics and phenomenology is positivistic, he invites an empirical approach to the God problem: while the scientific method is appropriate to investigations of the natural world, only a method of contemplation is appropriate to investigate God; or so runs his closing argument in his The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013). I hesitate to recommend the book for its final diffuseness, despite clear intentions of being pointed. It's a terrible and wonderful book, with its ontology from below (he keeps directing the reader to what follows 'below') and its interesting conceits of satchidananda and a half-waking sleeper-dreamer, coming to consciousness; of course these are metaphysical conceits. Still, the book has its charms, such as its occasional fall into the abyss of the pleonastic fallacy, which Hart derides sporadically.

But what if Hart is right, that the solution to the Bazooka Joe comic from a previous post, is seeking God through a method appropriate to God's own nature? Contemplation is not the truth of God, but perhaps it is the method that steers the seeker to the proper horizon on which God makes an appearance to the seeker's experience. There is certainly a tacit nod to Jean-Luc Marion in Hart's treatise, though a formal citation is relegated to a bibliographical entry in which Marion appears in a title. Of course, Hart would have none of Marion's God without being, or the erotic phenomenon appearing in the phenomenological reduction. I imagine, though, that Hart would accept Marion's conclusions, as I find Hart's conclusions quite satisfactory even though I find his argument at times suspect.

Indeed, contemplation, in the form of Marion's neo-phenomenological reduction is proper to positioning oneself to experience God. Would that Hart worked with that method earlier in the course of his presentation. It would have braced his argument and made more palatable his generous observations, for example, of the equal wonders of beings, and of consciousness that receives, onticologically, the democracy of objects. The reality for which he argues so poignantly rings so very true, embracing as it does all knowledge and being.

Atheists say the darndest things, and so do theists.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Dilemma of Causation

I immediately regretted posting my last piece, "Creation without Causality." Part of my dilemma is that I found myself playing in metaphysical categories I simply dislike, either because I lack the depth of understanding necessary to navigate them or because they are simply and inherently unnavigable from my seat on the postmodern bark. Perhaps the problem is that I've overtaxed the quantum trope, and I find myself trapped in language.

Do we really need to recover the angelic doctor when speaking of causality? Can we speak of causality with a relative casualness unthinkable within classical metaphysics? In my attempt to interrogate the relationality that inheres in creatio ex nihilo I tried to sidestep the little storm brewed in Robert Barron's recent lecture, the rogue waves of Thomistic causal series per se and per accidens (with their unspoken attendant bugaboos of instrumentality and simultaneity, in light of causes in esse and causes in fieri). I simply wanted to focus on a pure intellect, a pure will, a pure act---God---and how a relation can come to be without God entering the cosmic order that comes about in the relation of the beginning: reshith

The issue of relationality struck me as essential to the discussion of creation and the 'creative causality.' What if the creation is a single unified act of God from which conservation and concurrence cannot be dissected out and dogmatized? An utterly simple God would seem to create in such a way: by loving the other into existence from no thing, in such a way that no causal nexus plays a role. The quantum trope opens the apophatic place for such a serene creatio ex nihilo: creation by the instantaneous unity of thought at the very ground of being with its object appearing in the horizon of being. The relationality that begets beings (creatures) is of the continuity of the entanglement between being and its ground. Quantum simultaneity is not quite identical with metaphysical simultaneity. Creation then is not merely the bringing into being of a thought but of an eternal grounding 
(and this notion includes conserving and concurring) of everything brought into existence by fiat, by which we mean the analogical saying of the word: the entangled turn from the Real to the Symbolic and Imaginary registers of reality (for those of a more Lacanian stripe). 

 The idea of a creation without causality subverts Thomistic metaphysics as it attempts to free God from any occasion of entering any series of causality. Because we (post)moderns tend not to think of causality systematically at all, we miss out on the beautiful and treacherous formal and final causes that flesh out a robust Aristotelian/Thomistic theory of reality. To some thinkers this is a tragedy that explains an impoverishment of modern intellectual endeavors; to others it frees up scientific method to make progress without getting bogged down in pursuits it can barely conceive and can simply not gain access. Science is far less concerned with purposes and the conditions of intelligibility than it is with the concrete objects of purposeful investigation. As such, it would seem that the delimited metaphysics that currently rules scientific views of the world forecloses on a reality that is far more robust than they can comfortably accommodate.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Creation without Causality

Fr. Robert Barron may have given his most cogent and sustained presentation of what serious theists mean by God in a recent lecture at the University of St. Thomas. The discussion is essentially Thomistic, and addresses the serious matters of the metaphysical problem, the search for God on the horizon of being, and 'creative causality.' His foil for the lecture is the thesis of the 'new atheists,' that God is a delusion without evidence on the plane of reality. His point of departure is that the new atheists are 'right' in their assertion that God is not some hyper-being among other beings. He then launches into the body of Thomas's metaphysics.

Barron points out that God is not simply the first cause of things that exist on the plane of Being, instead locating God as the condition and ground of being itself and as such within a concept of special 'creative causality.' This approach is provocative because, as we all know, causes are physical; and for God to be a cause in a chain of causality within the horizon of Being, God would have to be physical and therefore an entity within the created order---something he clearly is not. So, Barron Thomistically locates God outside the created order as the 'creative causality.' The maneuver, deft as it is, defies the conceptual space of Thomas's metaphysics, and so we make sense of this localization as nonlocality---within the trope of quantum mechanics where causality is problematic.

Neither Barron nor, of course, Aquinas, is able to articulate the impossible construct here, namely that 'creative causality' is tantamount to creation without causality. The metaphysical claims for God play elegantly in this scenario: actus purus, the inseparability of God's will from his knowledge and love, etc. The notion of nonlocality in the quantum trope provides the conceptual space for such metaphysical categories to play out within the relation between God and creation. Nonlocality allows for both the instantaneous, simultaneous thought of God and the  appearance of creation, thereby dispensing with causality, for cause and effect as we understand these terms dissolve within the simultaneity of the events of thought and creation (if 2 events occur simultaneously there can be no physical cause and effect between the 2 events).

Barron spends some time on creation as a relation in which something new appears. The relation can be thought of in terms of synchronicity, as non-causal coincidences nonetheless involved in the will, in this case, the will of God. Such a concept does not advance the idea of an ex nihilo creation, if by nihilo we mean the absence of properties. I am admittedly so outside the pale of the Tradition and transgressing the border into heterodoxy here, I might as well continue with my idea of reshith as pertaining to nihilo.

Reshith is the ante-tehomic (but still female) locale of Thomas's creation, the relationality that brings about the new. Thomas does not have the language to describe a relation without a cause, so he must make a distinction between creative and physical causality. Reshith is outside the creature of timespace, yet a 'place' for the relation between God and the 'nothing' to bring forth creation. "B'reshith God created the heavens and the earth." The language here can only be analogical, and so reshith is where God stands when he creates.

This synthesis will not please many: Barron, I presume will reject it out of hand as it dispenses with causality; the quantum physicists (even though they would concede I am using quantum theory as a trope) , I presume will reject it out of hand because reshith smacks too much of the 'quantum vacuum,' which (I can already hear them saying) is far from 'nothing.' I respond to them both: a trope is a trope, and it lets ideas play out in a safe space. In this case, quantum mechanics has allowed relationality to appear without causality, causality to be uncoupled from creation, and implicitly allow God's will, thought, love to appear in relation to the other---the other for whom God's own good is willed.

Have at it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Resurrection

If we, just for a moment, allow Homer and Plato to divide the Greek world (at least as it pertains to flesh and spirit), as N.T. Wright does in his The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), we must confront a world, certainly the world that Paul traversed, that provided no precedent for a resurrection. Not only was there no precedent, the Greek world would have found the idea repulsive or simply false, so beautiful was Plato's soul fleeing the bondage of its fleshly prison. The Jewish world, while having an understanding and even a hope of a Resurrection on the last day (or some time in the distant future), was no less inhospitable to the idea of a man being resurrected into the here and now. A. Hendricksen has provided a brief and useful survey of the fields of responses, from Aeschylus to Celsus, to the notion of the Resurrection. How a message built upon the Resurrection of a Palestinian Jew, crucified and humiliated, could have survived at all, let alone thrive, is a study in the impossible.

The New Testament record captures the absolute radicality of the Resurrection. The disciples are incredulous, as are Paul's interlocutors, so scandalous was the idea; yet the growing faith itself was deemed in vain without the Resurrection of Jesus. The impossible discomfiture experienced by the first witnesses to the Resurrection as well as that experienced by the hearers of the gospel was nonetheless overcome by an impossible authenticity. Otherwise, there could be no ekklesia, then or now. Christianity should have died as quickly as its central figure, but instead it went on to transform a world predisposed to laugh it out of existence.

The historical impossibility of Christianity marks off posse ipsum, possibility itself. It is constitutive of the Resurrection to breed faith or ridicule, and the experience of the early Church witnesses precisely to this dichotomy. The Resurrection is disturbing, invasive, radical and transformative. Its radical reality is the only explanation for historical Christianity. It is also the only explanation for the continuance of the Church past the time when sheer novelty could explain a brief Christian appearance given countenance by the seekers of wisdom also seeking a little amusement.

If we put aside our prejudices against the quality of thinking in the ancient world, that somehow these ancient people walked in fear and superstition without any concept of knowledge or wisdom, we confront a people quite similar to ourselves, the difference perhaps akin to the difference between the quantum physics people we are today and the Newtonian physics people we were 200 years ago. As critical thinkers, we can no longer afford to think of the people of the early Church as our intellectual inferiors, a strategy that poorly serves the peoples of the past and present.

The Resurrection is just as impossible for us today as it was for those who witnessed it. Even as cogent a critic of the early church as Gerd Luedemann admits that the most difficult thing to explain about the church is Easter faith. It must come to us of the Higgs-Boson as quite a shock that the best explanation of Christianity is contained in 2000 year old texts.

And yet it moves...

Monday, April 6, 2015

Eye of the Needle: Restoring Ecology and Economy at Home

In my last piece I moved from the recognition scenes in the Odyssey to the Lucan recognition scene that defines the resurrection. I want to move back to the Odyssey for a moment, to explore the ecology at Ithaka, and how the Earth Mother, Gaia, restores balance in the oikos, the economy of the home. As is my wont lately, I also want to begin Keller's Cloud of the Impossible

Civilizational ecophobia remains almost indistinguishable from the formative gynophobias. Let me venture the twisted thought that this entanglement is itself cause for green hope. For we admit that the is some systemic justice along the way, much certainly has shown itself in the rapid undoing of millennia of gender/sex arrangements. Gender---and now sex---are so tangled in our queerly eligible Earth that in resonance with an interreligious planetary their vibrant movements may do much to stir up a sustainable future. [Cloud, 282].

Keller gives the "Infinite Entanglement" a "noble nickname:" Gaia (281), after a fascinating discussion of the Gaia complex (268). Moving from Gaia to Book 21 of the Odyssey may seem an abrupt transition, but the restoration of the oikos at Ithaka involves the complicity of father, mother and son in the presence of the Earth Mother, who has been injured by
the disruptive and disrespectful desecration of Penelope's suitors: they have established an ancient 'ecophobia' and 'gynophobia' in Odysseus's hall. The king returns to restore order to his house by balancing its place in relation the Gaia.

The trial of the bow and the axeheads enthralls any reader of the Odyssey.

Penelope speaks:

I will set before you the great bow of divine Odysseus, and whosoever shall most easily string the bow in his hands and shoot an arrow through all twelve axes, with him will I go, and forsake this house of my wedded life, a house most fair and filled with livelihood, which, methinks I shall ever remember even in my dreams.”

Telemachus acts:

... he set up the axes, when he had dug a trench, one long trench for all, and made it straight to the line, and about them he stamped in the earth. And amazement seized all who saw him, that he set them out so orderly, though before he had never seen them. 

Odysseus strings the bow and shoots the arrow through the axe heads:

Odysseus of many wiles, as soon as he had lifted the great bow and scanned it on every side—even as when a man well-skilled in the lyre and in song easily stretches the string about a new peg, making fast at either end the twisted sheep-gut—so without effort did Odysseus string the great bow. And he held it in his right hand, and tried the string, which sang sweetly beneath his touch, like to a swallow in tone. But upon the wooers came great grief, and the faces of them changed color, and Zeus thundered loud, shewing forth his signs. Then glad at heart was the much-enduring, goodly Odysseus that the son of crooked-counselling Cronos sent him an omen, and he took up a swift arrow, which lay by him on the table, bare, but the others were stored within the hollow quiver, even those of which the Achaeans were soon to taste. This he took, and laid upon the bridge of the bow, and drew the bow-string and the notched arrow even from the chair where he sat, and let fly the shaft with sure aim, and did not miss the end of the handle of one of the axes, but clean through and out at the end passed the arrow weighted with bronze.

The orchestration of the three family members plays out in the music (sing in me Muse) Odysseus makes by plucking the string on the bow, which he had strung like a lyre. It is a song of a swallow, a song of death, a song of justice. Still ringing in his ears, the musical tone guides his hand and eye as he threads the needle with an arrow. What does Odysseus see in the alignment but Gaia awaiting justice! Telemachus has tilled the earth itself to set the axes, resting as they do in the breast of Gaia, propped up to embrace them. It is Gaia herself that sets the axes within her substance, giving a glimpse of her opening to Odysseus's eye. All these actants act very close to the earth. Even the great tactician sits when he shoots. Close to the earth indeed.

Many have already commented on the obvious sexual imagery here. The archer sees an aperture with the line of each aligned blade above and below, oriented is a straight line interrupted only by the round, receiving aperture. Is this a phallic adventure, or, perhaps a return to the womb, as Nicodemus pondered, or a quilting stitch that makes Gaia whole again, a stitch woven by a King married the the great weaver herself, Penelope? These three are very close indeed, this father-king, mother-queen and son-prince. Only in the unison of a note played on a single string can they conspire to rehabilitate the earth. We must imagine Odysseus not only sowing, but sewing

In this impossible cloud of a healing Gaia, it is impossible not to conjure Erich Auerbach's Mimesis and his essay, "Odysseus' Scar." The essay is arguably the most insightful discussion of the famous recognition scene that occurs just before Odysseus's surgical repair of Gaia's wound. Auerbach draws a provocative distinction between the Homeric text and biblical texts, in particular, the Abraham and Isaac pericope.

The Bible's claim to truth is not only far more urgent than Homer's, it is tyrannical---it excludes all other claims. The world of the Scripture stories is not satisfied with claiming to be a historical true reality---it insists that it is the only real world, is destined for autocracy...[T]he Scripture stories do not, like Homer's, court our favor, they do not flatter us that they may please us and enchant us---they seek to subject us, and if we refuse to be subjected we are rebels.

   Let no one object that this goes too far, that not the stories, but the religious doctrine, raises the claim to absolute authority; because the stories are not, like Homer's simply narrated "reality." Doctrine and promise are incarnate in them and inseparable from them[.] Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Princeton University Press: New Jersey, 1953. 14-15.

Auerbach's protest against the autocracy of religion is at home in Keller's cloud of apophatic entanglement. It is the very secularization of religious code that perpetuates this "notion of sovereignty" that "sits enthroned amidst the desires and ruses of Western democratic powers" (Cloud, 259). The problem of history does not elude Auerbach either, as he notes the rise of National Socialism during the time of his writing of Mimesis (19), although he was not quite ready to articulate how religious autocracy provides a template for modern political history.

Politics, 'democratic powers' and Nazi Germany are rooted in a modern theory of the state rooted in theological concepts (Keller quoting Carl Schmitt, 259). The current ecological crisis that Keller fears will be deadlocked in acknowledgment and inaction finds a method for proceeding in Odysseus's bow: the restoration of Gaia is the restoration of home. We need to rewrite that grammar into contemporary terms, into policy that sustains peoples, governments and religions by restoring home planet earth by respecting the entanglements that fold human and non-human into a string that sings a swallow's song.

On a more political and ecological note, I would hasten to add that what neo-conservative politicians and neo-liberal economists call 'commerce,' I would call the rape of home planet earth. As Catholics we are called to be honorable custodians of the beauty and delicate balance in the ecology and biology of a living world. Indeed to see the beauty, harmony and balance in the world is to praise its creator and take responsibility for being reliable partners in the ongoing creation of the world.

While we do not deify the earth, the earth obliges us to respect it. The earth always asks us to come home, and that entails a certain Odyssean nostos. Odysseus can string the bow not because he is the strongest in the hall, but because he 'knows how,' applies wisdom, and accepts responsibility to Gaia, and of course, to Poseidon, who asks him to bring the sea to the inland earth.

The politics of ecology are not about winking to climate change, clean coal or fracking, but about aligning the human creature with the air it breathes, the food it grows in the earth, with good house-keeping. Perhaps we can take a page from the playbook of the first family of Gaia: Odysseus, Penelope and Telemachus.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Resurrection as Recognition: Synchronicity in the Cloud

But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see. And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther.  But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” [Luke 24:21-32, NAB]

Luke's first presentation of the risen Jesus is incendiary. Somewhere between a hardened heart and a changed heart (between sklerokardia and metanoia), is a heart ablaze, burning within the release of an event, Jesus's own deconstruction of the scriptures. First Cleopas reads to Jesus, then Jesus reads to the two of them. Jesus ghosts the moment, and the disciples change their travel plans; they do not stay at Emmaus, but return to Jerusalem.

This is a strange recognition scene, especially when considered against the backdrop of such scenes in the Odyssey, in which Odysseus's presence becomes more and more palpable as the the elements of his identity incrementally allows him to shine forth. Here, the disciples' 'burning,' reaching its climax in the breaking of the bread, has an opposite effect on Jesus's appearance: he becomes aphantos (ἄφαντος), a shining 'back,' an absence, in a disappearance like light near a black hole.

The timing here is interesting for its vagueness. Does Jesus absent himself at his recognition or just after the recognition? The text implies something sequential: they recognize then he becomes aphantos. But what is the object of recognition---upon what does the disciples' gaze rest? The bread? The 'breaking' of the bread? The person of Jesus? The synchronicity here astounds us as the report of the women astounds the disciples, but the absence of any causal relation in the bread-break-recognition-aphantos strikes us as pure relationality. The acausal connections here are the stuff of the cloud. Without devolving onto Jung's spooked experience with Pauli and Einstein, it remains a fascinating observation that the concept of synchronicity is a response to quantum theory, which, as I have recently noted, is phenomenology. Keller recounts how such meaningful coincidences fold in the cloud (Cloud of the Impossible, 135). Enough: we will not be calling Ghostbusters. The risen Jesus ain't no spook, despite the initial misapprehension of the Jerusalem disciples (Luke 24:37).

The meaningful coincidences within this first presentation of the risen Christ in Luke's gospel occurs only in the unus mundus that resonates in the folds of reality. The resurrection that takes form in the synchronicity in Luke makes its appearance in quantum acausality: Jesus pops in and out like an electron in its orbital. The burning in the hearts is a response to the resurrection as the presence of the Word in the flesh allegorizing the words of scripture referring to himself. The words set hearts ablaze as they shine forth; the words themselves are ablaze. The saturation Luke creates here conflagrates the moment, which brings forth the disappearance of Jesus into his resurrection. 

The disciples are caught in the iconic gaze in the event of the resurrection. Their hearts change. They turn back, transformed, toward Jerusalem, where they see Jesus again, this time with a bit more presence. This appearance is of an entirely different character. The emphasis rests on the body. The concreteness of the experience moves the disciples to the coolness of praise. Luke gives us two views on the resurrection in his presentation of the experience of the disciples. In the white hot on the road to Emmaus, the disciples discover Jesus in the word. In Jerusalem they discover him in the promise (ἐπαγγελίαν ).

The calculus of Marion's reduction might help to resolve the apparent aporia of two senses of resurrection, "by lending themselves to the play of a crossed exchange of significations---thus firmly consecrating the distance within them" (The Erotic Phenomenon, 105). We are therefore not dealing with two distinct phenomena of resurrection, but a single "crossed phenomenon" of bi-directionality, "fixed by a single signification." The crossed phenomenon of resurrection plays at the junction of disappearance and appearance: the aphantos that coincides with the breaking of the bread and the recognition of Jesus as the risen Lord, crossed with the palpable appearance of Jesus as flesh and bone eating broiled fish in the presence of the disciples. If the reduction works to release the event, then the event must be released from the single signification of which disappearance and appearance are of a piece.

That formulation seems to obscure as much as it illuminates. The "play" of significations that really constitute a single signification and therefore a single (though 'crossed') phenomenon seems all play and little meaning. Yet, "a ghost has no flesh and bones" as the risen Jesus does (Luke 24:39). The re-enactment of the last supper at Emmaus unites all this play into Eucharistic phenomenality. The pre-disaster meal comes to the fore and folds the gaze of the disciples into the disappearance of one substance and the appearance of something new, palpable and real.

This reduction of the appearances of aphantos at Emmaus and the body of Jesus, hands, feet, body and bone at Jerusalem allow the crossed phenomenon of the resurrection to present to the experience of the disciples within the single signification fixed within the intuitions at work at the two locations. The experiences at Emmaus and Jerusalem are both rooted in Jesus's placing the deconstruction of the scriptures---the release of their messianism---within their understanding: "he opened their minds so they could understand" (Luke 24:45). The resurrection resolves in the Ascension, which relocates the risen Lord in Eucharistic memory, emblazoned there by the utter materiality of Christ's real presence in the presence of the disciples.

 Luke's was a very busy Sunday. The disciples, on this third day, had their hope fulfilled that "He was the one." The act of breaking the bread (lubricated by the messianic word) at Emmaus becomes a moment of synchronicity at Jerusalem: the mere report of this act to the"eleven" coincides with Jesus being in their midst (24:36). He takes them on another trip, this time to Bethany, where he bids them farewell; they worship him and return to Jerusalem where they praised God in the temple and awaited the arrival of the promised Spirit which will clothe them with power from on high (24:49). Burning hearts are encouraged to proclaim the Easter faith and bear witness to the stark and impossible reality of the resurrection.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Fr. Robert Barron on the Eucharist

Robert Barron has just completed 3 helpful YouTube videos on the Sacrament of the Eucharist as a meal, sacrifice and real presence. I have recently written on this last aspect of the sacrament, and I find some palpable overlap between my post and Barron's video treatment, both in language and concept.

As I noted in that post on the Real Presence, it is incumbent upon each generation to etch this idea of the Eucharist into the Catholic imagination so that every Catholic understands precisely what event is released in the Liturgy, and the nature of their own participation in the Body of Christ.

I have no particular comments on the videos: they are timely and, as usual, well executed. I suppose then that this brief post is simply a recommendation to readers to give them a fair hearing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Quantum Reduction, or Stapp, Marion, Keller, Latour and Caputo Lunching in the Faculty Lounge

Sometimes Quantum Theory (QT) posits that increments of knowledge result from a collapse of the intention of an observer who experiences the phenomenon of a wave function. Certainly QT posits more than this, but it asserts the integral part of the observer to affect (effect, too?) the system under observation, and the phenomena that present to the intuition of  the observer. Henry Stapp, for example, has discussed this notion in accessible language, and his process sounds so very much like Jean-Luc-Marion's neophenomenology's (NP) 'reduction.' The performance of phenomenology speaks directly to Stapp's assertion of the observer as 'agent,' as a participant in the quantum cloud whose agency is accounted for in the appearance of quanta, or the wave function itself. This function as function can be expressed symbolically as mathematics, but it does not take on meaning until a 'collapse' or methodological reduction sets the stage for 'something' to make an appearance. 

My interest in Stapp stems from his panel discussion at the UN in 2008 conference, Beyond the Mind-Body Problem: New Paradigms in the Science of Consciousness, a conference where my colleague, Christina Puchalski, MD, a thought-leader in Hospice and Palliative Medicine, was also a speaker. For me, Stapp, who at the time of the conference had just published his Mindful Universe, is more poet than  quantum mechanics specialist , which is how most scientists view him and his long and distinguished career as a physicist. 

I am also interested in how his work resonates with that of Marion, and Keller's as well. QT and NP might make for strange bedfellows at first blush, but in Keller's Cloud, it's all pure theopoetics, which is not to say, poetry. And Keller has no qualms about giving Stapp center stage in his Whiteheadian turn (Cloud of the Impossible, 142ff). Keller does not link Stapp's work with the general feel of continental philosophy of science, despite her minor engagement of Bruno Latour, but John Caputo certainly does not miss an opportunity to acknowledge Latour's release of Pasteur's microbes in the event of biology and the role of the investigator in creating swaths of reality.

...Latour will even go so far as to say that Pasteur's microbes were not 'there' before Pasteur, which is why nobody saw them. It is only after they meet Pasteur that they appear. Pasteur happened to them...It is not the case either that they are purely active and Pasteur their passive observer, or that he is purely active and they are passive products. Rather. both are actants, co-actants, in a collaborative process (PH, 145-47).  The Insistence of God, 203; Caputo citing Latour's Pandora's Hope [PH].

Caputo then immediately accuses Latour of committing phenomenology, a crime "as plain as the nose on Husserl's face." Crime is too strong a word (it's mine, not Caputo's), but Caputo is taking his last licks at the speculative realists, and this is perhaps why he misses the opportunity to take a second look, and observe that it was, after all, Marion's nose, which is where Marion's NP meets Stapp's quantum reduction, the collapse of the waveform so nicely epitomized in Keller's Cloud of the Impossible, and in Stapp's own description at the UN conference and in Mindful Universe. Caputo's accusation is brilliant and accurate, and emboldens me to make my own accusation: it's as plain as the nose on Caputo's face that Stapp is also doing phenomenology---quantum mechanics is phenomenology.

In The Erotic Phenomenon, Marion ingeniously frees love (from Descartes, among others) to conceptualize itself in a series of elegant maneuvers, and deconstructs the metaphysical hegemony on love in the 'erotic reduction'. In a rather exhausting but exhaustive induction, Marion presents a series of questions that sequentially radicalize the 'erotic reduction' itself, whose edges attain the sharpness of a surgeon's blade that he uses to excise love from being once and for all. For now it must suffice to note that Marion, just as Stapp, steers the intention to draw out discrete phenomena from the fluidity of the cloud. By collapsing, reducing that which seems to subsume phenomena into a singularity (for example, a single, collapsing bar comprising area under a curve in integral calculus), the thing itself emerges as itself; and it emerges from the matrix of analogy into the place of univocity, from the analogical to the discrete quanta of reality, moving from the real to the hyperreal. Perhaps the physicists are right: reality is digital, and it appears discretely on self-generated horizons in the ipseity of givenness. For Marion love is the emergent, for Stapp, the particle (quantum from waveform); each emergent, then, is released in the event through an observer hearing its call.

The lover makes appear the one whom she loves, not the reverse. She makes him appear as lovable (or despicable), and thus as visible in the erotic reduction. The Other is phenomenalized in the exact measure according to which the lover loves him or her, and, as an Orpheus of phenomenality, tears him or her from indistinction and makes him or her emerge from the depths of the unseen. The Erotic Phenomenon, 80.

Love then reaches across time-space, and the lovers are inseparable, despite the separation of great distance; and the lovers are affected and effected by each other in their spooky entanglements. This sliver of a knowledge of love emerges from the phenomenological and quantum reduction. The procedure that directs intentionality has the effect of incrementally delimiting possibility itself. And while several years ago I was content to assert that 'information' is the reduction of possibility, I now want to admit that the reductions that decrease possibility create quanta of knowledge, yes, but not as possibility itself approaches zero, but the impossible itself.