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.

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