Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Passion of the Flesh

καὶ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν
The Word become flesh and dwelt among us [John 1:15]

We live in the body and suffer in the flesh. Our bodies can be broken, maimed, dismembered, but our flesh is the modality of our very selves that takes upon it the weight of the of inflicted body. One need go no further than deafferentation pain, for example, phantom limb pain, to appreciate the distinction between the body and the flesh ( I discern no clear relationship between this observation and Merleau-Ponty's discussion of the "phantom limb" and the "habitual body" however provocative the similar language). No body/flesh dualism inheres in this reality of a fixed tension within our diremptive experience of our lived bodies and our flesh; they are the obverses of the coinage of our finitude, and the flesh can suffer even where the body is not. The body is always in the present and the here; the flesh experiences not only the present, but the past and the future, in the here and there.

The flesh is redeemed and the body is resurrected in the transformation of finitude. The modalities of redemption and resurrection are suffering and death, respectively; for the flesh suffers death, and the body dies. The flesh suffers in the wholeness and integrity of the body, but the body might die in the absence of organs and appendages. Many discourses distinguish pain and suffering: legal remedies might compensate for both; medical treatments might be directed against both physical pain of the body and existential suffering of the flesh even without making such distinctions concretely.

The saturated phenomenon of the flesh is so because the self cannot be tweezed apart from the flesh. The relationship is one of immediacy, not necessarily one of identity, though thinking the flesh and the self as one and the same makes both intuitive and practical sense in a way that thinking the flesh and the body as  the same does not.  The flesh does not merely 'remember' the body; it lives the body as if it remembers the body. The flesh and the self live each other as if they were one and the same, though neither is reducible to the other.

Does  the Incarnation give us a window upon the body, flesh and self through which the gaze approaches their givenness? Logos-sarx/logos- anthropos  configurations do not reduce to, for example, the extremes of heterodox views, but can work in tandem to place the human creature within the relation to the Incarnation. As Emmanuel Falque has noted in The Metamorphosis of Finitude (NY: Fordham Univ. Pr., 2012), God the Father suffers in the Spirit what The Son suffers in the flesh through a process analogous to apperceptive transposition. The human creature lives this process out in the body and the flesh.  Logos-flesh and logos-body open into a 'self' given to itself (the Myself), a self-givenness given through the flesh and the body.

The 'interpersonal,' and even the 'inter-Personal' (as Anthony Steinbock deploys these terms), orients the self, the flesh and the body toward the 'other.' The Incarnation,  as religiously understood in Christianity, involves the union of the divine and the human in the unique person of Christ. If Falque has given us a valid point of departure, then the Logos-human union is already within the Father-Son-Spirit of the divine Godhead in the transpositions of the experience of suffering. I have suggested that the unique union of the Logos-Human, the 'hypstatic union',  is chiasmic in its structure, and in this sense, I do want to connect with Merleau-Ponty's fascinating notion of the chiasmus of 'reversibility' in his Phenomenology of Perception ( trans. C. Smith, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962, 93-108). Without diverting to a discussion of that work, I want to connect this 'reversibility' with chiasmic structures as noted in this blog, and certainly in John Caputo's work (cited elsewhere), and with the overall concept of 'porosity.'  

If we take as analogy from above the suffering of the Father in the flesh of the Son through the Spirit, then the aperture of the gaze upon the human self, flesh and body widens (through an inversion of 'metaphysics') to free givenness to present in verticality and upon the 'personal' and personhood.  Porosity speaks to the uncontainability of the event within categorical reality, and so it is only off the plane of the horizontal, 'natural' attitude, where such saturated phenomena appear--within vertical experience. The self-givenness within the flesh occurs then in an immediacy of saturation. The body, the lived body inhabited in and by the flesh, presents on the horizontal, and the flesh appears as a saturated phenomenon,  in verticality, yet unified with the wholeness of the reality of life of the human person. It would appear that a surmise is in order: the resurrection of the body is a phenomenon of the horizontal, natural attitude; and the redemption of the flesh, one of vertical experience.

Another surmise is in order: these thoughts are unfinished, these reflections insufficiently reflected, these concepts inadequately mastered. A blog entry is not a publication in a peer-reviewed journal, and they are made provisionally, open to critique that might bring them along, or steer them down another avenue. These are mere currents is a sea of religious thought and experience. I remind myself of this (my) predicament from time to time.

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