Waking the Gods: Sorcery, Alchemy, or Gift?

“It is a source of constant vexation to me, as I am sure it must be to all of us,” David Bentley Hart whimsically remarks, “that philosophical theology pays such scant attention to root vegetables.”1 I confess that until I read this opening sentence of his essay “Waking the Gods,” I had never noticed this universal failure to attend to root vegetables. But of course Hart is right. Search the library databanks. I daresay you will not find a single journal article by a Christian theologian that is devoted to the resplendent glory of potatoes, carrots, onions, or garlic. The neglect is inexplicable. Did not the Lord God Almighty ordain the potato to accompany a savory rib eye steak? Can we imagine a liverwurst sandwich without a slice of Bermuda onion? And without the tang of garlic (there can never be too much garlic), Italian tomato sauces would taste far too insipid to adorn our spaghetti dishes.

And then there is the turnip. Not one of my favorite root vegetables, which makes it perfect for a thought experiment. You place your pet rabbit on a table. Dressed in full sorcerer’s garb, Harticus Maximus waves his wand and casts the ancient spell, “Abracadabra!” The rabbit becomes a turnip! He then asks the crucial question:

Have I actually transformed a rabbit into a turnip—is that logically possible—or have I instead merely annihilated the poor bunny and then recombined its material ingredients into something else altogether?2

The latter, he tell us, is the obvious logical answer. Why obvious? Because rabbits lack the potentiality to become turnips. The transformation is too radical and discontinuous. An acorn may be thought as containing an oak tree within itself, but under no conditions can a rabbit be thought as a turnip in nuce. Leporids do not become root vegetables.

The goetic transmutation may be distinguished (I think) from the attempts of ancient alchemists to change base metals, such as lead, into gold. Alchemists believed that metals were alive and existed in a spiritual spectrum, with the base metals, such as lead and copper, representing the immature forms of matter and the precious metals the mature forms, with gold at the apex. Given the unity of matter, all metals possess the potential to become gold. Through various techniques of manipulation, alchemists sought to achieve the desired transmutation. It all made sense according to their science: “One nature rejoices in another nature; one nature triumphs over another nature; one nature masters another nature.” Their experiments, of course, failed. What they did not know is that they needed to change the number of protons that constitutes lead, and for that they needed either a particle accelerator or the philosopher’s stone.

Now imagine the experiment a second time. Our archmage waves his wand and and in a solemn voice speaks the magical command over the rabbit: “Angelificamini!”3 The rabbit disappears and in its place now stands a glorious but terrifying angel. Once we recover from the shock, we are forced to conclude that the unfortunate rabbit has again been obliterated. Harticus Maximus explains:

If there is no latent angelism in rabbits, even of the most purely potential kind, then again no real metamorphosis has occurred at the level of discrete substances or identities. . . . At the level of actual forms and natures and determinate properties, however, nothing can ever truly become anything other than what it already is, at least potentially. A discrete substance can pass through various states proper to itself, achieve diverse stages of natural development, acquire or shed modalities or accidents implicit in its own nature. But it can never become something truly extrinsic to itself without ceasing to be what it was.4

So how are these sorcerous transmutations germane to the waking of the gods? Recall the question posed in the first article: Is the appetence for God intrinsic to what it means to be a human being, or could he have created human beings who would have been satisfied with a purely natural beatitude? In disagreement with Henri de Lubac, the advocates of the natura pura claim that the desire for the beatific vision is accidental to human nature; it does not constitute what it means to belong to the species Homo sapiens. Hypotheti­cally, God might have created another world in which human beings are not divinely summoned to trans­cendence and therefore do not suffer the disquietude of incompletion. In this other possible world, no one would ever pray “My heart is restless until it rests in thee.” Is such a human being still a human being, or are we in fact talking about a different species altogether?

In his book Surnaturel and later writings, Henri de Lubac argues that all rational and spiritual beings (angels and human beings), precisely because of their engraced rational natures, possess an absolute desire for the beatific vision. It is ineradicably imprinted upon them. To be rational is to continuously hunger for transcendence in their divine Creator. By the gift of existence, humanity is teleologically ordered to theosis:

In me, a real and personal human being, in my concrete nature—that nature I have in common with all real men, to judge by what my faith teaches me, and regardless of what is or is not revealed to me either by reflective analysis or by reasoning—the “desire to see God” cannot be permanently frustrated without an essential suffering. To deny this is to undermine my entire Credo. For is not this, in effect, the definition of the “pain of the damned”? And consequently—at least in appearance—a good and just God could hardly frustrate me, unless I, through my own fault, turn away from him by choice. The infinite importance of the desire im­plant­ed in me by my Creator is what constitutes the infinite importance of the drama of human existence. It matters little that, in the actual cir­cum­stances of that existence, immersed as I am in material things, and un­aware of myself, this desire is not objectively recognized in its full reality and force: It will inevitably be so the day I at last see my nature as what it fundamentally is—if it is ever to appear to me in this way. . . . For this desire is not some “accident” in me. It does not result from some peculiarity, possibly alterable, of my individual being, or from some historical contin­gency whose effects are more or less transitory. A fortiori it does not in any sense depend upon my deliberate will. It is in me as a result of my belong­ing to humanity as it is, that humanity which is, as we say, “called.” For God’s call is constitutive. My finality, which is expressed by this desire, is inscribed upon my very being as it has been put into this universe by God. And, by God’s will, I now have no other genuine end, no end really assigned to my nature or presented for my free acceptance under any guise, except that of “seeing God.”5

At the same time, de Lubac paradoxically insists, union with the divine always lies beyond our finite capacities and powers. We cannot realize our supernatural end apart from divine grace:

We can say then, that the supernatural is this divine element, inaccessible to human effort (there is no self-divinization!), but which unites itself to man, raising him up . . . becoming part of him so as to divinize him, in this way becoming like an attribute of the New Man such as Saint Paul describes.6

The desire is absolute, indeed “the most absolute of all desires” (not a mere wish or velleity), yet a desire that bespeaks the gratuitousness of divine grace:

If there is in our nature a desire to see God, it can only be that God wants this supernatural end for us which involves seeing him. It is because, willing it and not ceasing to will it, he has put it and doesn’t cease to put the desire for it in our nature, in such a way that this desire is nothing other than his call. . . . This desire is in us, yes, but it is not of us, since it only satisfies itself in mortifying us. Or rather, it is so much in us that it is ourselves, but it is we who do not belong to us: we are not ourselves: non sumus nostri.7

In us but not of us, a natural, unconditioned desire which only God himself can graciously satisfy—this is the paradox of the desiderium naturale. Or as John Milbank expresses it: “a gift of a gift to a gift.”8

We return to the rabbit and turnip. When God awakens the gods, will it be an annihilation or natural transformation? Recall Hart’s fourth premise: “God became human so that humans should become God. Only the God who is always already human can become human. Only a humanity that is always already divine can become God.”9

Footnotes

[1] David Bentley Hart, You Are Gods (2022), p. 1.
[2] Ibid., p. 2.
[3] I owe the formulation of this command to Luke Togni. I have consulted with Albus Dumbledore, and he has approved the formula and added it to the Hogwart’s Book of Spells for Advanced Warlocks and Witches.
[4] Ibid., pp. 2-3.
[5] Henri de Lubac, The Mystery of the Supernatural (1998), pp. 54-55.
[6] Quoted by Noel O’Sullivan, “Henri de Lubac’s Surnaturel: An Emerging Christology,” Irish Theological Quarterly, 72 (2007): 8.
[7] Ibid, p. 13.
[8] John Milbank, The Suspended Middle, 2nd ed. (2014), p. 96.
[9] Hart, p. xviii.

(Go to “One-Storey Universe”)

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45 Responses to Waking the Gods: Sorcery, Alchemy, or Gift?

  1. Rux says:

    de Lubac’s last quote is reminiscent of Eliot’s lines in East Corker:

    To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
    You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstacy.
    In order to arrive at what you do not know
    You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
    In order to possess what you do not possess
    You must go by the way of dispossession.
    In order to arrive at what you are not
    You must go through the way in which you are not.
    And what you do not know is the only thing you know
    And what you own is what you do not own
    And where you are is where you are not.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Logan(mercifullayman) says:

    So, randomly, there is actually a space where people have brought up the notion of root vegetables. It occurred within the space of “Christian Ethics.” There, for awhile, people within that kind of Yoderian, Winkian, Liberal Restoration Movement strand towards the ethical/moral kept talking about how Christianity needed to be restored to the “radix,” and for an example discussed how we took for granted what a radish was trying to teach us about morality and ethics. To get “back to the root” of the faith when it came to things such as non-governmental involvement, giving, pacifism, etc. Just an interesting factoid.

    But maybe that is too far off the beaten path to be considered as appropriate. Heck, most people don’t even know who some of those guys are, nor would probably consider them “valid” voices in the discussion.

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  3. Logan(mercifullayman) says:

    Now to the actual book:

    I’m actually reading through the book now. I’m on the last chapter. So far I’ve appreciated this kind of ecumenical push to the transcendent. That in the end, there is this notion across all cultures that defies the split of the Two-Tier ilk. It’s kind of a pulling together that says where there are witnesses who attest to the singular notion of truth, we should probably kind of listen to the group on this one. It’s motivated me to look outward to other ideations like that of the Tao Te Ching (fascinating and feels like Heraclitus and Scotus, wrapped in a tinge of apophatic thought) and the sufi mystics. Hart, here, seems to be fleshing out the notion that the logoi can only ever reflect its Logos, that it must necessarily be the case that all “ideas” are granted in their individuality both a collective pull and an individual goal, and that as he says in following chapters, Grace is extending into the act of creation itself precisely as the fact that we even really exist at all. He is kind of explaining Maximus out for all of us and demonstrating the notion that the most mysterious of claims, point 4, is the pinnacle of philosophy/science/theology, and not only is it the final terminus, it actually is the beginning point for the whole project. (Although I think I agree with Charles Kahn that where we’ve missed the boat is calling them ideas and pulling them into a Platonic orbit, he makes a great case for reading the words logoi as “accounts.” And if you think about it, this reporting, this account, is spoken….the Logos speaks us all into creation as he did everything else. We are the spoken account of the Word that is grounded into the divine life, which is also the mystery of Being itself. “For what do you bring us forth, but to be you?” – Ruusbroec) This haecciety…this ontic mystery that in the twinkling of an eye we shall all be changed, belies the mystery of the incarnation and creative act and was always the point. And it is also the most resplendent of identities to have… that of being one with the source all things in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Milton Finch says:

    Robert Farrar Capon has something on the matter. You’ll find onions in his thinking from his book The Supper of the Lamb. It’s a cooking/theological book with a few recipes and his flare for style.

    https://gel.sites.uiowa.edu/capon-robert-farrar-onion

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Jack H says:

    What would this entail for the transformation of non human creatures? Is not all of creation to participate in theosis? Even if through a human mediator or microcosm, if only humans have this God given capacity it would seem to leave the rest of creation out. Does not all of creation in some mysterious way know it’s Creator?

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      If one belongs to the Eastern Christian tradition, then the entire cosmos will be transfigured. How this works out for the dinosaurs, I do not know, though. Many years ago Hart and Feser had a “vigorous” exchange on whether dogs go to heaven. There were some fireworks (of course). 🎇

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  6. KRISTOFER CARLSON says:

    With apologies to DBH…
    It is a source of constant vexation to me, as I am sure it must be to all of us, that philosophical theology pays such scant attention to pigeons. Obviously, after so many centuries of appalling neglect, this is not a deficiency that can be remedied in a day; but, even so, we should not shirk such small corrective efforts as we are able to undertake. So imagine, if you will, the average pigeon. Imagine it set before you in a kind of chiaroscuro, arrayed in lackluster shades of gray and white. Now view the same pigeon in the sun; suddenly it is luminous, resplendent in iridescent bands of green and purple. Has the pigeon become iridescent, or has it perished and been replaced by something else? The answer depends, I suppose, on whether there is already something iridescent about pigeons (as I do, but as many do not); for, if there is no latent iridescence in pigeons, even of the most purely potential kind, then no real metamorphosis has occurred at the level of discrete substances or identities. All that happened is that the sun has murdered a harmless pigeon and summoned up its luminous replacement.

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  7. danaames says:

    I need some help, not so much with Hart’s writing itself, though. Could someone summarize what “beatific vision” entails? Surely it’s more than simply the use of the eyes, either psychical or pneumatic (in Koine terms – thanks to Hart’s recommendation of The Corinthian Body, which I rustled up on a used book site and found quite enlightening). On the face of it, I would think a person would much rather attain theosis as union with God, rather than standing at some distance merely observing God; this would prompt much more of a preference for the Eastern understanding, rather than the Western. I must be missing something, unless it’s the idea that such seeing leads to some kind of ultimate knowing and in that knowing there is union. I could certainly understand that, but the term “beatific vision” itself seems to place an extra step of some kind in between the one and the other.

    Thanks.

    Dana

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    • Robert Fortuin says:

      Dana, sight is interchangeable with participation, knowledge, union.

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    • Milton Finch says:

      This might help, Dana. There is a small book by Martin Buber, a Jewish monk, that might be extremely enlightening to your question on the beatific vision. C.S. Lewis wrote of him in his book on prayer called, Letters to Malcom, by simply saying, “Isn’t Buber fun!” Buber’s book is called, I and Thou. Enjoy!

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Dana, you might find of interest this fine book by Hans Boersma, Seeing God.

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      • danaames says:

        Thank you all. Sure wish the language used (?shortcut term?) reflected more of the depth that is obviously present. I will check those books. Milton, I read a selection from I and Thou in my high school Senior English class, back in 197??; our text was a compilation of extracts from philosophers down through the ages. I had forgotten that Lewis liked him.

        Thanks again.
        D.

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  8. Mike Brown says:

    I have a book somewhere in my library that deals with gardening as a spiritual practice.

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  9. Owen-Maximus says:

    I think what normally scandalizes folks about “becoming God” is a literal understanding of union as numerical oneness. Does creaturely union with God involve (1) an enduring or (2) an obliterated distinction? That is, does theosis finally result in a union with a distinction or a union without a distinction? It seems that any union capable of degrees is more in keeping with the former, and I believe this has been the position of western mystics in the main. A literal, numerical identity of oneness with the Absolute has been a hard sell in the traditions of “biblical monotheism,” so I find it interesting that DBH has “no objection in principle” to subtitling the work, “Studies in Vedantic Christianity.” I have no objection to this approach either, though I would be interested to know on which side of the longstanding “distinction debate” DBH stands. My hunch is that You are Gods seeks to inflict no violence upon the mystery of divinization by dissecting its inward parts. That’s good! I do wonder if a metaphorical understanding of unitive awareness—one that retains the distinction—is the best way, at least during the earthly sojourn of the mystic (since he/she retains his/her agency to at least speak of the union). But what about in the ages of ages?

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    • Owen-Maximus says:

      It was premise #5 that provoked this question in my mind.

      5. God is all that is. Whatever is not God exists as becoming divine, and as such is God in the mode of what is other than God. But God is not “the other” of anything.

      Like

    • Logan(mercifullayman) says:

      I think in this case people tend to fall back into the questions of essence and energy at that point. The unitive experience is one in which the individual can never cease to be individual, but in effect, an extension of the Trinitarian reflection. Kind of like a mirror reflecting a mirror. It is a unified experience, but the whole point of that experience is very oriented towards the individual’s growth and experience of the all. I think that is the subtle difference between the Hindu/Buddhist notion of surrender to the all. There, one finds self-abandonment and the disappearing of the individual into the great Sea of Being. I think they are right in recognizing the fact that to become “One” is there. However, to be “one” doesn’t mean to neglect the subjective of you either, for that “idea” has already been separated in the fact that you are a created “this.” So that haecceity, that uniqueness that is what we all share, the trait of God not yet God, means that we become as he is, and in the semantic sense, one.

      Long winded way of saying, I think your notion is correct of a unified yet distinction. You are Gods….in a way, it’s the proper end of Psalm 82. Where he addresses the cosmic panoply, its just now, in the proper mode. You are as I am, and yet not I.

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      • Owen-Maximus says:

        Interesting thoughts, Logan, thank you. Especially this: “the trait of God not yet God.” If I’m correct, this corresponds to part of DBH’s premise #5: “Whatever is not God exists as becoming divine, and as such is God in the mode of what is other than God.”

        If God is an oak tree, are we, teleologically speaking, the late autumn acorns?

        Like

        • Logan(mercifullayman) says:

          In the last chapter of the book, Hart does a good job of delineating what he means by the consummated and yet not yet. God is not becoming, at least in the Hegelian sense of unknown that allows the God to become God in the fulfilled sense, but yet, as we are, God is not “all in all” until we all reach our achieved end. So the tension of the unrealized and yet already known, the scope of all of this is something that we are experiencing within finitude itself, yet not in actuality as it has already been deified, redeemed etc, in actu.

          It’s interesting, there was an interview with an astrophysicist recently where he talked about this idea as well. Humanity can only perceive the world around us at so many frames per second. Everything has already happened, we’re just merely playing catch up with the perceptive side that we have as creatures. I thought that was a good way to kind of look at.

          And indeed, we are Acorns, that in actuality, give birth to the same tree over and over and over again…I suppose for lack of a better analogy. So that there are many trees, but that they are also uniquely themselves and yet also that tree.

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          • Owen-Maximus says:

            Jalaluddin Rumi said, “you are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.” Perhaps we could transpose this saying with acorns and oak trees.

            Liked by 2 people

        • Logan(mercifullayman) says:

          I couldn’t respond for some reason below, but I believe it was Julian of Norwich who says that in one of the visions, an acorn was placed in her hand, and she was told that the acorn was all that was, is, and is to come. So maybe, you are just channeling that same idea here.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. tbhenry101 says:

    For what it is worth, I do think that his novel Kenogaia is an extended reflection on this in a quite beautiful way, especially in the way in which the ‘creation’ in that story is understood as a type of imprisoned dream of the sister.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Tom says:

    Might as well place this here. YAG, p. 124, Hart’s Prop 36:

    “36. All these conclusions, it seems clear, follow from Genesis 2:7; there life is imparted to human beings directly by God, breathing his Spirit into his creature. Bulgakov is surely right, and on the soundest scriptural ground, when he speaks of the human spirit as that which is uncreated in humanity, and that which proceeds from God as an outpouring from his essence; and Bulgakov is right also in saying that, in creation, God calls his own breath to hypostatic existence—calls his own Spirit to indwell the spirits of his creatures—and thereby gives hypostatic life to the rays of his own glory. As Eckhart says, ‘Hie ist gotes grunt mîn grunt and mîn grunt gotes grunt’. This is the ultimate reason that the first moment of the creature’s being is at once a vocation issued by God and yet also an act of free self-positing on the part of the creature.”

    I have for several years now connected the human spirit (understood as Hart describes it here) with the uncreated ‘logoi’ of things (per Maximus, the ‘logoi’ are uncreated); ‘logoi’ (plural) in their diffuse manifestation, but still as the uncreated Logos who is the divine intention for created things and only actualized (only finally created/manifested as those ends intended) through the free self-positing concession of the creature. Has anyone to date explicitly connected the human ‘spirit’ to Maximus’s ‘logoi’ doctrine?

    My only thing to add (and I’m not sure David denies this; I just don’t see it in the passage) would be that this self-depositing could not possibly be the creature’s “first moment of being,” but could only be accomplished historically through learning/growth and, yes, a God-given conatus essendi (asceticism) that is not itself a consequence ‘of’ a fall, but the precondition for it. That’s not to deny something has gone awfully wrong within creation; just that its origin was fit for a teleological ‘movement’ (and thus history) of becoming in terms of finitude’s need to learn, grown, achieve, accomplish, etc.

    If you want this for a later post, Fr Al, go ahead and remove it and let me know. I’ll post it later.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Owen-Maximus says:

      Tom, you may have seen this, but later in that proposition, he connects the human spirit to Maximus’s notion of natural will. if you’re both correct, then uncreated logos = natural will = inmost reality of created spirit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tom says:

        That would be a sweet essay for somebody to write. If they have, then it’ll be sweet for me to find it!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Robert Fortuin says:

          Sweet perhaps, but terribly wrong in any case. The uncreated logoi is never identified by Maximus with the natural will. The natural will has an uncreated logos, yes. Just like butterflies and the stars do. But the Maximinian logoi are never the things themselves.

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          • Tom says:

            To be clear Robert – I am not identifying the logoi with the natural will. That’s Owen’s comment what Hart says in that passage. I’m ‘only’ interested in the relation of/between the logoi and the human spirit.

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            For St Maximus the relation of the human spirit to its logos is as an imprint patterning after its prototype. He does not conflate the prototype with what follows after it.

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          • Tom says:

            Thanks. If you have a passage in Maximus that clarifies that distinction, I’d be grateful.

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Tom the logoi feature prominently in his works, a perusal of the Ambigua and Opuscula will especially be fruitful.

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          • Tom says:

            As Owen says, it’s not an explicit identification Maximus makes. But no one is claiming Maximus said it. The question is whether the identification is true (or even possible, or coherent, given what Maximus does say).

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            It cannot be true nor coherent according to Maximus who is very clear to be careful not to make this identification. The ultimate division of being looms large in all his writings. He stands squarely in the tradition of Clement, Origen, Nyssa and Denys to name but a few.

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    • Robert Fortuin says:

      You are stretching Maximus beyond the point of recognition. Never does Maximus state that the logoi in creation are uncreated. The logoi which are uncreated are the principles in accordance with which everything is created. We may call it the rational principles according to which and through the Logos everything created finds its uncreated origin.

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      • Tom says:

        Robert: Never does Maximus state that the logoi in creation are uncreated. The logoi which are uncreated are the principles in accordance with which everything is created.

        Tom: I’ve understood there to be just these logoi which, as you say, are the uncreated principles in accordance with which all things are created. I take them simply to be God, creatively present in all things, speaking created things into being in accordance with his intentions. Thus they are God as the final end of each of the vast diversity of things in their temporal becoming. Unless I’m mistaken (which is always likely), there is no 2nd set or category of Maximian ‘logoi’ which are ‘created’. There are only the uncreated divine logoi of created things.

        Jordan Wood? Anybody?

        True, I may be mistaken in identifying the logoi of human beings with the ‘spirit’ of human beings, single and indivisible by virtue of their unity in the One Logos, but diversely concretized as the individuals we each uniquely become (as God wills/intends). If Hart is right and the human spirit is the Holy Spirit (in whatever creative mode of contingent expression may be), what’s the problem? How is the human spirit *not* convertible with the actualizing in us of the uncreated logoi? The logoi/spirit is that (as David says I think) which is uncreated in us.

        Tom

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        • Robert Fortuin says:

          What is the problem? Creation participates in the uncreated, and is never identified as the uncreated itself. Maximus objects to the identification of reflection with its prototype.

          It is yet another manifestation of the age old question of the one and the many. How can the many come from the one? The Christian answer is to locate the many in the one, while yet not identifying the many with the one.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Tom says:

            What do you take to be Hart’s (and Bulgakov’s) meaning in Hart’s statement (in my post above): “Bulgakov is surely right, and on the soundest scriptural ground, when he speaks of the human spirit as that which is uncreated in humanity.”

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            He qualifies it later in that section, “the spirit in us is nothing but a finite participation in that eternal and infinite act of divine affirmation and love.” The point being, I surmise, that creation is, after all, or better first of all, a creation by God, an inter Trinitarian event if you will, that divine rhapsodic exitus-reditus in and through which the veil between Creator and creature waxes thin. And so we can never think of creation as being “outside” of the uncreated, as some thing, or some event exterior to God. And this supernatural end is the creature’s natural vocation.

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          • Tom says:

            You take that as a qualification. Maybe we can get David to stop by and clarify what he meant, or Jordan to clarify the relation between logoi and the human spirit. I’m all ears. But even if the human spirit is simply the divine logos for that moment concretely instantiated, it doesn’t wipe out all created participation in the uncreated. It just identifies our spirit as the uncreated in which we participate.

            I’m used to being wrong. I just can’t help wondering.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Owen-Maximus says:

            Just dropping this in the mix. Maximus writes, “because He (God) is intellect, then indeed He thinks of entities inasmuch as He is. And if He thinks of entities in the process of thinking of Himself, then He is those entities.” Nikolaos Loudovikos quotes this in the article linked below on p. 121. And it initially sounds like pantheism.

            However, with Maximus, we encounter the idea of divine works ad extra, “outside of” God, as those things “contemplated around His essence, which are God’s works without beginning in time” (Cap.Th. et Econ. 1.48). Thus, there is a kind of distinction in Maximus between God’s logoi, as acts of His own will, and God’s essence.

            Loudovikos says that, through the logoi, God “can create an uncreated relationship with every creature without losing His transcendentality, where logos becomes relationship, a reality of love begging for reciprocity, and thus unavoidably moving on through proposals and gifts asking for response” (117). This is Loudovikos’ understanding of logos as proposal, beckoning to the creature to reach its true final end.

            To me, the latter reality sounds identifiable with natural will. Loudovikos doesn’t address that particular point, but here’s the article. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/43816277.pdf

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            It is novel in any case, besides I don’t think Loudovikos is saying what you think he is. He’s commenting on Maximus’ appropriation of Dionysius’ passage identifying the logoi as God’s essential activities ad extra.

            Coming back to your initial claim to which I responded – I have never read anywhere by anyone that for Maximus the logoi are the natural human will. For Maximus the human will in its natural condition and usage conforms to its logos. The will can be misused, and as such it departs from its logos (which, coincidentially is what Maximus considers the Fall to be – creation’s departure from its logoi).

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          • Owen-Maximus says:

            Robert, would you show me where I’m reading Loudovikos wrong? I think he would say that “gnome” is the innate appetite for things within our power, and that it gives rise to choice. Accordingly, the natural will is the movement of a particular person via the gnome. And the gnomic will actualizes the natural will’s desire according to its logos.

            So, yes, there’s a distinction to be made, in Maximus, between logos and natural will. In my initial comment, I didn’t claim that, for Maximus, the logoi equate to the natural human will. I was only connecting some logical dots between DBH and Tom’s views, positing that IF they were both correct, then the result would be A = B = C.

            I agree with you about Maximus’ Dionysian commentary!

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            I don’t think you can get support from Loudovikos that Maximus claims, be it implicitly or explicitly, the logoi = natural wills. The inference you are wanting to make overwhelmingly lacks support for it in the Maximian corpus, even though I will admit “logos” is a placeholder for a wide array of concepts. I have never seen logos made out to be with that which is patterned after it though.

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  12. Logan(mercifullayman) says:

    Something to kind of ponder from the guy who kind of started all this business in the first place about the Logos (Heraclitus), and then what he thinks versus what the Stoics kind of manipulated to a different end. And it actually is a similar point that Maximus is trying to make (at least in my mind) when he gets into the discussion of Logos/logoi.

    This is a quote from Charles Kahn’s “The Art and Thought of Heraclitus” (which as a plug, I think Heraclitus, like Scotus, is probably the most ill-used and misunderstood of the voices of the past. Misappropriated and misunderstood because he’s working in a medium of language and prose that is much more technical that people realize, much like Scotus later.)

    “In sum, the logos is ‘common’ because it is (or expresses) a structure that characterizes all things, and is therefore a public possession in principle available to all men, since it is ‘given’ in the immanent structure of their shared experience. The logos is also shared as a principle of agreement between diverse powers, of understanding between speaker and hearer, of public unity and joint action among the members of a political community. The logos is all these things because the term signifies not only meaningful speech, but the exercise of intelligence as such, the activity of “nous” or “phronesis.” The deepest thought of “xynos logos”, more fully expressed in XXX, is that what unites men is their rationality, itself the reflection of the underlying unity of all nature.
    I assume that logos means not simply language but rational discussion, calculation, and choice: rationality as expressed in speech, in thought, and in action. (All these ideas are connected with the classic use of logos, logizesthai, epilegein, etc., e.g. in Herodotus.) This is rationality as a phenomenal property manifested in intelligent behavior, not Reason as some kind of theoretical entity posited ‘behind the phenomena’ as cause of rational behavior. The conception of logos as
    a self-subsistent power or principle is foreign to the usage of Heraclitus, but essential in the Stoic conception of the divine Reason that rulesthe universe. (See on V below.)”

    Now I quote all this because when you dig into Maximus you see that all the logoi make up one Logos, and the Logos brings forth all the logoi. So in essence, they are all one, if in their uses, they are many, it is still grounded in the creative act that comes forth. It, as Kahn points out, is that the unity of the whole of man as a “logoi” is a shared unity. And yet, it can only ever be unified in the fact that it is also individually expressed. To be something that was merely just one, would suffice, but doesn’t show the true effects of what the creative and natural end would be. So, to pull Scotus in here, haecceity is both a necessary delineation for you as your “own” logoi, but also the very quality that unites the whole. Reason does not stand over and above the logoi as just pumping out a bunch of little ideas like an idea factory, but is really the whole unified perspective that allows all to be, understand, and move.

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  13. Tom says:

    For those who might be reading these comments, Robert F and I get into a scape once a year for about a week or two, during which time we disagree with each other about everything. But it’s fine because the other 50 weeks of the year we’re in total agreement – and there’s always personal correspondence and lots of love shared. I think if all our scraps were pulled up and evaluated they would show I won them all. Lol. Sometimes Brian M comes in the separate Robert and me. He’s almost always on Robert’s side. But being on my own all these years has only strengthened me!

    So, when it comes to the human spirit, I’ll go ahead and reveal my hand.

    I am not a believer in a distinct, created, ‘Casper the friendly individual substance’ who survives disembodied but waits for the resurrection to reunite him to his body. This may disqualify me from the ranks of the orthodox (small ‘o’). It’s OK.

    I suspect that we call the human spirit is just our fulfilled participation in Christ via the One Spirit – the One Spirit variously/individually participated in. Think of a human being as an individual radio, especially/uniquely fitted to participate in the single radio wave. That wave enlivens and animates each radio, speaks through it, fulfills its nature. But there’s not a distinct radio wave for each radio. I wouldn’t doubt that many ancient people might have assumed each radio is its own self-contained ‘thing’ because each radio speaks and makes its own noise, and each can be adjusted to its own station. But we know that’s not the case.

    Similarly, my hunch is that we all instantiate (individually and uniquely) the one Spirit who gives himself to us to reflect in our unique ways his infinite beauty and goodness. Just as the one wave animates and enlivens each radio, and each radio uniquely instantiates this wave, the One Spirit animates and enlivens each of us.

    It’s just an analogy, so like all analogies it’ll fail in some respect or other. But it points in the direction of what I suspect is true.

    In the end, I don’t posit an immaterial ‘spirit’ over and against the body as a separate and distinct substance. But I’m waiting for Hart to publish his book on Consciousness before I leap.

    OK, release the Kraken.

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    • Owen-Maximus says:

      No Kraken from me; I find this interesting. Just a question: in this view, what happens to the human person at physical death? Do they survive it? Or is the radio switched off for a time, until the resurrection? Or…

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  14. LDF says:

    When you are writing comfortably and are well fed sitting behind a desk, you may see that glory in vegetables, as in nature, etc. When you are, for example, a peasant or are actually living in nature your perspective may change. it become more deeper. There is beauty but much more than that. Christianity is rooted in the soil, but I wonder how many really FEEL the soil, or just muse poetically about something they don’t actually know.
    What I am actually trying to say, is that you don’t think about vegetables. You live vegetables, or knows nothing about them. The same with nature, the same at the end of the day, with Christ himself.

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