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36657RE: [existlist] Re: "Christian" existentialism

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  • Herman B. Triplegood
    Nov 7, 2005

      From: existlist@yahoogroups.com [mailto:existlist@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf
      Of jkneilson
      Sent: Monday, November 07, 2005 11:17 AM
      To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [existlist] Re: "Christian" existentialism

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post, despite my disagreements.

      Christian existentialism, as I see it, is quite relevant because it
      presents us with a challenge that is existentially poignant. This
      challenge, put simply, is: dare to believe. Dare to believe in the
      resurrection into eternal life... When Christ said that he was the
      resurrection and the life, he was not communicating anything like a
      doctrine or a dogma. He was, in fact, challenging his disciples, and
      others, to embrace this belief, existentially, at a level far more
      basic than the level of a reasoned ascertainment of matters of fact.

      The challenge of Christian existentialism is poignant to those who
      share an interpretation of early Jewish Mediterranean history, in
      which a purportedly historical figure named Jesus taught, performed
      miracles, and died for our sins. Subtract this interpretation and
      the poignancy of the challenge dies with it. What's more, the
      challenge is no more relevant than other challenges made by
      different religions. From Buddhism and Hinduism, to Judaism and
      Islam, to Mormonism and Scientology, religions present a very
      similar challenge: Believe X, where X stands for an article of faith
      that is deemed important to worshippers in that tradition. Believe
      that Buddha was transfigured under the bodhi tree. Believe in Mosaic
      law and God's covenant. Believe in Joseph Smith's golden plates.
      Believe that we possess a Thetan soul. Etc. The world is filled with
      all manner of religious beliefs, and I am under no obligation to
      believe all of them, or any of them. The existentialist motto is (or
      ought to be): Dare to think, dare to act, dare to be in a changing,
      uncertain world.


      I believe you understand this already, however, I say anyway that I respect
      both your freedom to rationally decide your own beliefs, and I also
      acknowledge that there are many spiritual and philosophical traditions. It
      would be dogmatic of me to categorically assert that the Christian vision is
      the only way. Nevertheless, even in the midst of great diversity of
      tradition, creed, opinion, one cannot rationally assert a complete
      relativism of such values. Belief matters, and questions of faith, or trust
      in the rationality of existence, are lively questions, however, there ought
      not to be subservience to blind faith either. I agree with you that is as
      important to dare to think, and act, as well as to believe.

      To me this is a call to the participation in the transcendent ground
      of Being itself, at an existential level, at the nitty gritty level
      of daily experience.

      When you say, "To me this is a call..," I believe you. But it's a
      self-referential statement. Descartes makes a similar move in the
      Meditations, where he says, "I cannot think of myself without God."
      While that may be true of Descartes, it's false for a broad range of
      thinkers across the philosophical spectrum.


      I couched this in those personal terms so as not to come across as being too
      dogmatic. I must admit that this is my take on the matter. It is a take,
      however, that is also shared by others for the various reasons that such
      thinkers do present. That there are also others who would disagree, is
      undeniable. The self-referential mode of the statement is not intended to be
      construed as a subjectivistic assertion of truth. I appreciate the pitfalls
      inherent in the "if it is true for me alone is true enough" kind of
      attitude, and I do believe that criteria of truth must be objectivistic,
      capable of being shared and communicated.

      This direct experience of the transcendental is an existential fact
      that, in my opinion, we cannot rationally deny.

      Direct experience of the transcendental is a paradox, not an
      existential fact, and so can be rationally denied.


      We do appear to flat out disagree on this point. I would maintain that the
      transcendental experience is a real experience. You seem to categorize this
      as confusion (a paradox). But I would maintain that the paradoxical is also
      an existentially real experience, and it isn't necessarily as simple a thing
      as a mere confusion. The funny thing about a paradox is precisely that it
      can neither be rationally denied, nor rationally affirmed, or, that both
      affirmation and denial of the paradoxical situation is indeed possible. I am
      reminded of Kant's paralogisms of pure reason in this case. I would be
      interested in hearing your assessment of what it is that makes the
      experience of the transcendental paradoxical. Is a paradoxical situation
      necessarily a bad situation?

      What might be an example of this direct transcendental experience? I
      certainly do not see it as a vision or a miracle. I do not see it as an
      experience that would fly in the face of our reasoned expectations about the
      world. I think of it as being more along the lines of that moment of vision
      of which Heidegger speaks in his Being and Time. It is a discernment of
      truth where the ekstatic character of our participation in Time and Being
      comes to light. It is intellectual in character, not strictly emotional. It
      comes to us in that sense of the wonder of existence, of which Shelling
      speaks, for instance, when he poses the basic question of existence,
      rhetorically of course, asking us to consider, for a moment, how is it that
      there exists anything at all? A similar stepping back with a sense of wonder
      could also be found with respect to the phenomenon of conscious awareness

      I guess if I had to sum up this direct experience of the transcendental in a
      neat phrase, I would call it that "philosophical wonder" that inspires us to
      a rational, noetic exegesis of our experience of the world, of our life, of
      living, and of our own conscious awareness of all of this.

      Voegelin maintains that are several kinds of transcendence in which we
      participate, some of which are immanent to our world. For instance, there is
      the transcendence of the subject into the body that we experience as a
      physically embodied conscious being. There is the transcendence of the
      subject into its world, similar to the throwness of which Heidegger speaks,
      which, Voegelin asserts, unfolds primarily in a field of experience that is
      historical in character, both in the broader historiographic sense, and in
      the more personal biographical sense. Then, there is the transcendence
      toward the ground of Being, the issue at hand for theological speculation.
      Poesis would be another example of such transcendence, this time, within the
      framework of language, where the written/spoken word conveys a direct
      experience, through a unique application of the language for the conveyance
      of an existential truth through imagery. Take, for instance, this first of
      two legends of creation that the late Ted Hughes offers us in his anthology;
      "From the Life and Songs of the Crow" published in 1970, pursuant to the
      suicide of his wife, Sylvia Plath:

      Black was the without eye

      Black the within tongue

      Black was the heart

      Black the liver, black the lungs

      Unable to suck in light

      Black the blood in its loud tunnel

      Black the bowels packed in furnace

      Black too the muscles

      Striving to pull out into the light

      Black the nerves, black the brain

      With its tombed visions

      Black also the soul, the huge stammer

      Of the cry that, swelling, could not

      Pronounce its sun.

      The passage is rife with the imagery of paradox, and it goes far beyond a
      mere rant over the loss of a dear lover. It touches upon a deep struggle of
      pessimism in the midst of light, of blackness ensconced in dazzling
      brilliance, and the Crow becomes a metaphor, throughout the anthology, for
      the dilemma of consciousness itself. It conveys an existential truth in a
      manner far more poignant than the prosaic and the discursive could ever
      achieve. There is something to be said for the contribution that poesis can
      make to our rational discernment of the truth of Being. There is something
      here revealed that carries within it, however depressing and pessimistic its
      occasion might be, a transcendence into the paradoxical darkness of living
      in the light.



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