the world that we inhabit, that we create together as spiritual beings, that we perceive, that is the work of our wills in our ignorance is maya

Transcription from David Bentley Hart on the “Actually, It’s Good” podcast with an episode titled “Gnosticism… It’s Good” published Nov 17, 2020:

19:32
My interest in recovering the real form of gnosticism, trying to understand what it really was, if we are going to keep trying to use that word, is mostly to try to detach our understanding of the New Testament and the early church from the pictures that we formed of it based on later theological developments, later theological habits of thought, and later cultural alienations and estrangements from the original texts that allow us to imagine that we understand the world of the New Testament much better than we actually do.

22:48
…We tend to characterize Chrsistianity’s understanding of creation as, in an unqualified way, one of affirmation. Now it is in the sense that there is no notion in Paul or John that this world is literally ontologically estranged from God to the point that it is actually handiwork of a lesser celestial demon or the demiurge. And yet if you actually look at the New Testament, the Gospel of John is about as stark and dualistic in some of its formulations as it’s possible to be. Christ descends from above, and that above is not—and this is one of the things that I hope we talk about, the cosmology of the first century and other things like angelology that are often misunderstood, not just by modern Christians but Christians from the medieval period onward—but that descent is quite real. He is the man who is above, and he alone knows the secrets of the Father and descends into the darkness and the darkness does not comprehend him. Throughout John’s gospel, it is a war of darkness and light, and it’s also a light that divides rather starkly. Christ passes through the Gospel of John not like the frail man of sorrows or the political revolutionary of the synoptics but as already, not only risen but as one who comes from the mysterious realm that is already in some sense if not alien to but so transcendent of this realm that there can only be enmity until the end between the children of this world and of the devil who is called the ruler of this age, the ruler of this world, the archon of this world or the prince of this world in the King James and the one who comes from the Father who alone reveal the words of eternal life that gnosis that saves and heals.

[25:22]
In Paul, 1 Corinthians 15 is where it is most evident, but it is there throughout Paul. The current age, the olam ha-zeh in Hebrew, is not just a somewhat diminished reality. It is one that has been under the rule of mutinous angelic celestial powers literally in the heavens above separating us physically and spiritually from the highest heaven of God the Father as well as beings under the earth and on the earth that are very much the sort of malign spiritual agencies that were part of the intertestamental and second temple literature of the Noahic fall. For Paul, if you read 1 Cornithians 15, the age to come is one in which these powers are subdued by force, placed under the governance of the Son that may be handed over to the Father, and only then will the cosmos be under the rule of God and the way clear, physically and spiritually, to communion between us and God so that there is no longer any height or depth, no angel or archon or power between us and God. That imagery should be taken very literally because Paul meant it quite literally. The fallen heavens are guarded by these sentinel beings and the nations governed by them. The age to come is one in which we will put aside flesh, and he means flesh. …[Flesh] is actually an element incapable of inheriting the Kingdom of God. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” So our body in the olam ha-ba, the age to come, will be a spiritual body that is literally a body composed of the element called spirit which is a semi-physical reality in its own right in the metaphysics that Paul’s language presumes.

[28:03]
So there is a very dark view of the condition of the cosmos under the reigning archon, the god [or archon] of this present evil age [or cosmos]. …It’s easier for twentieth and twenty-first century Chrsitians with antibiotics that work and when strep throat doesn’t kill your child and infant mortality rates aren’t fifty-two percent. It’s easy for us, somehow, to delude ourselves that the dissatisfactions and sorrows of life that we haven’t encountered aren’t as bad as they’ll prove to be, and we certainly can’t look at the world from the perspective of ancient persons who understood suffering and reconciled themselves to it far more easily than we do. Nonetheless, throughout Christian history, this provisional dualism [rather quickly] receded. It is there up to the early Alexandrians. You find it even in Origen when he talks about the nature of the cosmos. They still inhabited the same cosmology. It’s almost literal, physical estrangement, and I should say estrangement of nature between creation and the most High God.

Interviewer: Even as late as Maximus, they are still claiming that Chrisitianity is this true gnosticism.

Hart: Yah. 

Interviewer: And one of the key claims is that—especially in the Alexandrian tradition starting with Origen—not everything that appears to us is a work of God, a creation of God. …That infuses the New Testament themes that you are talking about with the most substantial sense in which that provisional dualism is a true dualism, that one side has to be overcome, obliterated. This is inherent in the gospel, in the Kingdom of God.

Hart: Right. Yah. …It is actually Paul who speaks of the “god of this age.” John and Ephisians both speak of the archon, the prince of this cosmos. First John, all things lie in the power of the evil one. The heavenly spheres are throned by archons and powers and principalities in Romans, in First Corinthians, in Ephesians. They are cursed by a law that was in fact ordained by lesser, merely angelic powers. Galatians quite clearly says the law was written by angels delivered through human mediators. So even the law comes to us in a defective form because the angels that govern the nations, even the angel that governs Israel apparently—the Angel of the Lord, is defective in his rule. So the world is a prison of spirits, and this is a darkness and in John it doesn’t know the true light. A divine savior descends from the aeon above into this world. In John, aionios doesn’t mean everlasting in the durative sense. It doesn’t necessarily even mean the age to come, in the sense of the future but actually refers to things heavenly or divine that exist in the aevum or aeon above rather than in the realm of chronos time. He brings with him a wisdom that has been hidden from before the ages we’re told in Romans and Galatians and Ephesians and Collasians. It’s a secret wisdom unknown even to the archons of this cosmos in First Corithians. He has the power to liberate fallen spirits we’re told in John 8. And now there are certain blessed persons who possess gnosis, First Corinthians, and they constitute an exceptional group called the pneumatikoi, the spiritual ones. …In Jude, when it speaks of psychical men who do not possess spirit, and that is always translated as “who don’t possess the Holy Spirit,” but there is no “the” and no “holy.” It means …who are without spirit. In that context, it is as much a quality of one who has been sanctified as it is an actual element or constitution of their nature. And so the savior opens a pathway through the planetary spheres, the heavens and the armies of the air and the powers on high. That is when Paul will tell us that neither death nor life, nor angels nor archons nor things present nor things imminent nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God.

…So what is the great distinction? Well, God created this world. There aren’t two gods. Well, even then, there are certain ambiguities there. As the lawgiver, God the Father is not even the author of the law.

…What we vaguely call gnostic sects, …if they can be classified as in any way as heterodox (they are certainly vulgar in the mythopoetic excesses sometimes), it’s this willingness to amplify that provisional dualism into a complete ontological schism.

36:40
…If I had to say that there is one thing that these schools had in common so that you could classify them as gnostic, is that if they have a metaphysics of relation between God and creation, as far as we know there is none that has an explicit metaphysics of participation. There is not an ontological sophistication there. You have spatial metaphors like all of reality is contained within the Father who is the encompassing sphere, and I think it means that literally. …They tend to head instead toward metamyth [rather than metaphysics]. We are left wondering how literal is this, how allegorial. We’ve been taught to think that they literally mean all these things, but how do we know? How do we know that these aren’t propaedeutic figures?

41:54
…What a Thomist understands by the term angel, taking his cue from Thomas, and what St Paul thought about angels, taking his cue from the book of Enoch and Jubilees and from a long temple mysticism, are two completely incompatible things. They have next to no connection with one another.

43:44
…Interview: [Berdyaev] has the famous footnote which says, “This was revealed to me in a dream.”

Hart: Yah. Now of course I have refrained from putting that footnote with many of the things that I have written just because I don’t want to scare people. I don’t want to give them a sense of their inferiority, so the number of things that have been revealed to me in dreams, I have kept to myself. One of my favorite passages, I remember the first time I read it was when I was 18 in Berdyaev, it said: “The preexistence of souls doesn’t have to be argued doesn’t have to be argued. We just know it to be true. It’s an obvious truth of reason and experience, so let’s move on to what we can conclude from this.” I do think—as exotic and as idiosyncratic as Berdyaev’s use of these things are—he’s onto something. There is a sense in which this world is not yet the world that God creates. …This is the way that Paul is thinking constantly. Creation is that which is yet to be revealed. In part, creation is something that is constructed by spiritual natures. He doesn’t talk in terms of a demiurge. He does talk in terms of a god of this world, but …the world we inhabit is the one that has been corrupted by spiritual natures. I think he probably has a book of Enoch notion of the degree to which angels participated in this, the degree to which we participated in it. I don’t know if what he talks about the impress, the image of the celestial man, if we fully understood, but that seems very much inline with the first and second and third century mysticism of the true human who dwells in the heavenly places as the true image of God and of the Son of God. Until then, the world that we inhabit, that we create together as spiritual beings, that we perceive, that is the work of our wills in our ignorance is maya. …You know I’m trying to come up with a form of Vedantic Christianity to carry us into the next century.

Interviewer: Maximus.

Hart: Well, you’ve already got it there in the neoplatonic tradition, I just think that there are all these wonderful Indian thinkers who had all sorts of categories and reflections that can enrich the Christian treasury of terms. But actually, it’s a good term. …What does maya mean? …Appearance, illusion. …To a degree, that’s the meaning it has. …But really, it’s the same Indo-European root as maguš, magic. It’s the power of creation but it’s also illusion. It has that dual sense. There’s that kind of demiurgic distance between us and the world that is a work of spiritual estrangement from God that’s both, in one sense, natural, even physical if you want to use the Pauline language and also moral. Berdyaev instinctively understood that this is something that is actually there in the essence of the New Testament language even though he wouldn’t be encouraged to think that from later Christian thought—although in the East, obviously, many of these tropes were retained a bit more fully.

52:05
…Of course one has to tread delicately here because I’m more than willing to say that, in one sense, all of creation is a real theophany, a real incarnation, even, of the divine story, of the divine nature, but am I willing to allow that the fallenness of that history is constituent of the goodness, is constituent of the nature of God such that violence, death, betrayal, cruelty become, even if negative, nonetheless probative aspects of the divine story? That is actually not a gnostic impulse. To say that is just the opposite. The so-called gnostics …[had] absolute horror of that suggestion. The God most high is not, in any of these systems, …is in no way involved in the fall of nature. The Father remains absolutely inaccessible, unknown, incomprehensible and removed from any taint of evil, from any finitude. It is something of a point of …a neurosis in the gnostic texts that might alone explain why they go in the direction they go in—the anxiety to make sure that in no way can the evil of this world, the darkness of this world, the pain of this world in any way be attributed to the true divine nature.

55:44
Jordan Wood: I get a little bit anxious around analogy talk. …Maximus presses constantly, incessantly upon identity which is the thing that Przywara and Balthasar rule out in principle in terms of what’s able to be said from an analogical perspective. Yet at the same time, my reading is that it’s actually because of the conviction that the highest God was crucified that actually gives rise to the provisional dualism or makes sense of it that you rightly detect in the New Testament and the gnostics and so forth. …Is there a possibility of affirming both that God is incarnating into all things …such that there must be an identity between the the true history, the true creation, the true world and that that actually entails the destruction of the false dualism that we generate? …It’s actually a christological identity which opposes, so you can actually say, that because God makes Himself identical with the world in the Word, that He does not simply develop through the slaughterhouse of history because He overcomes that history by His identification with that history.

59:47
Hart: I think that you’re worrying too much about analogy in the sense that you’re thinking of the actual interval of analogy as a pure disjunction. It’s not. An analogy is a unity that is different in aspect according to which side of the analogy is given priority but that ultimately is not a disjunction or even an opposition, certainly not an antithesis. …Analogy simply is to say that there is a unity between the way in which in God all possibility is actual and the way in which in the actuality of creation there is a real collapse of possibility into finite actually. Therefore, you are looking at a participatory unity. When I say unity, I mean unity. I don’t mean participation in the sense of something that is other than God in any but a modal way. I’m going to get excommunicated if I keep going on here. But an analogy is simply pointing to different modalities within a unity. That’s different from either opposition or simple identity that does not allow for the kind of distinction that you seem willing to preserve between the true story and the false story, the way in which we are integrated into the true story. And now I’m sounding more Jensonian than I mean to or more Yale school than I mean to …But at the end of the day I’m a monist as any sane person is. We can play games with it, but any metaphysics that is coherent is ultimately reducible to a monism.

1:02:24
Since you’ve read the book You Are Gods, you know how it starts. It argues that nothing can become anything that it isn’t already. …God does not become a man …in a way that it somehow alters who He already is. Nothing that is in a man is excluded from who God already is. In the same way, we cannot become partakers in the divine nature unless we are already fully partakers of the fullness of the divine nature. Between that understood as the dynamism of possibility and actuality from this end of spiritual perception, spiritual life, from this far removed end of the ordo cognoscendi, …from the other end, the ordo essendi, the fullness of God, what is for use the dynamism of the of the possible and the actual, is a full genuine manifestation and participation in that infinite actuality that is God. I’m not sure how analogy here is a problem for you. If you don’t want to use that word, you don’t have to. You do however, have to acknowledge that there is a modal distinction between being Jordan Wood and being God the Father.

1:04:43
…You can speak of analogy of Father and Son in the Trinity. It doesn’t indicate a disjunction. …The Son is the fullness of the Father reflected, the fullness of the depth of the paternal arche, but not in the mode of the Father. However you want to define analogy, the point of the analogia entis remember, and this is where you have to appreciate Przywara, is that his claim is not that there are two distinct, separate realities that are held together in a neutral medium called existence, but that rather the one reality of being, which is the fullness of God and a dynamism in us, is expressed in these radically different and yet utterly intimately inseparable ways. The analogy there is not a gulf. It is a union under the form of a distinction but not of a separation like the divine and the human natures of Christ.

But I’m quite content for you to use the christological language instead. If you want to throw the word analogy out you can because it’s a vague word. Among those arid, hopeless Thomists of whom I spoke, the manualist Thomists, it becomes quite a descecating category of linguistic attribution and ultimately dissolves into a kind of useless apophaticism, one that’s not enveloped in a deeper gnosis.

1:09:52
Jordan Wood: …The problem with alalongy from my perspective …is not so much that it’s wrong, it’s just that it’s too abstract to say what is peculiarly true of the Christian incarnation.

Hart: I don’t disagree with that.

1:14:47
…It is true that at that time [writing The Beauty of the Infinite] I was more hesitant to go all the way towards what should have been obvious to me. In many ways, this book You Are Gods, …is a much bolder and definitive statement of my theological views than has been printed before. …It has been a movement. I’m more unapologetically neoplatonist, more fully monistic, not at all worried about the sort of things that I thought I used to have to be careful so as not to …cross over a boundary that I shouldn’t cross. I’ve become more convinced that if you really …think about grace and nature—and it is one of the good things about the revival of this whole issue of the natural and the supernatural, as annoying as it is in one sense that there are people who read Garrigou-Lagrange with pleasure. …It helps to clarify things. You have to go one way or the other. I find that whole system utterly repugnant, genuinely hideous in its implications. …It allows you to send most people to hell with a clear conscience. …Those [earlier concerns of mine about analogy, etc.] were as much rhetorical than anything else. We’re all products of the period in which we had to deal with certain supervisors, certain teachers.

1:22:06
[Of Bulgakov:] …I don’t know of any other Christian theologian in the twentieth century that got it as right and who got what was right for all of the right reasons. What is the real meaning of a thoroughly consistent christology, and I think christology really is the heart of Bulgakov’s whole metaphysics. …My conviction always ways that the notion that orthodoxy could be formulated according to the correct acceptation of tradition, that the very notion of tradition, as we think of it, is self-defeating.

1:27:16
…You mentioned the Brandon Gallaher …exchange. For him, analogia entis involves somehow denying that the being of the creature is divine being. That’s not right. There is not an analogy between two different kinds of beings, but there is an analogy within the one infinite act of divine being, between the mode of creatureliness and the paternal fullness of the godhead. ..I prefer the language of sophia to the language of analogy just on poetic grounds. I’m willing to say it’s not the same thing, but it’s near enough as to make no difference if you understand analogy correctly. …Creation must be what it is. God must create, not because of an external compulsion, but because, as the fullness of reality, this is the fullness of the freedom to create that He has, in expressing Himself fully both as God in se and in alieno or in contraria. I don’t think Przywara would ever characterize creation as contingent in a metaphysical sense (that creation and this creation might or might not have been), …in regard to the divine nature, the divine identity, the divine story of Father and Son, and of the divine humanity (which even Przywara somewhat talks about). …But if I have to make a choice between the language of analogy and the language of sophia, …then I’ll stick with sophia.

[In a speed round of “random non-questions” with a “good or bad” response with “a sentence tops of why,” we learn that Hart finds Luther impossible to dislike (and with a sense of humor more brutal than Hart’s own), likes the early Romantic Marx (the Marx who believes in play and basic freedom) and finds the late capitalist Marx very bad (wanting to turn the whole world into a factory), hates the Catholic novel (not even liking Flannery O’Connor much), dislikes some of the same things that Roger Scruton dislikes, hates G.K. Chesterton (except distributism), among many other likes and dislikes.]

it so brilliantly and penetratingly depicts the psychological conditions of those who condemn themselves to hell

I have always thought this the most fascinating aspect of C.S. Lewis’s sole genuine theological masterpiece, The Great Divorce: it so brilliantly and penetratingly depicts the psychological conditions of those who condemn themselves to hell that it inadvertently shows this self-condemnation to be as much a condition of unwilling slavery as of willing perversity—as much adventitiously imposed as internally cultivated. Indeed, the impersonal and personal here are one thoroughly interwoven fabric, a single hell already there before we were born, and from which a God of love alone can set us free.

“When Only Bad Arguments Are Possible: A Response to Diem (among others)” posted on 26 July 2020 by David Bentley Hart at Eclectic Orthodoxy.

Readings on Fairies and Other Creatures

Here is a list of readings that I’ve found related to the creatures that Lewis calls the longaevi (long-livers). Pease comment with other readings that you have found. I would be glad to collect more. Meanwhile, enjoy some of these:

it so brilliantly and penetratingly depicts the psychological conditions of those who condemn themselves to hell

I have always thought this the most fascinating aspect of C.S. Lewis’s sole genuine theological masterpiece, The Great Divorce: it so brilliantly and penetratingly depicts the psychological conditions of those who condemn themselves to hell that it inadvertently shows this self-condemnation to be as much a condition of unwilling slavery as of willing perversity—as much adventitiously imposed as internally cultivated. Indeed, the impersonal and personal here are one thoroughly interwoven fabric, a single hell already there before we were born, and from which a God of love alone can set us free.

From “When Only Bad Arguments Are Possible: A Response to Diem (among others)” posted on 26 July 2020 by David Bentley Hart at Eclectic Orthodoxy.

Our Fall as Apocalyptic or Mythic vs. Philosophical or Contemplative

In several writings, David Bentley Hart connects human sin and suffering strongly with the idea of oppression by fallen angelic powers. Hart points this out as a strong theme in Paul’s letters and the rest of the New Testament but also make it clear that he holds this same position himself. However, Fr. Aidan (Al) Kimel wrote recently: “Yesterday I learned that contrary to what I had believed for several years, David Hart does not locate the origin of evil in the angelic fall. I don’t know why I thought he did. I probably misinterpreted a line or two in The Doors of the Sea. So I wrote David and asked him to clarify. He wrote back: ‘I think Origen was right. And I think John Behr is right about Origen.'”

Of course being subject to oppressive and fallen angelic powers is not the same thing as saying the evil has its origin in the fall of angels before humans. Perhaps Hart would simply say that human’s damaged themselves (and were uniquely capable of damaging the cosmos with themselves because of the special priestly function of humans within the cosmos) but that after their fall humans became subject to oppressive fallen angels who had also fallen in their own separate way. This distinction seems reasonable but also feels a little arbitrary. Either way, humans now suffer under the dominion of fallen angelic powers.

One commenter (Roman Montero) pointed out that there is a consistent tension “between an apocalyptic [or] perhaps mythological narrative of an angelic fall and a tighter more philosophically elegant one such as what is provided by Origen.” This distinction helps in my mind. Below are two sets of passages from David Bentley Hart illustrating these two styles or modes of thought. The first represents a sample of what Hart has written on Origen’s ideas about the fall.

For Behr, one thing that Origen grasped with particular genius was the sheer incommensurability of eternity and time. Rather than, say, the mythology of a realm of disembodied intellects dwelling continuously in some sort of pre-temporal but consecutive eternity, then falling away into ensoulment and corporeality, and then being led by Christ upward again to their original condition, Origen taught merely that God’s creative and rational intentions and principles are with him from everlasting, in his “foreknowledge” and by virtue of the divine Wisdom, his Son. We were all of us, that is to say, in some sense created in our last end, before the foundations of the world, called into existence in the heavenly court; there, in the eternal intention and perfected creation of God, we are already—and in that sense eternally have ever been—joined to God, pervaded by his glory like iron thrust into the fire. But that does not mean that our worldly lives are merely the middle chapters in the several histories of isolated psychological selves. Our descent from that eternity is simply the difference between our eternal end and the temporal reality of creation, by which alone we can make our ascent to God in his Son. Our “fall” away from God was, and has always been, nothing other than our actual turning away from the reality of the union of God and humanity on the cross of Christ.

…I am not at all sure that a subtler but nonetheless somewhat more literal notion of a real fall of spiritual beings from the “aeon” around God would have been a particularly outrageous supposition in Origen’s time, or would be any more so today. Sergei Bulgakov, for instance, very ingeniously takes up such a theme without allowing it to degenerate into a crude mythology; and I have found it possible in the past to read Origen through Bulgakov without feeling I was imposing an alien scheme on the texts. But that may be purely a matter of taste and temperament.

From David Bentley Hart’s review of John Behr’s translation of Origen: On First Principles (Oxford Early Christian Texts).

In this second set of passages, Hart speaks much more apocalyptically about our fallen state in connection to the oppression of fallen angelic powers.

The story of salvation concerns the entire cosmos; and it is a story of invasion, conquest, spoliation and triumph. For Paul, the cosmos has been enslaved to death, both by our sin and by the malign governance of those ‘angelic’ or ‘daemonian’ agencies who reign over the earth from the heavens, and who hold spirits in thrall below the earth. These angelic beings, these Archons, whom Paul calls Thrones and Powers and Dominations and Spiritual Forces of Evil in the High Places, are the gods of the nations. In the Letter to the Galatians, he even hints that the angel of the Lord who rules over Israel might be one of their number. Whether fallen, or mutinous, or merely incompetent, these beings stand intractably between us and God. But Christ has conquered them all.

From “Everything you know about the Gospel of Paul is likely wrong” by David Bentley Hart at aeon.co on 8 January 2018.

The fall of rational creation and the conquest of the cosmos by death is something that appears to us nowhere within the course of nature or history; it comes from before and beyond both. We cannot search it out within the closed totality of the damaged world because it belongs to another frame of time, another kind of time, one more real than the time of death. …It may seem a fabulous claim that we exist in the long grim aftermath of a primaeval catastrophe—that this is a broken and wounded world, that cosmic time is a phantom of true time, that we live in an umbratile interval between creation in its fullness and the nothingness from which it was called, and that the universe languishes in bondage to the “powers” and “principalities” of this age, which never cease in their enmity toward the kingdom of God—but it is not a claim that Christians are free to surrender.

From “The Devil’s March” by David Bentley Hart.

Hart evidently considers both of these ideas of the human fall to be true and compatible:

  1. “Our ‘fall’ away from God was, and has always been, nothing other than our actual turning away from the reality of the union of God and humanity on the cross of Christ. …[Because] we were all of us …in some sense created in our last end, before the foundations of the world, called into existence in the heavenly court; there, in the eternal intention and perfected creation of God, we are already—and in that sense eternally have ever been—joined to God, pervaded by his glory like iron thrust into the fire. …[And] our descent from that eternity is simply the difference between our eternal end and the temporal reality of creation, by which alone we can make our ascent to God in his Son.”
  2. “The fall of rational creation and the conquest of the cosmos by death is something that appears to us nowhere within the course of nature or history; it comes from before and beyond both. …We exist in the long grim aftermath of a primaeval catastrophe—[meaning] that this is a broken and wounded world, that cosmic time is a phantom of true time, that we live in an umbratile interval between creation in its fullness and the nothingness from which it was called, and that the universe languishes in bondage to the ‘powers’ and ‘principalities’ of this age, which never cease in their enmity toward the kingdom of God.”

Perhaps Hart understands them to be two ways of speaking about the same realities, or perhaps Hart is saying that these two modes of describing our fall “may be purely a matter of taste and temperament.”

Adam and Eve are Expelled from the Garden. Duomo di Monreale. Monreale, Sicily.

An Even Shorter Christian History of the Cosmos

[Note: the title refers to this longer post from a couple months ago.]

Trying to grasp creation and the fall rests on concepts of time and wholeness. With the first day of creation, time is pure and in participation with all of cosmic and human history in their fullness. Within this pure time, all of the seven days are contained within the first day in some sense. Angels were created in this light of the first day with their own relation to God outside of this pure time that was revealed with the unfolding of seven supratemporal days. Some of the angelic council did not want the cosmos and humanity to be created. This angelic fall could not touch the cosmos directly but could touch humanity. The seven days of creation in the first chapter of Genesis tell a story outside of time as we now know it. We are still inside of those seven supratemporal days but also estranged from them.

The creation story reveals the goodness of life with God as it was provided for the entire cosmos created with humanity (in our wholeness—i.e. all of us) as its crown and its integrating link to life with God. As humanity (all of us) listened collectively to the lies of fallen angels, we disintegrated our union with this pure time, with the cosmos, with each other and with God. All of cosmic history and human history (as we experience and know it now) is a result of this human and cosmic fall and this disintegration of time into a constant loss and death rather than an ever-present fullness of a collective unfolding and maturation in participation with the life of God. All of cosmic and human history as we know it is shattered and estranged from true time and from God—a temporary aberration from the plan that we have pursued (apart from God) and a false history that does not show up anywhere within the seven days of creation as they truly exist and are revealed in Christ.

As Charles Andrew Gottshall put it:

For now the first day of creation is closed off until the last. But the glory of that first day, in all its radiance, purity, and possibility shone again in the Taboric light of Easter morning, the dawning of the last day that casts back its light on that other world that was, that should have been, the world that will be when “God will be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

From “Sergius Bulgakov on Evolution and the Fall: A Sophiological Solution” posted on 1 May 2017 at Eclectic Orthodoxy.

Finally, here are some similar thoughts that Jedidiah Paschall posted to social media yesterday (but even more focused and well-expressed):

There’s hardly a day in my life where I don’t think about the meaning of Genesis 1-2 (nerdy, I know). The more I think on it, the more I read the thoughts of others on it, the more and more I am convinced that Genesis 1 should be read as a promise, or a prophetic outline for the whole of history, and not something that just ‘happened’ in the past. In this sense, human civilization, and the long catastrophic history entailed within it, remains in the 6th Day, and still awaits its consummation in the creation’s great Sabbath. Creation is not a descrete event that happened in the past, but an act, or an occurance in which we are all intimately involved. The big question then, in my mind, is what is the nature of my involvement in this story? Will I look upon the formless and void chaos in this world (or in my own life), and toss up my hands in resignation; or, will I roll up my sleeves and get to work, knowing that when my part is done a true Sabbath awaits me?

Posted to his Facebook page November 14, 2020.

this genuine image for every human being is Christ

From Sergius Bulgakov’s The Bride of the Lamb:

It is necessary to understand that the parousia, the comíng of Christ in glory, that is, in the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, is, as such, already the judgment. The parousia cannot be an external and mutually indifferent encounter between God who has come into the world and man who remains in his isolated state of being, as he was before this encounter. On the contrary, man too is clothed in glory and incorruptibility, and the creaturely Sophia becomes transparent for the Divine Sophia. This changes man’s very being, This encounter with God, this entering into the realm of the divine fire, is not something optional for human beings. It is inevitable. For some this is the time of liberation (“look up, and lift up your heads” [Luke 21:28). For others it is a time of fear and horror: “then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30). No one can avoid this encounter, for it is not an outward encounter but an inward one. For many this will be an unexpected and undesired transformation of their being, for the transfiguration, the light of glory given to human beings, can do more than illuminate. It can also consume in fire.

What is this fire that burns the chaff? And how is the judgment accomplished? The Judge is the Son of man, to whom the Father has given the power to judge those whom “he is not ashamed to call…..brethren” (Heb. 2:11, 17; cf. P 82:1: “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods”). About this judgment, which is the baptism of the world by fire, the Forerunner of the Lord says: “He (Christ) shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16). This baptism by fire refers not only to the Pentecost of Zion, which opens up the kingdom of grace and serves as the precursor of the Pentecost of the world, the kingdom of glory in the parousia. This baptism is in fact the glory as the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Christ enters the world in an evident manner for every human being by the power of the Holy Spirit. The parousia manifestly clothes every human being in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

It is precisely in this sense that the parousia is also the judgment. And Christ, as the Judge (John 5:27), judges by the Holy Spirit. Human beings are clothed in Christ, who is the Truth and the Life, by the life giving Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth. This means that every human being is inwardly confronted with the truth about himself. Every human being sees himself in the truth, by a vision that is not abstract but living, like the consuming flame of a fire from whose light one cannot hide, for all will become visible: “for judgment I am come into this world” (John 9:39), says the Lord. “Now is the judgment of this world” (12:31). But this judgment will be accomplished by Christ through the Comforter: “when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (16:8, 11).

The manifestation of God’s glory in the world is also the manifestation of the truth itself, as well as the abolition of falsehood and the power of the father of lies (John 8:44). No falsehood, no self-deception, no error will have a place in the kingdom of truth, and this “exposure” by the Spirit of truth is already the judgment. By virtue of the truth this judgment becomes for everyone a self-judgment, a shedding of the veils of falsehood and self-deception that cover emptiness. The enthronement of Christ in the world, the reign of God come in power, is the Holy Spirit that fully, without any kenosis, pours forth upon all flesh. Christ’s revelation in the Holy Spirit has an irresistible force, which is manifested both in the universal resurrection and in the transformation of the world, with a transfiguration and glorification that extend to all flesh. This illuminating and transfiguring power is expressed in the image of fire, not natural of course but “spiritual,” which will penetrate the “spiritual” body and the spirit itself. The fire of the future age consumes, but it also transfigures, illuminates, gladdens.

…The judgement and separation consist in the fact that every human being will be placed before his own eternal image in Christ, that is, before Christ. And in the light of this image, he will see his own reality, and this comparison will be the judgmnent. It is this that is the Last Judgment of Christ upon every human being. In this judgment, the “books” are opened, for the Holy Spirit gives the power to read them clearly. Human life in all its fullness and connectedness is manifested in the implacable, inwardly irrefutable light of justice. This is a global vista, referring to man not only as a personal being but also as a generic one. Both man’s life and his responsibility are conditioned by and linked with the destinies of the whole human race. He is judged or rather he judges himself in Christ as belonging to all humankind, to the whole history of “all the nations,” in the total concreteness of all-human, universal being. He now knows this being as the life of Christ’s humanity, which He assumed in His double nature

…The proper self-determination of every human being in his creaturely freedom presents itself here as a certain self-evident reality, and not only as an external judgment upon him. This means that the Father left the judgment to His Son, who Himself is the Son of man, and, in His humanity, every human being finds himself and the judgment upon himself. This judgment is therefore not transcendent but immanent. In every human being, his own unreality or nakedness, his failure to wear a wedding garment at the wedding feast, is clearly distinguished from Christ’s reality. Just as the Holy Spirit manifests Christ in glory, so it reveals Christ’s presence in every human being. The judgment is the theophany to the world of the Son sent by the Father in the Holy Spirit. Resurrection in incorruptibility and glorification is precisely the Last Judgment, in which creation appears before the face of God and sees itself in God. For the image of God, given to man at his creation, is also the judgment upon man in relation to his likeness, which is the realization of this image in creaturely freedom. The “likeness” is the book of life opened at the judgment. God’s image will be revealed to every human being by the Holy Spirit as inner justice and judgment for creaturely life. This judgment of Christ is also every human being’s own iudgment upon himself. It consists in each person seeing himself in the light of his own justice, in the light of his proto-image, which he perceives in his resurrection under illumination by the Holy Spirit. The Judgment is the judgment of every human being in his true image upon himself in his “likeness.” As such, the judgment is self-evidently persuasive. This genuine image for every human being is Christ: The judgment consists in the fact that the light has come into the world (see John 3:19). “For judgment I am come into the world” (9:39)

Is it possible to reject this ontological self-judgment upon oneself as inappropriate and unconvincing? No! It is not possible, for one is judged by one’s own being, by one’s own truth. St. Isaac the Syrian says that the torments of hell are the burning of love for God, the burning fire of this love (we will encounter this idea again when we consider the burning in hell). This idea is also applicable to man’s relation to his divine proto-image: being aware of how distant he is from his proto-image in his given state or likeness, a human being nevertheless recognizes himself in this image as he could and should be according to God’s thought. He loves this image of himself, judges himself by it, compares himself to it, does not and cannot retreat from it inwardly.

This proto-image is Christ. Every human being sees himself in Christ and measures the extent of his difference from this proto-image. A human being cannot fail to love the Christ who is revealed in him, and he cannot fail to love himself revealed in Christ. The two things are the same. Such is human ontology. Love is the Holy Spirit, who sets the heart afire with this love. But this love, this blazing up of the Spirit, is also the judgment of the individual upon himself, his vision of himself outside himself, in conflict with himself, that is, outside Christ and far from Christ. And the measure and knowledge of this separation are determined by Love, that is, by the Holy Spirit. The same fire, the same love gladdens and burns, torments and gives joy. The judgment of love is the most terrible judgment, more terrilble than that of justice and wrath, than that of the law, for it includes all this but also transcends it. The judgment of love consists of a revolution in people’s hearts, in which, by the action of the Holy Spirit in the resurrection, the eternal source of love for Christ is revealed together with the torment caused by the failure to actualize this love in the life that has passed. It is impossible to appear before Christ and to see Him without loving him.

In the resurrection, there is no longer any place for anti-Christianity, for enmity toward Christ, for satanic hatred of Him, just as there is no place for fear of Him as the Judge terrible in His omnipotence and the fury of His wrath. The Lord will come as He was on earth: meek and humble in heart, though now in glory. But this meekness and humility will burn hearts by their love and their judgment. God-Love judges with love the sins against love.

Our Lord replied with a laugh, “You’re asking me for a difficult thing, my dear Kristos Samra!”

Material in this post is from “The Life and Visions of Krəstos Śämra, a Fifteenth-Century Ethiopian Woman Saint” by Wendy Laura Belcher from African Christian Biography: Stories, Lives, and Challenges edited by Dana Lee Robert (Cluster Publications, 2018), chapter 5, pp. 80-101. (Available online at wendybelcher.com.)

The autobiography of 16th-century Ethiopian nun and visionary, Saint Krestos Samra (meaning “Christ Delights in Her”), is likely the oldest account by any woman in Africa. Although dictated to a monk who wrote it down on the saint’s behalf, Gädlä Krəstos Śämra has strong claims for authenticity even from a secular historical standpoint. Saint Krestos Samra married into the imperial family, lived in extravagant wealth with hundreds of slaves attending her until about the age of forty, abandoned the last of her eleven children to enter the monastic life in penitence after killing a slave (who she raised from death by pleading with God), founded a renowned monastery after years of extreme asceticism, and is currently Ethiopia’s most beloved female saint. Despite its value, this work has never been translated into English.

Here are a few excerpts from the chapter that give a scholarly analysis of the document before the translated passages:

Gädlä Krəstos Śämra is an example of a distinctive Ethiopian genre called a gädl (spiritual struggle; plural: gädlat), used to tell the inspirational story of a saint’s life. This genre began to be written in the fourteenth century and flourished until the end of the seventeenth century.

…Her visions are not presented in abstract mystical language but are quite concrete, including clear stories about repentant magicians, fragments of consecrated bread that fly, abjecting the body by sucking Christ’s wounds, and meeting Satan in his guise as head of the church. In one, she demands that Christ forgive all the damned and then travels to hell to plead with Satan to accept Christ’s pardon so that human beings will no longer suffer due to their enmity (see Appendix 2 for an English translation of this section).

…Krəstos Śämra even debates with Christ, pressing him like a disobedient son to forgive humanity. In one of her miracles, a man was using a plant for magical protection. When Krǝstos Śämra prayed to Christ that the man be forgiven for practicing magic, Christ responded that he would not forgive him because the man had used the plant demonically. In a typical moment, she responded by arguing with Christ, pointing out, “You created the plants!” Christ bowed to this argument and forgave the man. It is for tactics like this that the scholar Ephraim Isaac has reportedly called her “the mother of peace” and an Ethiopian female philosopher.

Gädlä Krəstos Śämra is just one example of Ethiopia’s thousands of original texts, less than 5 percent of which are available in any European language.

This English translation of one portion of the autobiography Gädlä Krəstos Śämra is by Michael Kleiner and Wendy Laura Belcher:

Then my lord Jesus Christ came to me, in great glory. When I saw him, I fell at my Lord God’s feet. Immediately, however, he raised me up with his holy and blessed hands without blemish.

Then he said to me, “Don’t be afraid, my dear Kristos Samra. Rather, tell me your heart’s desire.”

I replied, “If you permit your maidservant [to ask], tell me why you created our father Adam in your image and likeness, and why you were crucified on the wood of the cross. Was it not for the sake of Adam and his offspring?”

Christ replied, “Yes, I was crucified for their sake.”

So I said to him, “If your crucifixion happened for their sake, pardon [all] those who have died, from Abel up to now and in eternity, O Lord! Truly, you are merciful, slow to be angered, given to compassion, and righteous. There is no other God than you, you are all-powerful, and nothing is impossible for you; the entire earth does not [even] fill your hands.”

Now Christ replied to me with these words, “Please judge [for yourself], my dear Kristos Samra. [Weigh] the sins that Adam and his offspring have committed [against] the cross that I, your creator, carried in the court of Caiaphas and Annas with Pontius Pilate as their superior: If they are weighed on the scales, which one is heavier? Does not my suffering [in human hands], which I received on [Good] Friday, weigh heavier?”

When Christ said this to me, I trembled and fell to the ground.

Immediately, he raised me up again with his holy hands and asked me, “All the tribulation that I suffered, for whom do you think it was? As the prophet Isaiah says, ‘He came to be slaughtered like a sheep, and like a sheep that does not give a sound before him who shears it, he too did not open his mouth despite his suffering.’ As scripture said, I was crucified on a wooden cross—a wicked servant slapped my face, impure people spat on me, and Pilate, sitting on his throne, ordered me to be whipped. Thus was I treated: Shall I show humanity mercy or shall I punish them? Please judge [for yourself], my dear Kristos Samra.”

When Christ had said these things to me, I fell on my face and said to him, “Why do you tell me all the time: ‘Judge [for yourself]?’ You judge, please! Can a servant pass judgment together with his master, or a maidservant together with her mistress? Don’t treat me in this way, O lord! [I merely ask,] Is there any wood that doesn’t smoke [when burned], are there humans who don’t sin? So, pardon them, without questions.”

So Christ replied, “Please tell me your heart’s desire, my dear Kristos Samra, that which is in your heart.”

At that point I replied to him as follows, “My lord, I would like you to pardon the devil, and for all humanity to be saved from being condemned to [eternal] suffering. Truly, you don’t desire the sinner’s death, but rather his turning back [from sin]! This is why I say to you: ‘Pardon the devil!’ Don’t think that I like to say all these things to you. Rather, [I do it] for the sake of Adam and his offspring, because their flesh is my flesh.”

After I had said these things to Christ, our Lord replied with a laugh, “You’re asking me for a difficult thing, my dear Kristos Samra! Many saints who were before you have not asked me for this.”

After saying this, Christ summoned Saint Michael, the head of the angels. He said to him, “Go and take her to Sheol, because she has asked me to liberate the devil from the [realm of] punishment with [eternal] suffering.”

Immediately, Saint Michael, the head of the angels, took me with him to Sheol. As we were on our way, I said to Saint Michael, head of the angels, “From now on, all humanity shall find rest because I believe that the devil wants to be pardoned and not to be Lord God.”

Then we arrived in hell. My brothers, what can I tell you about the suffering that is found there? I saw people biting each other as if they were dogs.

Then Saint Michael, the head of the angels, said to me, “Summon the devil [and find out] if he wants to be saved.”

So I called out for him, in the language of the angels, “Satan!”

Instantly, Satan shouted [back], in a loud voice, “Who calls out for me, in the place where I am Lord God of many hosts?”

After Satan had said this, he came to me and told me, “I‘ve been looking for you for a long time. Today you have finally come to my home.”

At this point, I replied to him, “Come out quickly! Our Lord has pardoned you, as well as those who are yours.”

When I said this to him, he became enraged. He seized my left hand and dragged me down to the lowest level of She‘ol. However, Saint Michael came to my [aid], following me with his sword of fire in his hands. [With it,] he then struck that abominable [creature] who knows no mercy.

My brothers, what can I tell you about the wailing that arose in that hour! All the [captive] souls swarmed me like bees. [Fortunately], the number of souls who escaped from [hell] on the wings of Saint Michael and on my own wings was something like 100,000. I was delighted when I saw how happy those souls were. I frolicked among them just like a young calf; I was like a horse that races in the king’s presence.

After that, I went to [Christ] my creator, and prostrated myself to the glory of his rule. I said to him, “Is this how you have judged, O Lord?”

He replied, “Have you taken some booty from the hands of the devil?”

I replied, “Yes, my lord, I have, through your power.”

Now he summoned Saint Michael, the head of the angels, and said to him, “Go, take those souls to the home of my dear Kristos Samra.”

At that point I asked him, “Where is that home of mine, my lord?”

He replied, “Your home shall be with my mother [in heaven]. I hereby give you the name of Batra Maryam and commission you as my mother’s shoes and adorn you with great grace and majesty. Blessed are all who love you.”

able to keep us born aloft above an abyss of immense historical oblivion …capable of becoming just about anything, and that may amount to a kind of cultural genius

[15:32] This kind of abrupt but total adoption of another cultural identity—even if little more at times than a sort of fantastic version of that identity—is something of which Americans are sometimes uniquely capable. Perhaps this is because to be American is to be the deracinated child of some other land or people or several other lands and peoples. Our own national identity is quite often a sort of bright, garish, fabulous surface that we spread thinly over forgotten depths. Our national narrative is essentially an idea, never fully realized, of course, but able to keep us born aloft above an abyss of immense historical oblivion. To be truly American in the most extreme way would be to be a kind of Proteus, capable of becoming just about anything. And that may amount to a kind of cultural genius. I’m not criticizing it. [16:37]

[20:56] This is after all a chief danger America poses to all cultures alongside the promises it makes. It is not merely a place but also an ideology. It’s not just a physical landscape much less an ensemble of shared memories and legends. It’s a nation, more constructed than cultivated, built around a political and social project always somewhat in flux but also more or less relentlessly oriented toward a future generated out of its own native ideals and values rather than out of any traditions it might have inherited from the past lines that its peoples left behind in coming here. Moreover, it intends the future not only for itself but also, in a distant and inevitable sense, for peoples everywhere. This is the great experiment of a democratic Republic. And in that sense American is not only an ideology but something, at times, for some, approaching a religion with its own sacred writ, its founding fathers, its radiant escatolgocial visions, its hymns and prayers and benedictions. And it has its special national values, many of which, …being essentially Libertarian in form (in the American sense of Libertarian), are at times rather hard to reconcile with aspects of the gospel that seem fairly foundational. But it’s a stupendous and beguiling reality as well—enormous and seductively grand and gloriously improbable. [22:28]

[34:19] America has a singular power for refashioning things in its own image and to do so with an almost irresistible energy. It’s part of the appeal and, for much of the world, part of the terror that America represents. [34:34]

[35:10] For good, America’s admirable and wonderful ethnic diversity and pluralism. …On the bad side, America’s idolatrous adoration and sanctification of free markets, the really disgraceful dereliction of responsibility for social welfare that this does perpetuate to the justifiable distaste of the rest of the developed world. One really does have to live in an American bubble not to see how bad it is. [36:04]

[36:27] In a sense the great dream or romance of America is the prospect of a people without a history. A humanity that has, as none before it ever did, escaped the prison of memory. Hence, though there is nothing like a distinctive American civilization, perhaps. There definitely is a distinctive American Christianity. It tends to be something fluid, scattered, fragmentary, fissile, either mildly or exorbitantly heretical. But it can nevertheless justly be called the American religion, and it’s a powerful creed. It’s for one thing a style of faith lacking admittedly in beautiful material forms or coherent institutional structures not by accident but essentially. Its inexpressiveness in the civic form, I mean of just beautiful civic spaces, is a consequence not simply of cultural privation or frontier simplicity, of modern utilitarianism or some lingering Puritan reserve toward ecclesial rank and architectural ostentation but also a profound and radical resistance to outward forms. It is in its purest form—which we’ve seen flare up at various times in the history of the country—its Great Awakenings so to speak—a religion of the book, private revelation, oracular wisdom, even emotional rapture, sometimes wonderful emotional rapture. It’s not one of tradition, hierarchy or public creeds.

Even where it creates intricate institutions of its own, creates large temples tends to do so on its own terms in a void, in a cultural and ideally physical desert at a fantastic remove from all traditional sources of authority or historical validity or sometimes even good taste. Probably, Mormonism is an example. It just couldn’t happen anywhere else. New religions begin, they don’t begin like that, except in America: I mean, just overturn the entire universe and start again from the beginning.

In one sense, this isn’t at all surprising. American was born in a flight from the Old World’s thrones and altars, the corrupt accommodations between spiritual authority and worldly power, and the confusion of reverence for God with servility before princes. As a political project in its own right, the United States was the first Western nation explicitly founded on principles requiring no official allegiance between religious confession and secular government. We tend to forget, we’re the first layiscist nation.

Even if this had not been so, the ever great religious heterogeneity of America over the course of its history would surely sooner or later have made such an alliance absurdly impractical, and so in fact America was established as the first truly modern nation, consciously the first to dissociate its constitutional order from the political mythologies of a long and disintegrating Christendom and the first predominantly Christian country to place itself under, at most, God general providential supervision but not under the command of any of His officially recognized lieutenants. The nation began, one could be argued, from a place that other nations had not yet reached, and yet, when one considers the results of this odd apocalyptic liberty from history, it’s rather astonishing because, though it arose out of the end of Christendom, it somehow avoided the religious and cultural fate of the rest of the modern West. Far from blazing the trail into the post-Christian future, American went quite a different way, down paths that no other Western society would even tread or even know how to find. Whereas European society, in a varying speed but fairly uniformly, experienced the end of Christendom simultaneously as the decline of faith—as the church went, so one’s belief—in American the opposite happened. And here the paucity of institutional mediations between the transcendent and the imminent went hand in hand with the general, largely formless, and yet utterly irrepressible intensification of faith: rather than an exhaustion of religious longing, it’s revival, rather than a long nocturnal descent into disenchantment, a new dawning of early Christianity’s elated expectation of the Kingdom.

Now admittedly, I’m being overly general again. Just about every living religion has found some kind of home here bringing along with whatever institutional supports it could fit into its luggage. Many such creeds have managed to preserve the better parts of their integrity, and I’m not doubting that. …Still, I would argue, with a little timeridy perhaps, such communities exist here as displaced fragments of other spiritual worlds, embassies from more homogeneous religious cultures, and it is from those cultures that they derive their cogency. They’re beneficiaries of the hospitable and capacious indeterminacy of American spirituality but not its direct expressions. The form of Christianity most indigeous to America is one simultaneously peculiarly disembodied and indomidably vigorous. And its unity is one of temperament rather than of confession. At its purest, in fact, it strives to be free of memory and so of anxiety, towards a state of almost perfect timelessness apart from human affairs where God and the soul can meet and speak and affirm one another. Evangelicalism, for both good and ill, is the purest expression of this faith. It can lead to an absolutely invincible faith. It can lead also to absolutely invincible intellectual narrowness. Both things have to be taken into account.

Moreover, some forms of American Evangelical culture were not lacking tradition so much as cordially opposed to it on principal. What is tradition, after all, but man made history, and what is history other than exile from paradise? What need does one have of tradition when one has the Bible, that eternal love letter from Jeus to the soul, inerrant, unambiguous, uncorrupted by the vicissitudes of human affairs.

I actually have a great admiration for this, strange to say, at times. Not always—as I say, that’s a matter of taste. Joel Osteen would try the patience of anyone. But I mean in its most natural, organic and genuinely Christian expression, and with the great generosity of soul that accompanies it, still it assumes at times extreme emotive forms of total and unsullied reverie—a pure present of a beautiful world in which ingenious outcries and gestures bring forth instantly succor and substance. At its most intensely fundamentalist, so precipitous is its flight from the gravity of history into that Edenic eschatological rapture that it reduces all of cosmic history to a few thousand years of terrestrial existence and the whole of the present to a collection of signs urgently pointing towards the world’s imminent ending. [44:25]

[49:34] America …is a tireless and uncontainable engine of cultural transformation.

[51:25] So often the case within American religious movements, [they are] largely constituted by an imagined history in place of real history and a religious ideology in place of a living tradition.

Note: transcription of my own from portions of David Bentley Hart’s “Orthodoxy in America and America’s Orthodoxies.” This lecture was posted 2 Oct 2017 by The Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University (The 2017 Orthodoxy in America Lecture, Fordham University). This lecture was also printed as an essay in the book Theological Territories.

they will say that this structure was held together politically, which it was

I do not believe or hope in this as the last word on our dear country, but this does describer our sad empire rather well in several ways.

Of The Empire

We will be known as a culture that feared death
and adored power, that tried to vanquish insecurity
for the few and cared little for the penury of the
many. We will be known as a culture that taught
and rewarded the amassing of things, that spoke
little if at all about the quality of life for
people (other people), for dogs, for rivers. All
the world, in our eyes, they will say, was a
commodity. And they will say that this structure
was held together politically, which it was, and
they will say also that our politics was no more
than an apparatus to accommodate the feelings of
the heart, and that the heart, in those days,
was small, and hard, and full of meanness.

© 2008 by Mary Oliver from her 2008 collection, Red Bird, p. 46, published by Beacon Press 2008.
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