You are on page 1of 13

Disfigured Praise

Affliction for the Comfortable

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Suicide of the West: the gods have

fled our gold-infested amnesia
"For love expires as soon as gods have flown"
The Death of Empedocles, Holderlin

The perfect storm - suicide rates

are skyrocketing, not only are people not having
babies, they're not even having sex- and this is true
all across the Western world.

The gods have fled, taking our very life

with them.
Unless a man prepare an abode for the gods,
the gods will not return.
But perhaps they have not fled, perhaps we have
stopped remembering them.

The physicist Rupert Sheldrake claims the brain is

not like a computer. It's more like a television
receiver that tunes into the cosmic consciousness
that is everywhere, and that when we remember
something from long ago, we actually "morphically
resonate" with ourselves in the past through morphic
fields that exist through time and space.
Remembering is an active practice, by doing so we
morphically resonate, and incarnate, Gods presence
in the world.
Peter Leithart reviews a new book (Knowledge by Ritual by Dru
Johnson) and says,

our knowing is connected to what we do with our

bodies. We dont know as disembodied minds;
without bodies and the tools by which we extend our
bodies, we couldnt know at all. Further, we dont
come to know in isolation but in community
specifically, in communal rites.we practice rites to

Now most of our secular rites orient us toward a

particular, materialistic view of reality, which is
supported and constantly reinforced by todays
dominant ideologies and hammered home by the
presumptions of todays discourse. We can see this in
secular religious constructs, in concepts like ego
and unconscious which are immaterial abstract
entities that somehow hold values or morals, which
themselves are reified from direct experience and
abstracted into theories of nuerochemical reactions
of evolutionary forces.

In the past daily rituals pointed us toward the Divine,

mediated by whatever cultural form happened to be
then dominant. In this highly aberrant historical
period instead of projecting angels we project other
scientific symbols in which to interpret reality,
equally mysterious, baffling, invisible, often imbuing
them with the same casual powers as spirits.

Weber observed while many old gods ascend from

their graves, they are quickly disenchanted, taking
the form of impersonal forces.

Perhaps we havent disenchanted the Earth, but

rather enchanted it with the anti-gods of atheism.

Phenomenologically, these secular rituals shape us

into intending, and creating, certain worlds.

James K.A.Smith writes,

Human persons are intentional creatures whose

fundamental way of 'intending' the world is love or
desire. This love or desire--which is unconscious or
noncognitive--is always aimed as some vision of the
good life, some particular articulation of the kingdom.
What primes us to be so oriented--and act
accordingly--is a set of habits or dispositions that are
formed in us through affective, bodily means,
especially bodily practices, routines, or rituals that
grab hold of our hearts through our imagination,
which is closely lined to our bodily senses...

...liturgies - whether "sacred" or "secular" - shape

and constitute our identities by forming our most
fundamental desires and our most basic attunement
to the world. In short, liturgies make us certain kinds
of people, and what defines us is what we love

While we typically think of liturgies in terms of

religious practice, Smith says that "some so-called
secular rituals actually constitute liturgies". Smith
defines liturgies as "species of practice" or "rituals of
ultimate concern" which are "formative for identity,"
"inculcate particular visions of the good life," and "do
so in a way that means to trump other ritual

The liturgy is a hearts and minds strategy, a

pedagogy that trains us as disciples precisely by
putting our bodies through a regimen of repeated
practices that get hold of our heart and aim
our love toward the kingdom of God. Before we
articulate a worldview, we worship. . . . Before we
theorize the nature of God, we sing his
praises. . . . Before we think, we pray. Thats the kind
of animals we are, first and foremost: loving,
desiring, affective, liturgical animals who, for the
most part, dont inhabit the world as thinkers or
cognitive machines. . . . My contention is that
given the sorts of animals we are, we
pray before we believe, we worship before we
knowor rather, we worship in order to know."

We live in a technological society, with inhuman

rituals, unnaturally, we make machine men.

I have heard my teacher say that whoever uses

machines does all his work like a machine. He who
does his work like a machine grows a heart like a
machine, and he who carries the heart of a machine
in his breast loses his simplicity. He who has lost his
simplicity becomes unsure in the strivings of his soul.
Uncertainty in the strivings of the soul is something
which does not agree with honest sense. It is not that
I do not know of such things; I am ashamed to use
- Chinese proverb (related by Heisenberg.)

The theologian David Bentley Hart opines,

I am not disposed to believe that their cultures are

somehow more primitive or unreasoning than ours. It
is true they come from nations that enjoy nothing like
our economic and technological advantages;
but, since these advantages are as likely to
distract us from reality as to grant us any special
insight into it, that fact scarcely rises to the level of
irrelevance. Truth be told, there is no remotely
plausible reason-apart from a preference for our own
presuppositions over those of other peoples-why the
convictions and experiences of an African polyglot
and philosopher, whose pastoral and social labors
oblige him to be engaged immediately in the
concrete realities of hundreds of lives, should
command less rational assent from us than the
small, unproven, doctrinaire certitudes of
persons who spend their lives in supermarkets
and before television screens and immured in the
sterile, hallucinatory seclusion of their private

Instead of waiting for God, God is waiting for us,

waiting for us to make a bow to him in our hearts. We
do this by remembrance, plato called it anamnesis, In
Christianity we recall God with our whole body
reliving the Life of Christ in the liturgical rhythms of
the year, and we experience the crucifixion and
resurrection event of Christ during the liturgy,
incarnating the birth of the universe ritually.
Forget about Protestantism with their leases and
contracts, this is about being caught up in the life of
God, being grafted like a Vine onto his Life Giving
Tree which is the cross.

In this way we co-create with God, we sanctify the

Earth by ritually offering it to God where it is blessed
with life giving grace before being returned to us,
otherwise it can only be dead matter, death-giving.

We took the apple and it gave us death, in the

mythical Garden. When something is given it is
ontologically changed as a vehicle for Grace, by
giving it to God it is charged with life.

During the Eucharist we give God the most valuable

gift of all, Himself. We offer God to God, God
surrenders, becomes a weak human that lay in our
arms that we can then give back to Him. The
Eucharist is then blessed with God the source of all
values and given back to us which we consume.

In the same way when we offer our life to God it is

given back to us in a blessed life giving form.

That less we bless the world the more death gains

the upper hand, Plato noted that material has a
natural entropy to it tending towards chaos, it is
through religious ritual that we give it form to
maintain its integrity, this is true of social formations
as well.
By giving creation to God, it is given back to us
enchanted, filled with value and meaning.

The modern Enlightenment View has the idea that

everything is just a bunch of atoms and matter, but
that's not our real experience, that's just an idea.

Steal a ring. Its just a bunch of atoms. Its value is

exclusively monetary. But, if given a ring, someone
intending it as a gift to us, all of a sudden it presents
itself as having sentimental values as well. Both are
symbolic, gold is just a rock, but phenomenologically,
appears as something flushed with meaning when
received as gift. This is how we make the world
meaningful - we gift things, and receive them as gifts.

Now maybe, just maybe, when something is given,

its ontological structure changes as well, after all, it
presents itself not as a bunch of atoms to our rational
intellect, but an entire world of meanings now present
themselves to our intuition as well.

If what I wrote has any truth, then Life can only be

received if it is received as gift, otherwise it will be
experienced as a burden forced upon one - as a
living death.

And I think it can only be received as gift if it is then

given as gift - to God, others, the world etc

A gift economy doesnt do away with financial

compensation, but it doesn't level all transaction to
that only. In a small local community, where people
know each other, that wedding cake can also be
given as an expression of love.

There's nothing wrong with a market economy,

profits, or corporation set organically within a
hierarchy of social values, however late capitalism
has taken on a specific cultural form the shapes
humanity to intend death-full practices.

It is its own ritual, or rather anti-ritual.

After all even Marx characterized capitalism as taking

on a religious function, a modern monetary animism

Eugene McCarraher notes that the anarchist mystical misfit

Simone Weil

speculated that just as yeast only makes the dough

rise if it is mixed with it, so in the same way there
exist certain material conditions for the supernatural
operation of the divine that is present on earth. The
knowledge of those material conditions for
supernatural operation would, Weil surmised,
constitute the true knowledge of social mechanics.
If matter is not exactly animate, the material world
of society and history could be a conduit for divinity.
Because we have forgotten the existence of a divine
order of the universe, we fail to see that labor, art,
and science are only different ways of entering into
contact with it.

As Rowan Williams explains, sacramentality entails

the belief that material things carry their fullest
meaning when they are the medium of gift, not
instruments of control or objects for accumulation.

McCarrher continues,

"This sacramental critique of Marxist metaphysics

would not be that it is too materialist but rather
that it is not materialist enoughthat is, that it does
not provide an adequate account of matter itself, of
its sacramental and revelatory character.
Sacramentality has ontological and social
implications, for the gift that Williams identifies is
Gods grace and the common life thus formed.

It is us up to us to offer the world to God, receive it

back full of grace and meaning, otherwise this world
can only give Death. So, what if something like
religion is true? What if Plato and the Greeks were
onto something, that there is an ideal world out there,
perfect and incorruptible and that the more we imitate
it, the more we morphically resonate with this realm
the more we incarnate the source of all life ? If so,
then the moment we cease performing religious
rituals the less life resonates in our material Realm,
we have nothing to stem the natural entropy of
disintegration and death inherent in the universe, the
very form of existence loses its borders, all becomes
formlessness, all becomes normlessness, all
becomes Kali bringer of death.

So, we now have a place unconsecrated, enchanted

by machine-gods, in the center is no God but money,
and it cannot hold.
Mircea Eliade in "Consecration of a Place: Repetition
of the Cosmos" tells this story,

According to the traditions of an Arunta tribe, the

Achilpa, in mythical times the divine being
Numbakula cosmicized their future territory, created
their Ancestor, and established their institutions.
From the trunk of a gum tree Numbakula fashioned
the sacred pole (kauwa-auwa) and, after anointing it
with blood, climbed it and disappeared into the sky.
This pole represents a cosmic axis, for it is around
the sacred pole that territory becomes habitable,
hence is transformed into a world. The sacred pole
consequently plays an important role ritually. During
their wanderings the Achilpa always carry it with
them and choose the direction they are to take by the
direction toward which it bends. This allows them,
while being continually on the move, to be always in
"their world" and, at the same time, in communication
with the sky into which Numbakula had vanished.

For the pole to be broken denotes catastrophe; it is

like "the end of the world," reversion to chaos.
Spencer and Gillen report that once, when the pole
was broken, the entire clan were in consternation;
they wandered about aimlessly for a time, and finally
lay down on the ground together and waited for
death to overtake them.

This example admirably illustrates both the

cosmological function of the sacred pole and its
soteriological role. For on the one hand the kauwa-
auwa reproduces the pole that Numbakula used to
cosmicize the world, and on the other the Achilpa
believe it to be the means by which they can
communicate with the sky realm. Now, human
existence is possible only by virtue of this permanent
communication with the sky. The world of the Achilpa
really becomes their world only in proportion as it
reproduces the cosmos organized and sanctified by
Numbakula. Life is not possible without an opening
toward the transcendent; in other words, human
beings cannot live in chaos. Once contact with the
transcendent is lost, existence in the world ceases to
be possible--and the Achilpa let themselves die.

DESMOND FENNELL claims the Mishmash of

values and rules at the root our collective suicide.

That factor is the societal condition which sociologist

Emile Durkheim, in his seminal book on suicide,
termed anomie, or normlessness.

" Anomie is a concept developed by Emile Durkheim

to describe an absence of clear societal norms and
values. In the concept of anomie individuals lack a
sense of social regulation: people feel unguided in
the choices they have to make. Durkheim
distinguished between egoistic suicide, anomic
suicide, altruistic suicide, and fatalistic suicide, broad
classifications that reflect then-prevailing theories of
human behavior. Dismissing altruistic and fatalistic
suicide as unimportant, he viewed egoistic suicide as
a consequence of the deterioration of social and
familial bonds. "
"...let us note the immediate cause of suicide is an
extreme pain of soul, while the act itself is a
deliberate ending of the pain by destruction of

We know what happened to those primitive tribes. A

tribes younger generation, instead of encountering a
framework for life that made sense to them as it had
to their ancestors, increasingly encountered a
senseless mishmash of values and rules. As a result,
they increasingly experienced that potentially lethal
pain and found definitive or temporary release from
consciousness through suicide or repeated
drunkenness, or both. Simultaneously, the tribes
fertility fell as it moved towards a collective suicide.
When a preponderant power introduces its own rules
system into a long-established community, so that
elements from two opposed systems of rules cohabit,
anomie ensues in the affected community.....might be
described as ideological colonisations with a
professedly idealistic purpose which, like the
European interventions in the primitive tribes,
aimed to bring about a morally better life.
....from the 1960s, American consumerist-liberal
values and rules were introduced in the US, and
through allies, to its west European satellites.

Everyone could also become enlightened and

modern by accepting a series of new values and new
rules of behaviour, thought and language which were
at variance with the European heritage in key
It produced what we might call sufferers and
opportunists. The latter, taking advantage of the
normlessness, increased the number of murders six-
fold, entered carelessly into sexual liaisons which led
to many more single-parent households than the
European average, and so on.

Younger generations, undirected by their society or

their devalued parents, played a large part in this
social disintegration.
The sufferers were of two kinds. Some, frustrated
and offended by societys failure to offer them a
coherent framework for life, destroyed their
consciousness. If women, they more often made do
with self-harm (an attempt to make the pain bearable
by transferring it from soul to body).

Young men and women harassed by bouts of the

pain sought respite from it in temporary escapes from
consciousness through binge-drinking and drugs.
The other kind of sufferers, mostly men, took their
lives during periods of prosperity because they had
despaired of achieving, that increasing enrichment
which society led them to expect."

The solution is a sacramental imagination, shaped in

religious ritual, a radical religious re-imagination that
transfigures the entire cosmos.