Cosmic Suicide

When we killed Jesus, we killed the perfect material implementation of the Logos of our whole world. We repudiated our own sort of being as it is originally meant to be. Our rejection of the Second Adam was a rejection of the very order of our own being – not just of our being as Man, but that of the whole cosmos, of which we are an integral procedure. Thus the world’s murder of Jesus its own incarnate Logos was the sum of all sins, was the apotheosis and perfection of sin, was the ultimate sin.

As a contravention of being, sin is self-murder. Calvary, then, was the effectual suicide of the cosmos, the beginning of the world’s death. When Jesus died, so did the whole order of the world. At Golgotha, the eschaton was consummated.

The death of Jesus was the death of the cosmos.

And when Jesus triumphed over death, the resurrection of the world began.

28 thoughts on “Cosmic Suicide

  1. Is it justifiable to use the words “we” and “the world’s murder” when discussing who was to blame for the killing of Jesus? Weren’t the Jews – meaning the ones who demanded the arrest and execution of Jesus – immediately responsible for his death?

    It hardly needs saying that outside first century Palestine “the world” knew nothing of Jesus Christ at the time of his crucifixion. Many people in the modern world are still not Christians – either by choice, or because they have not been converted yet, or because they have not heard the message of the gospels. In what sense are they “murderers” too? Is it just that they should be punished for their ignorance and/or unintended crime in the world to come?

    • 1. Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
      that man to judge thee hath in hate pretended?
      By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
      O most afflicted!

      2. Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
      Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!
      ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
      I crucified thee.

      3. Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
      the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered.
      For our atonement, while we nothing heeded,
      God interceded.

      4. For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation,
      thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation;
      thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
      for my salvation.

      5. Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
      I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee,
      think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
      not my deserving.

      — Johann Heermann

  2. I thought it was quite commendable when Pope Benedict rejected the idea of collective Jewish guilt for Jesus Christ’s death. Elan Steinberg, vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, called it “a personal repudiation of the theological underpinning of centuries of anti-Semitism.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12634176

    But universal collective guilt seems to weaken if not undo that rejection.

  3. So the Jews still have individual universally collective guilt? Such theories of guilt helped justify the pogroms against the Jews. They also served to justify the violent condemnation of heretics or anyone and everyone, since all, including innocent babes, are universally guilty.

    Abelard held that some metaphors for explaining the atonement are more consistent with divine justice and divine love than others. Then again, if universal guilt works better for you in your private devotions, who am I to object?

    • Not just Jews, but everyone. Who sins, repudiates the order of being, the Logos. And all sin.

      How that notion could serve to justify persecution of anyone is beyond me. Self-flagellation, sure; persecution, no.

      I have not yet touched upon the Atonement. But I’m considering a post on the subject.

  4. I agree with Kristor that universal collective guilt does lead to self-flagellation; only I view that with horror. History shows the human tendency is to supply and then apply the whips to those who “should” self-flagellate, but who out of obstinacy do not. If one group feels another group should feel guilty, but does not, the temptation to treat the other group badly will be strong. The idea that the innocent, including babes, can be classed as those who “deserve” punishment so easily leads to the justification horrors like of the bombing of cities.

    You may believe that people in the Twentieth Century or Twenty-first Century (who in the orthodox view did not exist in any way, shape, or form prior to their conception) deserve punishment for what happened in the First Century from the moment of their own conception, but the modern mind is uncomfortable with such a view, because universal guilt is merely collective guilt writ large. The whole concept of collective guilt is pernicious, whether the group is six, six million, or six billion. Collective guilt leads to collective punishment. Collective punishment was meted out in World War II in the destruction of entire towns to punish resistance movements. Such actions are considered atrocities not justice.

    No wonder “orthodoxy” is an increasingly tough sell and the number of religiously unaffiliated is rising.

    • Sorry, Leo, but this seems completely off base to me. How does a rational person reason from, “I am a sinner, like other men,” to “I ought to destroy those other men?” The idea is incredible. A conviction of one’s own wickedness leads to humility and compassion. It inclines us to wish that we could reliably remove the beam from our own eye, before we troubled ourselves about the motes in those of our fellows. This is one reason why Jesus gave us the Second Great Commandment of his Summary of the Law: Love thy neighbour as thyself.

      You also appear to be operating under a couple of fundamental misconceptions about orthodoxy. Not that this is surprising; I keep discovering that I have been doing the same thing myself about this or that point of doctrine. But, to clarify:

      — There is a difference between our culpability for our personal sins and our deformation on account of Original Sin. For our personal sins, we “deserve punishment.” But not so for Original Sin. The tragedy of Original Sin is that even though we are not responsible for it, nevertheless we do suffer the consequences.

      — Orthodox doctrine is not that people did not exist in any way, shape or form prior to their conception, but on the contrary that they had from before all worlds a formal existence as ideas in the mind of God, and therefore as potentials for actualization. What they lacked in the way of existence, prior to their conception, was actuality.

      The modern mind’s discomfiture with orthodox doctrine is an indictment, not of orthodoxy, but of the modern mind. Most modern minds have no training in how to think; most of them do not know which nations fought on either side of the US Civil War. Most modern minds cannot spell, or write sentences. And most modern minds have *no idea* what the doctrines of orthodoxy might be. At the very best, they had execrable catechesis for a few years in their early childhood, which they have now almost completely forgotten. Their understanding of Christian doctrine is as follows:

      1. God is a very old man in the sky with a big white beard, sort of like a super-duper angel, who made everything in six days.
      2. Noah, Moses, and Samson, and stuff. Jonah and the whale.
      3. God sent Jesus to teach us how to be nice.
      4. Jesus was born on Christmas, and there were shepherds and wise men and angels.
      5. Bad men crucified Jesus. In three days he rose from the dead.
      6. If we are not nice, we go to hell. If we are nice, we go to heaven.

      It is hardly surprising that they think this caricature is silly.

      Nevertheless, it is not true that orthodoxy is a tough sell these days. It is the orthodox congregations in all denominations that are holding their ground, or growing. It is the heterodox congregations, whose pastors have deformed orthodox doctrine in an attempt to make it comfortable and appealing to the modern mind – to make it ‘relevant’ and ‘up to date’ – that are dropping like flies.

  5. Of course, persecution of the Jews is not a conjecture. It is an historical fact. The plain reading of the New Testament is that some were guilty and others not. Just like any other crime scene. The danger was that the guilt was spread collectively in the popular mind with devastating effect, something I hold to be a fundamental error, mistake, and tragedy. Changing “the Jews are guilty of the death of Christ” to “everyone is guilty of the death of Christ” does indeed reduce the danger to the Jews, but it still retains the fundamental error that individuals are guilty of things they didn’t do. In other words, it is still bad moral thinking and represents a danger to everyone, not just the Jews. The self-flagellating Inquisitor can still calm his conscience if he believes everyone is guilty. Torture in the name of religion is again not a conjecture, but an historical fact. How did people come to justify it?

    I agree that we all suffer from consequences of sins we didn’t commit. But that should not be confused with being guilty of sins we didn’t commit.

    We have elsewhere had a discussion, which I must return to when I have the time, on pre-mortal existence. You state we all or “they had from before all worlds a formal existence as ideas in the mind of God.” This solves some problems, but raises others. It introduces the undefined term of “formal existence.” And if our real formal existence is in the mind of God, then God can end evil, sin, and hell simply by not thinking about it. And if God created us ex nihilo, then he could have given us better natures and a better environment to avoid original sin. If an immaculate conception is possible for one, why not for all?

    We agree that liberal churches are declining. But “former Catholics” are a huge group. See http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/had-it-catholics

    I do not claim that we can solve all the theological conundrums in a blog discussion or a debate. I do not claim that I have all the answers. The posting of Luther’s 95 Theses was, in my opinion, a good thing. But the resulting discussion and debate did not produce a resolution satisfactory to both Catholics and Lutherans. It did, in my opinion, ultimately lead to progress. I view the end of the medieval worldview as a breakthrough rather than a breakdown.

    • Like I said, we are guilty of participation in the Crucifixion, not on account of Original Sin, but on account of our personal sins – those sins that we ourselves commit – which, as contraventions of the Logos, prevent its actualization in history.

      And if our real formal existence is in the mind of God, then God can end evil, sin, and hell simply by not thinking about it.

      This would be true only if creatures were not free to err. As I have elsewhere argued, creaturely freedom is metaphysically unavoidable. If you want to have creatures, you have no alternative but to make them free. Further, God cannot stop thinking about the things that he is thinking about; for this would necessitate that he stop thinking about himself, by whom all things are known, as either made or unmade. God is omniscient because he knows himself, and thus knows all the things that are in him; and all the things that are have their being in him.

      And if God created us ex nihilo, then he could have given us better natures and a better environment to avoid original sin. If an immaculate conception is possible for one, why not for all?

      God could not make us other than who we are without losing us altogether; without wiping out our past as if it had never been. And he could not wipe out our past without wiping us out altogether: our past, our present, and our future (you can’t have a future of anything other than some past or other). The only way he could do that would be to unmake us, to delete all the facticity of the events of this world. But since he himself knows all the facts of our history, and cannot forget that they are indeed facts, so as to make them other than what in fact they are, except by ceasing to know something that he already knows, and thereby ceasing to be omniscient, and thus ceasing to be God, he cannot delete the history of our world. So he must perforce work with the history of the Fallen world.

      Like the advent of the Chosen People, the Immaculate Conception was the fruit of many generations of Providential operations upon our wayward Creation. Like every new event, it was created ex nihilo (that’s the only way you can obtain any novelty at all). But like every new event that is also an event in the history of some world, its causal relations to its past are in good order. The Immaculate Conception, that is to say, is, not a rupture of the causal integrity and regularity of the world, but an organic development thereof. Israel, and Mary, and the Incarnation, are not unexpected, but have been in view from the very beginning. Everything has been prepared for them.

      You state we all or “they had from before all worlds a formal existence as ideas in the mind of God.” This … introduces the undefined term of “formal existence.”

      The notion of the form is perfectly straightforward. It’s right out of Aristotle. Substantial beings have four sorts of causes: material, formal, final, and efficient. The formal cause is the set of specifications that suffice to a complete definition of the whole character of a substantial being. E.g., one formal specification of an inflated basketball is that it is spherical, or nearly so. There are lots of others; for any actual entity, the formal specification string may be infinitely long.

      It is obvious that if you have a substantial being x, then there must be some form of x: some set of properties that distinguishes it from other entities. And to have such a being x, obviously the form of x must specify a being that is possible. The form of x, then, may be treated as coterminous with the possibility that x should come to pass. Now, possibilities are eternal: for x to happen at any time, it must have been possible always for x to come to pass. There being only one eternal substantial being – God – it must then be the case that the possibility of any x subsists eternally in God. It is obvious, again, that a thing x cannot possibly come to pass unless God knows from before all worlds that x can possibly come to pass. So, whatever now is has always existed in God as a potential possibility.

  6. When did God start thinking about us? If the answer is “He was always thinking about us” (and by extension He cannot stop thinking about us) then you have come around to my position that man is eternal and very important. And accordingly the liturgy can be about you. (Cf. “it is not about you at all.”).

    “We are guilty of participation in the Crucifixion, not on account of Original Sin, but on account of our personal sins – those sins that we ourselves commit – which, as contraventions of the Logos, prevent its actualization in history.”

    I am happy to see the focus moved from Original Sin (“If an immaculate conception is possible for one, why not for all?”) to personal sins. Nevertheless I think most moderns would find your statement reminiscent of Kafka. But if it works for you…

    In 1536 Pierre de la RamÈe (who was killed in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre) is said to have advanced a thesis at the University of Paris critical of Aristotle, which may go to the roots of modernity. Since Galileo, at least, modernism has been winning.

    • The *form* of man is eternal. This is trivially true. His *actuality* is not. This, too, is trivially true. If man were eternal, he would be coeval with God, and God would not therefore be his Creator, or a fortiori his God, but rather at most a superior being of the same basic type as man, and therefore unworthy of worship (admiration, perhaps; obedience, perhaps; worship, properly so-called, not). Man is *obviously* not God, or anywise his equal; this statement sums up the whole of the religious attitude. If the liturgy (Mormon, Catholic, Shinto, you name it) is about us, it is at bottom nothing more than omphaloskepsis.

      We are guilty of participation in the Crucifixion, not on account of Original Sin, but on account of our personal sins – those sins that we ourselves commit – which, as contraventions of the Logos, prevent its actualization in history.

      I am happy to see the focus moved from Original Sin (“If an immaculate conception is possible for one, why not for all?”) to personal sins. Nevertheless I think most moderns would find your statement reminiscent of Kafka. But if it works for you…

      The focus has never moved. It has only been restated. And, how is any of this Kafkaesque? It is straightforwardly obvious: repudiate the order of being, and you cannot but help to destroy it; in so doing, you help to destroy the Logos, which is the order of being. This is just a restatement of the Law of Compensation, of karma. What is so surreal about that?

      And, also: most moderns, like I said, are numbnuts. If their thinking is to be our guide, then traditionalists of all stripes – including Mormons – might as well commit seppuku.

      Granted, of course, that modernism has been winning – not just since the Protestant schism, but at least since the split between East and West (by which I mean, the Nestorian East and the Orthodox West). But this is a *bad* thing, no? If it isn’t, then there is no problem, and civilization is *just fine.* In that case, Mormon conservative values are simply irrelevant to things as they really are, and are therefore sooner or later doomed, rightly, to slip beneath the waves along with Catholicism, Evangelicalism, and Orthodoxy.

      But, *of course,* the fact that modernism has been winning seems now likely to spell the end of civilization – or, at least the collapse of *modern* civilization. It seems now most likely that *modernism* is going to slip beneath the demographic waves of the fructifying orthodox sects, of all stripes (Moslem, Hindu, Christian, Mormon, Jewish). Modern civilization is *committing suicide.* Modernism being per se the rejection of the Logos, how could it be otherwise?

      • By actuality do you mean incarnation and by formal do you mean as an idea in the mind of God? Which is more real? More enduring? More reflective of what we really are?

        Of course, I don’t accept Aristotle’s views on women, on slavery, on physics, or on chemistry. So I am distrustful of his metaphysics, especially when this metaphysics is declared to be the ultimate order of reality, which by a series of philosophical steps makes men guilty of something that happened before their actual existence, though not before their formal existence in the mind of God, who cannot forget our guilt, but who couldn’t have made us any better, so religion isn’t about man at all. In other words, if you aren’t a disciple of Aristotle, you are a murderer and you should feel guilty for that crime that occurred before you were born.

        Gen. 1:27, Gen 5:3, and Luke 3:38 speak to an obvious connection between God and man that is not mere creatureliness. Mark 2:27 suggests religion is indeed about us.

        I don’t accept your wholesale rejection of modernity. I actually believe in progress, that progress is possible and has brought about many positive changes. I really believe that Aristotle got it wrong. He did not accurately describe things as they really are. Progress in physics, chemistry, on women, and on slavery required moving beyond Aristotle. I don’t think we are going to fix the Decline of the West, which is a very serious problem, by going back to the Middle Ages or Late Antiquity. Sufficient unto the era is the evil thereof.

      • By actuality do you mean incarnation and by formal do you mean as an idea in the mind of God? Which is more real? More enduring? More reflective of what we really are?

        It’s not a question of whether formal or actual (in Aristotelian terms, substantial) existence is more real or enduring. A formal existence is just as real and enduring as an actual existence, but it is not actual. The difference is not difficult to understand. It’s easy. You could do x or you could do y. Both x and y have formal existence: they are in fact possibilities for actualization. You decide to do x. Once you have done it, x from then on has actual existence, as well as the formal existence it still has in common with y. Now, once you have done x, then the actualization of x is permanent, everlasting. Its actuality will never ever go away.

        As having manifested x in actual existence, the actuality of x is more reflective of x than the inactuality of x. The actuality of x *just is* x, after all. The form of x is not itself x. While the form of x is the potential for the expression of that form, the actuality of x is the expression of that form.

        Of course, I don’t accept Aristotle’s views on women, on slavery, on physics, or on chemistry. So I am distrustful of his metaphysics,…

        What about his opinions on housekeeping? Whether or not you trust Aristotle’s metaphysics on account of other opinions he held is irrelevant. Is his metaphysics true? That’s all that matters.

        … especially when this metaphysics is declared to be the ultimate order of reality,…

        There is no other way to do metaphysics. Metaphysics just is the philosophy of the ultimate order of reality.

        … which by a series of philosophical steps makes men guilty of something that happened before their actual existence, …

        I’ve already explained, twice, that we are not guilty of Original Sin. I’ve explained the fairly simple notion that in rejecting the order of being, the sinner participates in the crucifixion of his Incarnation by reiterating it. It’s one thing to say that you don’t like this notion, and it is clear that you do not; but it is another to show what is wrong with it. And that you have not done.

        … though not before their formal existence in the mind of God, who cannot forget our guilt, but who couldn’t have made us any better, so religion isn’t about man at all. In other words, if you aren’t a disciple of Aristotle, you are a murderer and you should feel guilty for that crime that occurred before you were born.

        If you aren’t an Aristotelian you are guilty of a murder you didn’t commit? This is nuts. Who said anything of the sort? Only you. Perhaps you are reading your own stuff into what I have written. The only thing it would be appropriate to feel guilty about is the sins we ourselves have committed. If I steal a cookie, that isn’t the *same thing,* simpliciter, as nailing Jesus to the Cross. Obviously. But as a sin, it partakes of the nature of sin, a nature which attains its apotheosis in the Crucifixion. “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

        Gen. 1:27, Gen 5:3, and Luke 3:38 speak to an obvious connection between God and man that is not mere creatureliness.

        Creatures can be images of God without being themselves God. There are all sorts of creatures, but there is only one God, who creates them all. Either you are a creature, or you are God. Which do you choose?

        Mark 2:27 suggests religion is indeed about us.

        There is a difference between “for” and “about.” That the Sabbath is made for man does not mean that it is about man.

        I don’t accept your wholesale rejection of modernity.

        I don’t reject modernity wholesale. There are lots of things about modern life that I like. I reject the bits of modernity that are nihilist, incoherent, gnostic, utopian, Pelagian, and so forth. I.e., I don’t reject modernity, but *modernism.* I see no reason why we can’t have the nice bits of modern civilization in a traditional culture. But it sure does look as though we can’t have the nice bits of modern civilization in a modernist culture. Modernism is devouring itself; modern culture, as ordered according to modernism, is headed down the demographic toilet. Modernists are not reproducing at replacement levels. Ceteris paribus, then, modernism is doomed, just like the Shaker religion is doomed.

        Civilization, on the other hand, is not. If we became a traditional society, that would not entail that we abandon the use of computers or antibiotics. On the contrary, the presupposition of the Orthosphere is that a traditional society would use the achievements of civilization *better* than modernist society is using them.

  7. “Orthodox doctrine is not that people did not exist in any way, shape or form prior to their conception, but on the contrary that they had from before all worlds a formal existence as ideas in the mind of God, and therefore as potentials for actualization.”

    May I ask for a reference, to CCC for instance?

    • 33 The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul, the “seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material”,9 can have its origin only in God.

      359 “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear.”224

      St. Paul tells us that the human race takes its origin from two men: Adam and Christ. . . The first man, Adam, he says, became a living soul, the last Adam a life-giving spirit. The first Adam was made by the last Adam, from whom he also received his soul, to give him life. . . The second Adam stamped his image on the first Adam when he created him. That is why he took on himself the role and the name of the first Adam, in order that he might not lose what he had made in his own image. The first Adam, the last Adam: the first had a beginning, the last knows no end. The last Adam is indeed the first; as he himself says: “I am the first and the last.”225

      365 The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the “form” of the body:234 i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.

  8. I think the 18th chapter of Ezekiel, especially verse 20 and following, makes a lot of sense. And if man is held accountable, it makes sense to consider him to be a cause unto himself. That is to say, he is a free agent able to make choices, not merely an object to be acted upon, not totally dependent on an infinite chain of causes external to himself. He may be influenced by external causes, but he has the power to choose good or evil within himself. See also Genesis 3:22.

  9. Re Kafka. See http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=2122

    …the way the kafkatrap operates in religious and political argument. Real crimes – actual transgressions against flesh-and-blood individuals – are generally not specified. The aim of the kafkatrap is to produce a kind of free-floating guilt in the subject, a conviction of sinfulness that can be manipulated by the operator to make the subject say and do things that are convenient to the operator’s personal, political, or religious goals. Ideally, the subject will then internalize these demands, and then become complicit in the kafkatrapping of others.

    • Ah, interesting. I had always taken ‘kafkaesque’ to mean simply, ‘surreal, nightmarish.’

      The notion of sin is indeed uncomfortable. This does not mean it is untrue. Lots of reality is uncomfortable, even horrible. We might all wish it were otherwise. It isn’t.

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