The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ritual and Return

...[I]f Iamblichus placed special emphasis on the importance of ritual over reason it was because of the culture in which he lived, a time when the rites of recovering our divinity, of re-entering the sphere, were being lost due to what he perceived as the intellectual hubris of the Greeks. For Iamblichus and other Neoplatonists, the sacred art of returning to the gods was a tradition going back to Hermes, Orpheus, Pythagoras and Plato, each of whom presented these anagogic practices in a different way... And what these traditions aimed at was, in Plato's language, homoiosis theo, becoming god-like, and what this required was a complete transformation of the soul: initiation, a death, and a rebirth of consciousness."

-Gregory Shaw, "The Sphere and the Altar of Sacrifice"

So is the sacred the result of thought, or rather at its origin? In many modern theological models, it is assumed in philosophy that the human mind is fundamentally independent from the sacred, and thus at its origins begins in the darkness of unbelief, and must ascend, through the dim light of reason, towards the truth. For these Neoplatonists, wisdom itself is divinely given, and it is not purely a rational exercise in the dialectic. At its heart is culture, religion, and ritual. Western philosophy may have gotten its start not in an all-too-human contemplation sealed off from forces superior to itself, but as itself a part of a series of rituals to return to the Divine. Perhaps that is why we face the postmodern impasse in philosophical thought now; not because of a flaw in first principles, but rather because we have separated ourselves from the Divine Play of the cosmos and ritual


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