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

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Where to Go From Here

Variations on a Meme

Archistrategos tagged me for a meme two weeks ago now asking me about what books I was reading. I told him that at that time I wasn't reading anything since I have been too busy. However, I now present a rather belated and unorthodox response.

Now that it is summer, I have quite a few things on the front burner in terms of reading, but as usual there may be some vague method to my madness, so I will just present a bunch of random quotes, and then try to sort it all out:

But the worst was that a separation had been made [in the Renaissance] between liturgy and popular devotion, between liturgy and daily life - a separation, under the unhappy consequences of which the Roman Catholic Church primarily has to suffer today. This is all the result of a fatal, morbid pride, which tempts man to take himself so seriously that he forgets that human life has the nature of a game. And at the same time he forgets God. For the meeting of God with man, of man with God, is a holy play, a sacer ludus. The theological nature of the dance, as we discovered lies in movement; that of the drama, in movement and countermovement. God moved; he came down to earth. Then the puppets on earth moved also; or if one prefers, the bones in the dry valley of Ezekiel. God began; we followed. For we are only "God's masques and costume balls", as Luther says, or "God's toys" as Plato puts it. The most ancient drama, the drama that rules the world, is the drama of the meeting of God and man.... When the liturgy does not bring us to adoration and sacrifice, we even begin to imagine that we had given impetus to the drama. The dramatic vanishes from our lives, and we are suddenly once more dead marionettes, to whose countermovement movement is lacking.

-Sacred and Profane Beauty: The Holy in Art by Gerardus van der Leuw

In order to act with the gods in cosmogenesis the soul must become mortal and lose its place in the circling of the heavens: once incarnated the soul "becomes a stranger to itself" and is confined to a single physical form. This loss is not an illusion but an experienced reality, and although Plotinus and Porphyry characterized the soul's recovery of divinity by suggesting that, in some way, we never fully descend into a body, it was critical to Iamblichus, for cosmological reasons, to insist that the soul does descend. To deny our descent was equivalent to denying the soul's role in cosmogenesis, and, consequently, the possiblity of recovering our divine identity.

-Gregory Shaw, "The Sphere and the Altar of Sacrifice", in History of Platonism: Plato Redivivus

She hears my grief, and for a while retires into herself
What captivating sympathy! What artless mastery!

The object of creation was mankind, and nothing else
We are the point round which the seven compasses revolve

-The Seeing Eye: Selections from the Urdu and Persian Ghazals of Ghalib, as translated by Ralph Russell

The ideal is that of a particular kind of beauty, a centuries-old, thouroughly artificial way of moving, which, when shaped into ballets by a choreographer, becomes art of a special sort- an elusive, evanescent art, as fleeting as fireworks or soap bubbles, that nevertheless has the power not only to entrance beholders but even, in some mysterious manner, to convey an experience of lasting significance.... "First comes sweat," Balanchine used to say, speaking in a low, agreeable voice, tinged with accents of his native Russia. "Then comes the beauty - if you're vairy [sic] lucky and have said your prayers."

-Balanchine: A Biography by Bernard Taper (I am also watching the American Masters documentary on Balanchine, shown above.)

What ties all of this together? It is the fundamental question of this blog: what does it mean to be a human being? What does it mean to be a human being in relation to our end, who is God? Why is it that we are coming apart in our being rather than coming together? Why is it so hard for postmodern man to accept his nature as an incarnate spirit?

These are questions. Not answers.


At 9:01 PM, Blogger Archistrategos said...

You're reading van der Leuw too? I checked it out of the library last week, though I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. It looks like a good book, though, based on the quote you provided.


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