Surprised by Epistemology – Pt. 1

Tags

, , ,

Drawing from an epiphany after reading the Iliad and The Republic, my own understanding of worldview has shifted from a mostly intellectual undertaking, to a new paradigm in which the metaphysical is as mystical and yet down to earth as swift-footed Achilles.

In practice, my epistemology was correct, but in naming it, I opted for the good country sought by Lot instead of faithful Abraham who received his son raised from the dead in a vision. True epistemology is found by a faith seen with the eye of the imagination. Homer was on to something.

While abhorring the post-modern tendency toward reductionism, where the goal is to strip down the machinery to the last bolt, I found myself committing a similar outrage. Like Socrates, my journey up from darkness was met with blinding light in which I assumed the revelation of the logical and reasoned assent was mission accomplished. “Ah, so that’s what they meant,”…I thought as I enthusiastically high-fived others who were emerging from Plato’s cave.The on-going quest to descend and escort more of humanity up from wrong-headed thinking was a mission field (the future of civilization depended on it). Worldview is after all philosophy…isn’t it?

iliadThe Muses Sang
I had wrongly assessed the epistemology that rescued me. It wasn’t so much in knowing, but more in seeing with the eyes of the imagination…knowing by way of a narrative.

At least I had known where to begin to find the answers. Oswald Chamber said, “Books are standing counselors and preachers, always at hand, and always disinterested; having this advantage over oral instructors, that they are ready to repeat their lesson as often as we please.”

Continue reading

THE 50 WORST BOOKS OF THE 20TH CENTURY

Alfred Kinsey

Alfred Kinsey

How do I count the ways in which these 50 have influenced our educational system?

It is said that there are two things that can bring about real change in a person...the company they keep, and the books they read. Our school systems are birthed from these books…the teaching philosophies were founded by the men on this list and the textbooks are replete with their ideas. The antidote is not to NOT read these books – but to juxtapose them with the 50 best books of the 20th Century, and see for yourself what all the hub-bub is about.

Note: I would add to this list Howard Zinn’s A People’s History,  which BTW is already in your local high school history books and coming in full force through the new history standards of Common Core.

Click here to see the list Intercollegiate’s 50 Worst Books

Unconfessions and Literature Part 7: Of the Dragonish Sort

Tags

, , , ,

He had turned into a dragon while he was asleep. Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself…he realized he was a monster cut off from the whole human race. An appalling loneliness came over him. He began to see the others had not really been fiends at all. He began to wonder if he himself had been such a nice person as he had always supposed.[1]

dragonAlas Eustace comes to himself. He sees the reflection and we are delighted with his providential journey to Aslan who alone removes those dragonish scales with his razor sharp claws:

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt…Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much I was very tender underneath now that I had no skin on – and threw me in the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone.[2]

Post-modernity is not only religious tradition unhinged from reason, but it is truth unhinged from the absolute, sex unhinged from the moral order, and language unhinged from meaning. How are dragons to lose their scales in such a world?

Hamlet’s conundrum is our own. The Greek undercurrents of Shakespeare’s masterpiece have meaning in the same way as does Prometheus and Narcissus in our modern epoch. The Greeks are bearing gifts if we clear the dullness of our understanding. Like the prodigal son, Hamlet is narrative poetry without a proper ending. He left Horatio to tell the story and Christ has left us.

Only through the imagination, that sees the need of bread to have nothing to do with physical hunger; that can see a boy as a dragon, or trees that talk; can we make the proper confessions. Like the unexamined life….the unconfessed life is a life less than what we would hope and an extremely dangerous undertaking.

The End.

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

[2] C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Unconfessed Life and Literature Part 6: Of Mirrors, Pictures, and Other Such Reflective Tools

Tags

, , , ,

The days of Bauman’s candid confessions are over. Post-modernism is not only about going through the looking-glass but about holding forth a different sort of mirror; the reflection of Greek Narcissus in which one is not obsessed with self – but of the reflection of self. This portends many dangers for civilization for as long as persons, relationships, and cultures hold up, not a mirror of their true state, but an imagined state in which there is no need for confession because they are right with the moral order – then all is well. If we fail to give them affirmation of their acts as morally right—then we risk our very lives (and life is made up of many things including our livelihoods as bakers, photographers, and such).

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

Deceiving ourselves is a risky business as Oscar Wilde points out in The Portrait of Dorian Grey for the painting takes on a life of its own, as the real Dorian continues in his youthful twenties for decades. He discovered the pictures strange power after breaking off his engagement to his fiancé when she declared she could no longer be an actor. He was only attracted to what her talents could offer his narcissism. Sweet and sincere in her love for Dorian, she wants nothing more than to leave acting and make a life with him. Once he perceived that she could add nothing to his self-image, he disposed of her at once. Upon arriving home, he sees the likeness of himself in the painting to appear cruel. The portrait is reflecting truth that cannot be tolerated, so to the attic it goes.

Oscar Wilde’s character goes on to live a life of hedonism, as prescribed in a yellow book given to him by Lord Henry, a demonic influence encouraging Dorian in decadence. He hides the painting in the attic where it continues over the years to grow hideous and ugly with each act of selfishness done by Dorian. At age thirty-eight, he shows his secret to the artist who painted it, at which point he is pleaded with to repent of his sin and destroy the painting. Instead, he murders the messenger, and hides the body. Loathing what he had become, Dorian finally destroys Continue reading

Unconfessed Life and Literature Part 5: Contempt for Confession

Tags

, , , ,

I am a witness to the final death throes of the shift from modernity to post-modernity as it relates to the abominable acts of a love that dare not speak its name as Wilde phrased it. In The Gentleman from Maryland: The Conscience of a Gay Conservative, Robert Bauman describes a life out of control, “It is pointless to deny the truth. I was guilty of criminal conduct…and far worse, I must accept responsibility for betraying my wife, our marriage vows, and dishonoring my family. I compromised my religious beliefs and my personal honor.”

Bauman instinctively knew that whatever force drove him, this uncleanness of spirit over which I seemed to have no control,”  …was evil.. After being caught in the act with an underage boy, he sought help. Instead of healing, he was encouraged to override guilt and the natural conscience[1] of what we can’t not know, what is biblically known as the “searing of the conscience.”[2]

In his book, What We Can’t Not Know, J. Budziszewski, author of The Revenge of Conscience, calls for a return to moral sanity. We are now in a period in which things that most people know intuitively are treated with contempt. The indecent or vulgar is paraded as normal.

He states, “I believe, not just from theory but from experience, that to be confused about such fundamental things [moral truth], one must deeply want to be…” Budziszewski admits that none of us can live up to moral truth, for we are all sinners. The argument is not between sinners and innocents, but between sinners who confess the moral facts which accuse all, and sinners who deny them.

Bauman and many others, learned to “deny” that anything was wrong with their behavior, even though, at least in the beginning they could identify it as not only wrong, but unclean. Given time, the conscience is so overrun that it becomes decadent,[3] taking pleasure in immorality. As Bauman put forth the question, “How could any normal and moral human being do what I did?”

Continue to Part 6

[1] Romans 2:15; Titus 1:15

[2] 1Ti 4:2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

[3] Rom 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

Unconfessed Life and Literature Part 4: To Do or Not to Do, That is the Confession

Tags

, , , ,

Some confessions can only be told in the literary genre of horror such as Frankenstein, Dracula, or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Or, in milder terrors such as The Picture of Dorian Grey or Suddenly Last Summer (considered by some as Tennessee Williams most poetic work). But not everyone who suffers is a Shelley, Stoker, or Wilde in need of creating monsters. We are bystanders or victims. Our horror is less cogent, but nonetheless distasteful and unutterable.

Like Hamlet, so grave is our circumstance that action is required in which relationships must be severed if we are to survive. Much out of vogue in modernity, church discipline of the Pauline type is called for, regardless of the pleas to love. For in kindness it can be so that our compassion is wicked.

As Adam Smith observed, “mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.” Thus we raise the stake, for to not drive it through the heart of the vampire would be to damn more souls, not less.

opheliaIs this why Hamlet, who truly loved Ophelia, could resign himself to such an abrupt ending to the relationship? Was it an act of mercy toward Ophelia…or self-preservation…or both? Isn’t church discipline both an act of mercy in that the transgressor may repent, and an act of keeping the infectious sin from spreading to others?

It is precisely our moral sentiments after all that cause us distress in both the “not doing” and the “doing.” To do or not to do, that is our confession, which in it, we appear mad as the Prince of Denmark. Continue reading

Unconfessed Life and Literature Part 3: Unconfessed Confessions

Tags

, , , ,

 Not all confessions are equal. Some can be half-baked lacking correct motive, only partly true, or confessed to the wrong people in the wrong venue.

The confessor comes away with a false sense of wholeness for a time. Nevertheless, conscience is the navigator and regardless of the mode of travel, whether in luxury or an old jalopy, the destination remains the same. All men were created equal indeed. Conscience itself is like the plot of a suspense movie in which no matter what alley we chose for the escape, our pursuer is never off the trail. Sophocles cautions, “there is no witness so terrible and no accuser so powerful as conscience which dwells within us.”

Conscience, the predecessor of confession is not to be trifled with for it holds the power of life and death. As Voltaire noted “the safest course is to do nothing against one’s conscience. With this secret, we can enjoy life and have no fear from death.” Confession in this light becomes an indispensable tool for living, as Scripture attests that “life and death are in the power of the tongue.”

In my own life I have witnessed the non-confession confession and the end is the same as the unconfessed, i.e. death. While one may desire to rid himself or save others of a torturous demon, left unattended by grace – he becomes a demon himself. This was the story of Stoker’s Dracula in which the vampire both desired to be free from making others into the undead and yet at the same time lusted for their damnation. The modern version of this monster is depicted in the Twilight Series in which the vampire is able to overcome his aversion to biting via works and family values, a very Mormon message. The apple offered on the cover of the original Twilight book is a way of asking, “did God really say,” that vampires are sinful?

Continue to Part 4

Unconfessed Life and Literature Part 2: The Monster Speaks the Unspeakable for Us

Tags

, , , ,

Most would agree that a particular type of emotional healing comes in the confession, that is, the telling of one’s story. Not just any story about how our trip to Europe went or how long we were in labor with our first child, but in telling things we would rather not. Sometimes the telling of those things is so frightful that we become paralyzed and cannot. Confessions of this ilk are in almost every case tied to two things as was demonstrated in Hamlet: sex and murder.

The part of the human psyche that represses confessions about the scandalous is demonstrated in the story of King David and his goings on with Bathsheba. So repressed was his transgressions that he didn’t recognize himself in the narrative of Nathan. God in his mercy relieved David’s id in forcing the confession, and still… a life was lost. Without the confession, would there have been more?

Monsters from the Id

Monsters from the Id

E. Michael Jones points out in Monsters from the Id, The Rise of Horror in Fiction and Film, the potency of the unconfessed. Originating in the Enlightenment Utopia of the French Revolution, the monster Frankenstein emerges to take revenge on those that will not confess the truth. “As the Age of Reason gave way to the Terror, not only in Paris but in Mary Shelley’s own life, the first monster of the modern imagination was born.” Both Shelley and her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft would live the horror in their personal lives and witness it on the streets of Paris. The English had only begun on the trajectory of sex and horror, while the French trajectory was at the end as Burrell notes, “women were brutally violated before being torn to pieces by those tigers; intestines cut out and worn as turbans; bleeding human flesh devoured.”

Jones spends a great deal of time outlining the influential writing of the Marquis de Sade that unleashed the suffering while at the same time prophetically agreeing with St. James in his epistle regarding the end of lust outside of boundaries. Though the Enlightenment promised that “releasing sexual passion from the confines of the moral order can be managed and its bad effects rendered harmless by legislation or technology…” it was not to be, as “sex emancipated from the moral order ends in murder and death.”

The role confession plays is either to ameliorate, as is the case of David, or to warn like a prophet crying in the cultural marketplace of literature and art as Camus states, “a guilty conscience needs to confess.

A work of art is a confession.” The first case is voluntary, but the second is a function of the human id. Jones explains, “sexual liberation is so frightening, I cannot talk about it, those like Mary Shelley seem to tell us. But then they turn around and say the opposite: It is so frightening, I cannot not talk about it. The monster speaks the unspeakable for me.”

Continue to Part 3

The Unconfessed Life and Literature – Part 1

Tags

, , , , ,

The major literary forms of poetry, novel, and myth are replete with the theme of confession. Interestingly, one entire category of literature, the horror genre, is a direct result of the failure to confess. When the moral order becomes unhinged from reason, the outcome is death. Christ described it, as did Shakespeare, as did Nietzsche.

While speaking poetically can and does describe the splendors of our existence and the universe – it also encompasses the whole of our humanity…including our darkest thoughts and fears. In fact, it is precisely at the point that we cannot speak that imagination becomes most useful in communication. The depictions of the apocalypse in the Book of Revelation is described using imagery – otherwise, how could we bear it?

taleoftwo


 

In his book, A Tale of Two Sons, John MacArthur explains that the entire story of the prodigal son is a twofold chiasm (ABCD-DCBA) in which the last verse is intentionally left out of the second chiasm. The first relates to the younger brother, and it goes like this:

A. Death – the younger son departs

B. All is Lost – he spent all his inheritance

C. Rejection – wallowed with swine

D. The Problem – I have nothing

D. The Solution – I will go so that I don’t perish of hunger.

C. Acceptance – the father gladly receives him

B. All is Restored

A. Resurrection – he was lost – but now is found.

Second chiasm relating to the older brother: Continue reading