The question(ing) of faith

The previous blog spoke of the need, in working together, to pay attention to that about which we do not speak, the reflexive work is to use these silences to question our ways of interpreting the truth of what-is-going-on. The following, taken from a conversation between Susan Handelman and Gene Borowitz captures it for me:

“You, too, propose a “reverse tzimtzum” as a necessary step for that tikkun, an emptying out of the self on the model of God’s emptying out of himself in order to create a world. What, then, is the content of that self? Or as we might ask in contemporary literary theory, “How is subjectivity constructed?” A Chassidic interpretation notes that the letters that compose the Hebrew word for “I” aleph, nun, yud, when rearranged, spell “nothingness” ayin, yud, nun. If modernism gazes into the self and finds an abyss that terrifies, postmodernism accepts with equanimity that lack and seeks to turn that void inside out, so to speak. To cross and recross it. Without the voice of God, though, that emptied, contracted self can become the cynical laugh of a character from Beckett or a self trying to fill itself through games of power and sexuality as in Foucault. But if Divine selfhood is itself manifested in tzimtzum, self-contraction, then the void becomes the source of ethics, an emptying out of the self to give to the other.” (From Reviewing the Covenant: Eugene B. Borowitz and the Postmodern Renewal of Jewish Theology, Peter Ochs (ed) State University of New York Press. 2000.)

We appear, therefore, to be looking at a form of continuum describing the nature of the individual’s response to the ethical challenge. At one end is a cynical humanism – that which is ‘postmodern’ as popularly understood; ‘liberal’ as understood in the USA; and politically correct; but which is ultimately superficial qua there is nothing but the surface. And at the other is a fundamentalist plenitude – that which offers to fill the abyss, albeit in the manner of a mess of pottage or a Faustian pact. In between we have faith-with-a-small-f: the capacity of the individual to act as if s/he knows while knowing that s/he does not. The maxim of Ignatius Loyola here puts this much better:

“Have faith in God as if all success depended on you, nothing on God. Set to work, however, as if nothing were to come about through you, and everything through God alone.”

A paragraph in “Ignatius the Theologian” by Hugo Rahner SJ, (Cassell 1968) reads:

“Consequently, this Spirit-Church dialectic in the theology of Ignatius leads directly to the indissoluble unity of tension between grace and free cooperation, between trust in God and personal endeavour. Trust in God, but never in such a way as to forget that you must do everything that lies in your power. And work, but never in such a way as to forget that everything depends ultimately on the grace of God. This is the real meaning behind the famous and often misinterpreted dialectic of one of Ignatius’s maxims………The same dialectic lies behind what the Fathers expressed in the oxymoron ‘sober intoxication’.”(p223)

Within another formation, it becomes:

“Do His will as if it were your will, that He may do your will as it were His will. Destroy your will for the sake of His will so that he may destroy the will of others for the sake of your will.” Rabban Gamliel, the son of Rabbi Judah HaNasi (the Prince) ca. 250CE, Sayings of the Fathers 2:4.

My own work frames these ideas somewhat differently, coming as I do out of a Lacanian orientation. But the direction is the same, even if the relationship to their institutionalisation is somewhat different.

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