agitated realms beyond melancholy

The long arc of hereticism. Modernism and baggage of hereticism it bring with it, the deep sack of neuroses festering sometimes into the outbreaks of pathology and brilliance often equally and simultaneously, is today, a sort  of anguished repudiation; reactions to the simplifications of the self and a way of life that Protestantism and the Enlightenment brought with them. The Howl of an Allen Ginsberg. There is an intimacy here though, a stubborn effort to cling to the past while breaking with it; to take the hesitations and doubts, the noxious, unresolved questions and try to construct something approaching a credible narrative, though always just beyond reach. Beyond orthodoxy is the disrupted momentum;  But the link between modernism and post-modernism and the orthodox past is filled with the shifting sands and unstable, volatile mass of contradictions and sometimes flashes of brilliance intrinsic to the nature of heretical movements that challenged existing structures…

—Perhaps the problem is the one diagnosed by Hannah Arendt: the collapse of orthodox religion has not caused us to turn towards the world with the piety and love once accorded God. Benjamin Lazier, in his inspiring and beautifully-written God, Interrupted: Heresy and the European Imagination Between the World Wars (Princeton, 2009), suggests that there can be no simple path between these two forms of reverence. A detour through the long tradition of heresy might be required in order to overcome religion without losing our faith. Through a study of the surprising influence of heretical thought on Hans Jonas, Leo Strauss, and Gershom Scholem—three of the most influential Jewish intellectuals of the twentieth century—Lazier attempts to resuscitate the lost art of heresy, with all its possibilities and danger.—Read More:

…For the Counter Reformation of the sixteenth century, unlike that of the thirteenth century, was not complete. Over a large part of Europe, Protestant Europe, it failed. And in those Protestant countries where it failed, economic expansion was continued. It was continued not so much by the orthodox, even there, as by the heretics, and particularly by the heretics squeezed out by the Catholic countries. It was Calvinists and Mennonites driven from Flanders who founded the industries of the Ruhr. It was Baptists and Quakers who made the industrial revolution in England. It was the Pietists of Saxony who began the industrialization of East Germany. And the greatest industrial power, America, lived in its formative period on the heretics of all Europe.

But our debt to heresy does not stop there. The advance of science also owes more to heresy than to orthodoxy. For every stage, orthodoxy has tended to restrain intellectual speculation and new steps forward have been taken either by bold heretics or by mystics, happily emancipated from the constriction of literal dogma.

—Here we see a mural which actually resides in the Library at Dartmouth College, painted by one of the famous Mexican Muralists, José Clementé Orozco Ortiz. This is entitled “God’s of the Modern World” and visually depicts the religious and pharasaic attitudes coming and stemming from Academia and the “Priest Class,” here dressed in their robes of false priesthood of the European and American tradition.—Read More:

Neo-Platonic mysticism, then still pagan, was a powerful force in the science of the late Roman Empire. In its Christian form it was even more powerful in breaking the watertight system of obsolete knowledge fabricated by the late medieval Schoolmen. Many of the Neo-Platonic mystics of the Reformation period seem unintelligible to us: the writings of Paracelsus and Jakob Boehme, the mystical shoemakerof seventeenth century Silesia can seem to us pure gibberish. But new scientific conceptions tend to spring out of metaphysical visions which they then discard.

Isaac Newton and many of his contemporary scientists began as heretical mystics. Isaac Newton himself may have been inspired by the unintelligible Boehme. Out of the mysticism of the Neo-Platonists and the Quakers the heresy of English deism was born, and deism was the matrix of the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. And it was Neo-Platonism, again, which inspired the advances in biology at the end of the eighteenth century.

Marcel Duchamp. Large Glass. —Karl Barth warned against witch-hunts against Bultmann, and the author of the Barmen Declaration found the contemporary “confessional movement” “dead, cheap, fly-sieving, camel-swallowing, and Pharisaic.” On the other hand, I’m sure Barth would have approved of declaring apartheid a heresy. Finally, however, Stanley Hauerwas is right: “That one of the tests of orthodoxy is beauty means orthodoxy betrays itself if it is used as a hammer to beat into submission those we think heterodox.” And, of course, unless orthodoxy itself issues in orthopraxis – because truth is not so much thought as done (John 7:17) – well, hypocrisy isn’t heresy, but it ain’t pretty. The telos of orthodoxy is not conformity but faith working through love in joyful obedience.—Read More: image:


( see link at end) …The origins of Modernism lie in disillusion or, more precisely, in what the German poet Friedrich Schiller called “the disenchantment of the world.” Unfortunately, Mr. Josipovici, who likes to quote his authors in the original, gets it wrong here, giving Schiller’s phrase as “die Entziehung der Welt,” or “the withdrawal of the world,” instead of the correct “die Entzauberung der Welt.” But this slip doesn’t impair his argument.

Fernando Botero.—In Hermann Cohen’s “religion of reason,” the God of Job—thundering in impenetrable clouds—is replaced by a sweetly reasonable deity, and the age-old struggle between Athens and Jerusalem is concluded with a peace treaty and handshakes all around. After the blatant irrationality of World War I, this theology became literally incredible. Leo Strauss liked to tell a story about a pious Jew who asked Cohen, perhaps the most prominent rationalist theologian, about the fate of God in his Kantian system. Instead of providing an answer, Cohen wept prescient tears.
In the tumult of interwar Europe, many attempted to reclaim this absent God through heresy: both Gnosticism and pantheism, the twin rivals of a discredited orthodoxy, reappeared and flourished. Jonas, Strauss, and Scholem, all of whom came to maturity in this postwar period, were indelibly marked by this revival. They all felt, like the heretics, that we lived in a world from which the orthodox God had absented himself. They also, however, argued that God’s vanishing act was not the end of the story. The creation of a modern form of faith—beyond both religion and materialism—required a final overcoming of heresy. This time, the critique would not send us back into the welcoming embrace of orthodoxy, but rather propel us forward, into the world.—Read More:

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In the mid-16th century, the old certainties, the immemorial rituals, the hierarchies of the heavens and earth seemed to crumble. As Mr. Josipovici explains, Schiller’s phrase was taken up early in the 20th century by the sociologist Max Weber, who used it to explain the radical transformation of the world that occurred after the Protestant Reformation, from a divinely appointed cosmos, alive with numinous presences, to a bustling marketplace of enterprise, production and rampant individualism.

—Melencolia I is a depiction of the intellectual situation of the artist and is thus, by extension, a spiritual self-portrait of Dürer. In medieval philosophy, each individual was thought to be dominated by one of the four humors; melancholy, associated with black gall, was the least desirable of the four, and melancholics were considered most likely to succumb to insanity. Renaissance thought, however, also linked melancholy with creative genius; thus, at the same time that this idea changed the status of this humor, it made the self-conscious artist aware of the terrible risks that came with his gift.—Read More:

In such a disenchanted world, the world we inhabit now, it’s not only pointless but dishonest to write or paint or compose in traditional ways, as though nothing had changed. The old human narrative has been fatally disrupted; it is false to pretend otherwise. Modernism is the anguished response—for Mr. Josipovici, the only valid response—to this irreparable fracture of the world and the self.

He begins his account with some astute observations on two famous engravings by Albrecht Dürer (his “Melancholia I” and “St. Jerome in his Study” from 1514). Dürer intended the engravings to be complementary; but in fact, as Mr. Josipovici argues, “Melancholia,” with its shadows and dozing bats, has come to depict our present state, while “St. Jerome” in its sunny serenity reveals all that we—we moderns—have lost. Clearly for Mr. Josipovici the shattering of former certainties, despite the gains it offers in self-knowledge, has left us bereft. For Dürer, the calm, orderly world of the saint was as real, as true, as the dark, jagged realm of melancholy. For the Modernist sensibility, however, serenity is no longer possible; truth, if it can be glimpsed at all, is invariably agitated.

—This is going to sound a little heretical so gird your loins. I was wondering the other evening whether a modern Nativity scene would be much different to the Gospel and came to the conclusion that, although the West believes itself to have moved out of ‘biblical times’, the ‘dark ages’ and into a bright post-enlightenment modernity, the same conditions of the Nativity story apply, even in the UK. You don’t have to go to Africa to witness extreme poverty, misery, hunger, destitution and refugees.
In the Gospel we are told that the Holy Family, our Blessed Lord having just been born, were in the gravest danger. We are told that they experience at first hand, poverty and hardship. The Christ Child is under threat from Herod who orders the massacre of the Holy Innocents. The Holy Family become refugees, seeking asylum. When they return to Bethlehem, the Blessed Virgin and St Joseph become as beggars looking for somewhere, anywhere for the Virgin must lay her head down to give birth to Christ, not in luxury, but in the poor, dark, stinking, humble surroundings of a stable. The Son of God is about to be born and the Virgin and St Joseph are homeless!—Read More:

Tracing Modernism’s long arc, Mr. Josipovici moves on to Rabelais and Cervantes, two 16th-century artists who “knew in their bones that they were living through a period of decisive change.” They, and such disparate 19th-century figures as the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard and—perhaps surprisingly—the English poet William Wordsworth, are the true precursors of Modernism, Mr. Josipovici argues. He is particularly good on Wordsworth, showing how the poet in his deepest moments of communion with nature remained “a stranger in the landscape.” Read More:

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