Monday, November 11, 2013

The Emperor's New Lack of Clothes

The Emperor has no clothes on.  He's naked for all to see, but not all want to see it.

The World's Most Zealous Defender of Christopher West writes

Is it "possible" to look upon someone naked not your spouse without lust? Not only is it "possible"--it's "required" for purity of heart. It's *necessary* that we be able "see rightly" in this regard if ever we are to pass through the active and passive purgation of the senses and toward the deeper "illuminative way" of the spiritual life. 

Now he's not saying merely that lust is a sin and that we should mortify it.

He's saying that in order to approach mystical union with God, one is required to look at naked ladies without lust.   

That's your homework, in other words.  Get to it.

If you stumble upon a popup ad featuring a naked lady and you avert your eyes, you are a coward who is far from the illuminative way.  Avoiding a near occasion of sin is peanuts compared to engaging near occasions of sin head on - perhaps even bookmarking them, one might imagine.

Well, I hope to leave this subject for a while, for normal people have been spared this pathology.  Normal people simply lust and get over it.  Normal people have no need to spiritualize lust, to rationalize it and turn a sin of the flesh into something far worse.

This strange Gnosticism only works on Catholics of a certain ilk, Catholics who can only exist in a peculiar cultural and intellectual ghetto where the Faith no longer seems to address real things or real life, a ghetto where we have fashioned a god to serve our desires.  Yes, we fashion such a god, and we wear our fashion, spun from the invisible and make-believe cloth of charlatans, leaving us Naked without Shame, strutting about like fools through the City of God.


Paul Stilwell said...

They think seeing God comes from ourselves, from putting together a proper code, the result of an immanent equation. This equation is, for instance, in the form of Russell's misunderstanding of the "tension" between the "veil of shame" and "purity of heart". He thinks that the sanctifying grace of redemption merely exists in the tension of the two. In other words, he is immanentist.

And the "test" of whether you got the equation right is if you can look upon a naked person and not lust, or see their proper dignity, or both or something. You draw up your equation and you make your own test. Passing this test is surefire "seeing God".

When they say, "seeing a person in their proper dignity whatever the circumstance, clothed, half-clothed or fully naked" they are speaking according to a reductionist code. And it's reductionist because they are reductionist of God and His grace. Which is why you won't hear Christopher West talk about the Sacraments as signs that are what they signify, but rather talks about them merely as signs that "point towards" - like he just did at the seminar this past Saturday I attended.

We are not to reduce God's grace to the effects that we wish to determine for it. If those effects which we have determined as evidence of God's grace, as victory over sin, reduce God's grace to reaction towards sin, as victory over it - if that is the effect of God's grace, then God's grace is ineffectual.

God is not a worker of Gnostic codes.

As Tierney puts it so well:

"When one reaches "Mature purity", custody of the eyes takes on a whole new meaning. It isn't done away with, if anything, our "mature purity" is itself purified by grace. Then, we are no longer practicing "custody of the eyes" merely as a way of avoiding vice, but we are practicing custody of the eyes so we only focus on what is right, true, and beautiful."

Amen to that.

In mature purity custody of the eyes becomes anticipation of seeing God, ultimately in eternity. Thus one can say that custody of the eyes in that instance is already "seeing God".

The gaze is fundamentally membranous. The entire reason why in the next world the holy souls will gaze with purity is because they will be - and are - looking upon God. Mature purity in this world is a kind of anticipation of the "purity that sees God". Though the pure of heart will see God, their seeing God does not come from their seeing. Of course, it comes from God, upon Whom they are gazing.

The gaze is always to some degree formed by what it looks upon and the body is always to some degree in-formed by how the gaze is formed. Therefore the gaze is never, nor will ever be, not in this world or the next, an autocratic function that proceeds from the jurisdiction of mature purity, as though it was mature purity that makes the gaze "pure", or which somehow overrides the old gaze with a nuclear reactor of purity turning it into a new gaze.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Paul, you have mentioned the name of the World's Most Zealous Defender of Christopher West, Deacon Jim Russell. He has been banned from commenting on this blog and six or seven other blogs that I know of. I pray for him frequently.

However, if others out there want to jump in and defend West, you are welcome to, provided you can argue rationally and without contempt and disdain, belittling your opponents and twisting their words so as to deny the truth of what they are saying.

What you have written here, Paul, is a bit difficult to follow. But you seem to be saying that "mature purity" is not an automatic thing, a switch we can flip, that turns a sin into a virtue because we suddenly know the secret code. This seems to be what you mean by "immanentizing" - the strange and appallingly prideful assertion that we have attained our future sanctity here and now and consequently since we are now immanently holy, everything we do is therefore holy, even things the "uninitiated" would perceive as sinful. The secret club can look at naked bodies with holy hearts; the erections they possibly get point to heaven; there's no lust there. The vile beasts who have not achieved this Illuminative Way, this union with the Divine (guys like you and me and the rest of humanity, in other words), have no idea how holy the Illuminati have become - for to them lust is not lust and a lie is not a lie, for Christ has redeemed all things here and now, and being holy they can "sin without sin" so to speak.

The gaze is purified by God; and God's gaze upon us can be a mortifying purgation. Think of Christ gazing upon Peter the moment Peter has denied Him. Such a living gaze is porous and "membranous", is itself a form of communion. Another thing Tierney gets right is how wrong it is to gaze upon a naked person with whom you are not in communion - such a forced intimacy, such a piercing encounter, can only be a living lie if the naked object of your gaze is not your spouse but merely an object, even an object for your "holy" pleasure, the naked body you are "required" to look at in this sick and twisted theology.

Paul Stilwell said...

Yes, Kevin, that is it. In much clearer words. Thank you.

Kevin Tierney said...

Since I was quoted:

What Paul said really resonates, especially the part about "seeing God." Fits in really nicely with a "Theology of the Face":

My next work is something that Kevin O Brien mentions: why we shouldn't "gaze" upon such people, even when they aren't naked. not because we are prudes, but because we wish to practice communion properly.

Anonymous said...

It all just sounds so familiar to me...

"the body is evil and must be tamed"
"perfection is when one can separate one's soul from the evil body"

gee, I can't remember where I heard that before, though...

Kevin O'Brien said...

You heard that before in the first or second century, if not earlier.

Kevin Tierney said...

What's interesting is that they keep using the phrase "illuminative."

They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.

If you actually look at John of the Cross (and also JPII) that "illuminative" path of purgation happens IN THE INTERIOR FORUM.

It doesn't involve a set of criterion of actions you do that are pass/fail.

The only thing we do in the process is prepare our souls in the interior by detachment. Once we become detached, the Spirit of God begins working purging ourselves of those imperfections that exist within the senses and the spirit.

Only problem is to understand that, you have to first read Ascent of Mt. Carmel, THEN Dark Night of the Soul. You can't go to the latter without the former, because they were originally one book, and the seperation of them is a modern invention.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Good points, Kevin.

It's also worth noting that while everyone is called to personal holiness, the mystical light that tradition speaks of is not necessarily given to all in this life - not even to the most holy; it's similar to a charism. This does not mean that growing closer to God in prayer is not possible, but it does mean that, apart from our efforts to cooperate with grace, we can't bring any of this about - nor should we really strive for it: we strive to do God's will and we let Him give us the gifts He gives us; such a mystical path is literally gratuitous. Something analogous to it may be given to all, and the way of the mystic is at least symbolic for the general Christian walk. But, ultimately, nothing in our lives as Christians is an "achievement".

When, by contrast, people speak of straining to achieve the Illuminative Way or grunting and groaning in an effort to be united to God in contemplative prayer, I become very suspicious. Down that road lies a pit of pride.

AspieCatholic girl said...

It would be great to be ABLE to look at someone not our spouse without lust.

It's imprudent to think that one can actually do so.