Matter, Earth and Body

[October 18, 2010] I was reading the Gospel according to John and several pages of Origen this morning. When we read the Scriptures it is all about the revelation of Christ, which is Christ, a divine “Who” who comes to us as the Word in our nous (our inner perceptual faculty) and addresses us, in the Scriptures and everywhere.

There has been a mistaken tendency in Patristics and the historic spiritual tradition of Christianity to contrast spirit and matter, and then thinking that intellectual perception (which, if it beholds the Word, is spiritual) is as though the opposite of matter, earth and body.  Actually, matter, earth and body are full of life and spirit (ho gegonen en autō zōē ēn, John 1:3-4). Spirit is inclusive of body (and earth) and body embodies spirit. Yet the Scriptures sometimes contrasts earth and flesh to heaven and spirit. I think, however, that the Gnostic and historic tendency oversimplifies this contrast. Rather than the way they tend to see it, “flesh” is really body misunderstood, perceived as only physical and not as what it IS, namely, as embodying spirit, as being—in a manner of speaking—the “body” (or “exterior,” the ex-istence) of God, as participating (at the infinitesimal point of the present moment) in eternity, and not as just something trapped in time and imperception. “Earthiness” is less about the creation, which is transparent of God, embodying His presence, as about our blinded perception of it as not being this—earth and body as perceived by the skewed and ruptured soul, the soul isolated and insulated from God in its own perception (though even the soul is not isolated from God; only in its own perception of itself is it so). This is an important distinction that makes the Scriptures far more intelligible—and makes even the Christian spiritual tradition more intelligible to itself.

{[October 20, 2010] A related tendency has been to see nature and the whole material realm as merely representing spiritual realities, related to them as image and symbol, allegorically as it were. However, its representative capacity is imputed to it by the mind. Language and texts as representing the thoughts of the mind are by their nature metaphorical, as are the thoughts of the mind itself. However, matter, earth and body, the whole realm of nature, is inherently resplendent with the glory of God, immediately perceptible to spirit, though invisible to the soul as it now is. The soul is bound within the illusion of time; but without the illusion of past and future, time in reality participates in eternity at the point of the present moment, and in the eternal moment what—in the illusion of time—will be true is already true. The lesson of the transfiguration of Jesus on the mount is not only that He was already who He will be, but that this is also true of the kingdom of God, that is, of all things in Him (Matthew 16:28).}

The problem always comes back to the soul, to who we are, for it is from the soul that we perceive everything. The soul needs to become transparent to spirit, but it can only do that through dying, if it is sustained in life by the grace of the Spirit through the Word (the revelation of Christ).

[October 22, 2010] I say that the whole realm of matter, earth and body is inherently resplendent with the glory of God. It is so by grace, by which it participates in God’s glory, which implies, on the one hand, that this participation is not inherent. Yet it was also created precisely for this, which means that by this participation it becomes what it is by nature (that is, what it is inherently, innately, or intrinsically). Its essence is to not be without this participation, yet its participation is by grace. This is the paradox of the “physical” realm. In time, the original movement of creation flung matter out “away” from God so that it was as if it were the “outside” of God (though nothing can be outside of God as if it were separate from God; even evil is what it is because it attempts this separation, but it only attempts it, it cannot succeed). This dualism is an aspect of time, not eternity. Matter as such is not spirit though it has no existence apart from spirit, even if that spirit is its own essence calling it to itself from the future. For all matter is drawn to what it will be, thus all that exists thirsts for organization, life and consciousness, away from enthropy and death. Enthropy is thus the remainder of the original moment of creation, which is not rebellion against God but distinction from God; but it is a temporary remainder. For creation, ever since its beginning, is being drawn (wooed), not pushed, to its source in God. This drawing forth, which is from its own future, from what is not yet, is grace. Yet, in the eternity of the present moment all things already participate in that future, or rather what is beyond that future, which is the resolution of time in eternity, which is the sublation (in a Hegelian sense) of creation in divinity.

The false self does not exist in the present moment and therefore has no share in this participation. The false self is what the soul imagines itself to be, which is a lie that has no actual existence. The false self asserts its existence to the soul and constructs a world in concert with the false selves of others (even as it derives from them), but all this is a lie that the soul believes and with which it identifies. The false self has to die in order for the soul to become free and be saved. 

The grace that calls everything back to God is none other than the One who comes to the Christian in the revelation of Jesus Christ.

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