What Does Theology Have to do with Life?

In case you missed my previous speculation about the Virgin Mary, I’ll point out that it’s surprisingly easy to start speculating about theology, even when you know better. What I really wanted to talk about, rather than female ordination, was an old conversation about art that took place in early twentieth century France. By contrast, I find our current direction rather depressing.

French cubist Albert Gleizes also ventured into Christian theology to the dismay of his Catholic friends. Gleizes, a convert to the Catholic Church, unwittingly brought up an old debate pitting St. Augustine against Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. Gleizes argued that the ascendence of Aristotle and Aquinas in the 12th century had been detrimental to Christian art. In this he was influenced by René Guénon. ((Brooke, Peter, Albert Gleizes: For and Against the Twentieth Century, Yale University Press, 2001)) I don’t have a position on this debate, although I have my doubts about the influence of Guénon, another individual that the Church accompanied. I became familiar with him after writing Hermes in India. From what I can tell, the Church was on the right side of this debate. However, Gleizes biographer was in his corner.

But how are we to understand the relationship between theology and the physical world? For example, what do we do about the fact that our communities are not our own? This isn’t a casual question. Right now I’m wondering what I have to do to get an answer from the BLM. I wrote to them a few weeks ago for information about the Cliven Bundy case. (That was about the time my stocks started their latest decline.) It’s ridiculous to talk about reform under these circumstances.

America and the Constellation Virgo

I deleted the last post about cultural differences. I sometimes think I’ve written something readable, only to realize later, it isn’t. Part of the problem is that this story has so many side plots. The antagonists would have to include politicians discussing the healthcare debate, for example. Has anyone noticed that when they get to the part where they say “America has the best healthcare system in the world,” they slow down and lower their voice an octave? They all do it exactly the same way! It is as though they think words can create reality. (Hmmm…didn’t Plato say thoughts create reality, or something like that?) Unfortunately, there is just no sensible way to discuss healthcare when the debate starts with nonsense, although one tries to put arguments in order, group related events, and phrase everything as clearly as possible, to put nonsense in a neat package.

The real problems arise when the nonsense is not out in the open. A clarification of America’s founding ideas, as opposed to popular myths, should probably be the starting point but the attempt to search the distant past seems too complicated, not to mention boring, and the story line goes astray with every plot twist. Even if you could get it straight more eloquent essays abound and they are not really getting the attention they deserve. Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, in his narrative about events surrounding the two World Wars, remembered a time when the written word was quite valuable and people eagerly read everything that was published. That changed during his lifetime to the point where nothing had much of an effect. Through improved communication, societies transitioned suddenly from living isolated, peaceful lives to a state of constant awareness of war and atrocity taking place around the world. What would he have said about the Internet?

I’ll try again to find the beginning. The constellation Virgo was important to America’s founders. The cornerstone ceremonies of the Freemasons were apparently timed with this in mind. There is a paraphrase of Virgil’s Fourth Eclogue’s new age, “novus ordo saeclorum,” inscribed in the Great Seal of the United States. This refers to “Astraea, the virgin goddess of justice, (who) was the last of the immortals to quit the earth at the end of the constellation Virgo. Throughout the Renaissance…she was associated, on the one hand, with the revival of the Roman Empire and…through Virgil, (she) came to be linked with both letters and empire.” Virgil “identified the new age with the Augustan peace, (but) Christian readers, beginning…with the emperor Constantine himself, saw in the Fourth Eclogue a prophecy of Christ’s birth, made the more convincing by the Virgo easily (related) to the Virgin Mary. In the Renaissance, these Christian meanings buttressed a renewed emphasis on Astraea’s imperial associations, as the French and English monarchies annexed her as a symbol of their claims to inherit the mantle of Rome.” (To be continued…)

Sources:

1.  Ovason, David. The Secret Architecture of Our Nation’s Capital: the Masons and the building of Washington D.C. Century Books, Ltd. London. 1999

2.  Zweig, Stefan. The World of Yesterday. Cassell and Co. Ltd. London, Toronto, Melbourne and Sydney. 1947

3.  Wine, Kathleen. Forgotten Virgo: humanism and absolutism in Honore’ d’Urfe’s ‘L’Astre’e’. Librairie Droz S.A. Geneve. 2000