We Are Indeed Created In The Image Of God—The Image Of Difference-No Difference

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Emptiness, Anxiety, And Despair Follow Upon Contact With The Nothingness Of Self

MV Conversation

Future Time

Empty Self Concluded

“Believe me,” said MV, “people self-destruct all the time. Music has nothing to do with it. Trust me, I know!”

“Probably true,” I replied, “and that’s why I found Buddhism so inviting. Screw the self; according to Buddhism, it didn’t exist anyway. It’s all about suffering, or so said the Buddha. But the Buddha also said, ‘its all about escape from suffering too. What I didn’t understand, what I still don’t understand, though, has to do with the Buddhist notion of: ‘In order to get it all, you had to give it all up,’ and further, in order to give it up, you had to know what to give up and how to do it. All that knowing had value; Buddhism didn’t value the means like it did the ends. Something was missing, so I went back to the drawing board, so to speak, and there discovered a different kind of self.”

“It’s all gibberish if you ask me,” responded MV. “You’re telling me that there is a kinship between knowledge and hopelessness. That’s a contradiction isn’t it?”

“Not really,” I replied. “Emptiness jumpstarts the creative energy that produces usable knowledge. The upside is that knowledge, if it is not false knowledge, is inclusive, and as such, it keeps hopelessness and despair at bay. However, when ‘unknowing consciousness’ falls into emptiness–hopelessness, despair, or even worse is the result. That’s just the way it is. You have to take the good with the bad, and that’s the down side.”

“That is if you survive,” MV exclaimed.

“True enough,” I said. “Hopelessness and despair can kill. Too much of anything, in fact, is dangerous; and going to the well of self-knowledge is ripe with risk. That’s a hard one to swallow. For me, reading Nietzsche kept me afloat, at least in the beginning anyway.”

“You learned self-knowledge from a demented ego-maniac. Who’s lacking in nuance now!” replied MV.

“Hey, wait a minute, I probably wouldn’t even be alive if it wasn’t for Nietzsche,” I replied. “He taught me how to feel good about myself when there wasn’t anything to feel good about. Out of the fires of his own pessimism, he penned his Ubermensch—his superman, and vicariously lived life through his own creation. He passionately affirmed his freedom ‘to be’—his will to power, and to the extent that he succeeded, he lived life on the edge. The real Ubermensch, however, could not survive off the page. It was Kierkegaard, not Nietzsche, who forged out of despair a life that could live off the page.

“Kierkegaard spread hopelessness and despair to the masses?” replied MV.

“The opposite,” I said. “Kierkegaard was able to turn hearts and minds into ‘true God-believers.’”

“How did he, or anybody else for that matter, go from pain and hopelessness to believing in God?”

“Good question,” I said, “that question drove Kierkegaard to despair, but he worked through it, and, in the process, he wrote his philosophical fragments and postscripts, books that answered that question. The real answer to that question, though, is found in ‘despairing’ itself!”

“I don’t understand,” MV responded.

“Faith is earned,” I replied. “Kierkegaard struggled with his relationship with the ‘other.’ ‘Every subject,’ he said, ‘is haunted by an other he can never know.’ Finally, Kierkegaard put himself at the center of this ‘other,’ and ultimately, this ‘other’ became his own ‘nothingness before God.’ What Kierkegaard discovered was that everything except faith in God became a ‘sickness unto death.’ Indeed, it was this ‘sickness unto death’ that empowered his own faith in God; a faith, that when genuine, meant ‘a total absorption in passionate inwardness’– a life with no place to go except to God.”

“You know, that’s the biggest hunk of rubbish I’ve ever heard,’ responded MV. “Life’s a party, and if it isn’t, it should be. Go tell people that life is ‘sickness onto death’ and see what happens.”

“When I first read Kierkegaard I might have agreed with you,” I said. “It took me a long time before I could find a God that I could believe in. Heidegger had a lot to do with it.”

“Another Nazi,” MV responded, “one can only smile at you’re inspirational sources.”

“Nietzsche wasn’t a Nazi,” I replied, “and Heidegger, well, that’s a story for another time. What is important in Heidegger is that the ‘personal’ dropped out of his philosophy. Dasein became a ‘way of existing.’”

“And God became Dasein?”

“No, not yet; Dasein became something else first.” I said. “ Escaping inauthentic being, for Heidegger, took place along a continuum characterized by inauthentic concern at one end and authentic concern at the other. Getting from ‘here’ to ‘there’ was the problem, and time—temporality, became the solution. The conscious accommodation of the world of our concern meant, for Dasein, the temporalization of inauthentic modes of being; but when concern is ‘brought back’ to its source in Dasein–Dasein’s own most ‘having been,’ its own most possibility in time–authenticity gets experienced. At that po
int, Dasein emerges from ‘throwness’ and becomes the experience of authentic, non-temporal being. That is hardly a sustainable condition, however, so once again the self’s nothingness has to be confronted, our own ‘angst driven self.’ Connecting time up with authentic-being-in-the-world was, for Heidegger, if not a divine act, a divinely inspired one, and, as far as I can tell, Heidegger was the first to do it.”

“Help me. This is getting out of hand, and I’m tired. Where’s God in all this?” MV said.

“Right in the middle of Sartre’s self,” I replied. “Sartre also saw time as an intrinsic component of consciousness, but he called it by another name–freedom.”

“Oh good, that’s got to be the frosting on the cake,” MV responded. “No wonder God’s been invisible all this time. He’s been living and hiding in the head of an atheist.”

“You got it,” I replied. “He’s been hiding in a being such that in its being its being is in question in so far as this being implies a being other than itself.”

“That’s Sartre’s definition for the ‘for-itself,’ right?” responded MV.

“You got it right again,” I replied. “The part of the definition which is of particular interest is the part which says ‘being implies a being other than itself,’ for it is here that once again, we encounter the black hole that masquerades as self—the black hole that demands everything, but gives nothing back. This hole in being implies, for Sartre, time and freedom.”

“Don’t tell me—freedom is God,” said MV

“Chalk up another one, you’re on a roll,” I replied. “It’s just that it’s a little more complicated than that. Freedom, for Sartre, is not merely a description of external conditions wherein humanity confronts alternative possibilities. It is the state of being to which being-for-itself is condemned. In freedom, the human being is both past and future, but only through negation. With respect to self-consciousness, freedom incessantly negates, as it continually forces us to confront our own nothingness, hence our ‘angst self.’ But this angst is further qualified by Sartre when he says, ‘To be man means to reach toward being God. Or if you prefer, man fundamentally is the desire to be God.” Of course, Sartre goes on to show that not only is that desire unachievable, but God too is also an impossibility. The religious search for God is very real, however. In fact, for Sartre, the religious urge is basic to being human. The kicker is that Sartre did not know that the same freedom he used to justify God’s impossibility is actually the self-conscious aspect of God in the here and now.”

“Excuse me, but if God is freedom, then God is nothingness, and that is just wacko,” responded MV.

“Not if God is Logos,” I said, “and that is just what much of Western theological tradition used to believe.”

“I don’t understand?”

“Well, according to Tomas Aquinas,” I replied, “being and thought are one, and reason is divine. The very substance of reality is the self-embodiment of God as Logos. Recall that Sartre’s for-itself not only implies knowledge and freedom, it also implies ‘a being other than itself.’ That being is not just the nothingness of the for-itself, as Sartre believed, rather it is the affirmation of the here and now, it is the Logos liberated, it is the ‘birth of the divine’ in each and every one of us—it is the ‘conscious presence’ in each and every one of us.”

“I think it’s time to leave,” said MV, “Do you recall why we’re here? It’s to amuse me! And I’m not amused. I’m not even smiling. Get the picture?”

“Wait, I’m almost through,” I replied. “Just give me a minute.”

“Okay,” responded MV, “but speed it up, or your God will end—in your swan song.”

“Where was I? Oh, I remember,” I said. “The subject sets itself over against itself in self-consciousness, thus objectifying itself. There is a re-appropriation of the self’s internal differences in self-consciousness, and with differences identities unfold. God is mirrored in the human consciousness of ‘identity and difference’. God is identical with the self-referential totality of all there is while at the same time God is different—God is God. ‘I am what I am’ says the divine in revelation. The connection between self and consciousness-of-self is one of identity and difference. In God and freedom the connection is also one of identity and difference. In both cases, difference implies identity. Man is indeed made in God’s image. There would be no God realization without self-consciousness, and further, God cannot become fully self-conscious in the here and now until self-consciousness realizes itself to be the divine incarnated—God’s own consciousness-of-self. Religious consciousness, in this view, is not mystical, it woven into the ordinary events of everyday consciousness. In the end, all question’s pertaining to self are religious questions.”

“Are you through?”

“Yes,” I said. “But there’s more.”

“Oh, spare me,” MV replied. “Just how long can this go on?”

“As long as you let it,” I said. “But if it’s any consolation, I gave my last presentation shortly after I finished the paper I wrote for my kids. That was really the end I guess. It was my best presentation, but, of course, nobody knew what I was talking about.”


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