24 January 2012


Stuck between gears with the current post being worked on, which I hope to upload soon. So while attempting to textually organize and collate the stream of thoughts presently racing through my brain, figured an excavation of the TH2 archives would be warranted. That is, a reissuance of part of my 48000 word apologetics essay against the notorious Canadian heretic Tom Harpur (yes, you read that number correctly). Seems like a long time ago, now. What you find below is only 4900 words, approximately :o Sorry. Another extraction for your existential edification, from that same essay, can be found here. That one contains only 1800 words or thereabouts. Anyhow, in the extraction below, yours truly does some meta-philosophisizing with respect to the "formal" rejection of the Real Presence by a certain Augustinian monk from Germany. Again, hope to have the next post up soon. In the meantime...

I. SYMBOLIC BREACH. ...Harpur is evidently oblivious to the philosophic and thus and socio-political ramifications that arose after the rejection of Transubstantiation... he is appalled with the "massive violence and bloodshed that has taken place over what began as a simple ceremony of remembrance". His observation is correct, superficial it may be... he lacks the ability to comprehend the seriousness of what is offhandedly considered. Could it not be that "massive violence and bloodshed" occurred by the very fact of the reality of Transubstantiation? That it is indeed the Real Presence of Christ in the world, and not a symbolic one? How can Christians believe in the symbolic when it asserted that the symbolic does not breach through to some real external reality...? Does not a symbol re-present? Does it not "go through" or "go across" or "go beyond" (meaning of prefix trans) to a reality? If a symbol does not go through, interconnect and latch on to some reality, how can this reality be known in an objective sense?... If the thoughts we think, or language we speak, or the symbols we write, do not correspond to "some thing" or "some other", how could some proposition be re-presented as real? Reality must be assumed, and words written must pertain to a reality distinct from the human mind. Without reference to some externality, a word becomes an empty sign and reality a raw thing; and if that sign does not represent that reality to the mind, then the human being is effectively shut out from the world, because "the thing" is exclusively derivative only from the mind. Sign and thing are made equal to each other, bungled together, and fuse into one unit so to speak. Subjectivism, both in the metaphysical and moral senses, is the consequence.

II. When it comes to theology and Transubstantiation, however, a reality beyond the immanent is taken into account. The focus in this part of this analysis is on the aftereffects of the negation of the Transubstantiation, of how the rejection of a really transcendent divine reality echoed itself in the rejection of a physical reality as such, as some-thing distinct from the mind, as we find it in modernist philosophy, including its meta-historical implications. For if the Real Presence of God is refuted at whatever time through history, if God was only yesterday, or if He is only tomorrow, or even if He is deemed to be symbolically present (without that real cross-linkage to an external spiritual reality), then just a mere perusal of the last 500+ years of history blatantly illustrates that the refutation of the Real Presence had real, spectacular effects on the course of Western civilization and the world. The Real Presence does not relate only to a "spirit", a "feeling", "a sense of…", an intuition, a thought, or a mythological symbol disconnected from reality. It also ties in with the substantial. Not a substantial God of the past. Not a substantial God to come, but a substantial God now. If objective reality is distinct from the mind, and if this view of reality ultimately originates from the Roman Catholic belief in a transcendent God Really Present, what on Earth today - NOW - re-presents that Real Presence?

III. Now let us say that a sign does not really represent some-thing, that a sign is just a sign, in and of itself, that it belongs only to the mind, that it does not interpenetrate a thing and go through to reality, that it does not intend or point to an-other really distinct from the mind. The consequence of this philosophy is explained next by analogical narrative.

IV. MAN IN A SPHERE / GOD NOT NEAR. Now assume the following scenario: say there is a man inside a completely enclosed glass sphere, with a diameter of four or five meters. Also, within this sphere, are a number of rubber balls. Further, let us suppose that the glassy sphere floats amidst a vast ocean and that the man inside can see no land whatsoever on the horizon. Though encapsulated as such, he can see the ocean surrounding him; he can hear the oceanic waves on the outside splashing against the sphere; and he can sense the sphere bobbing up and down as the waves flux and flow. Let us also say that this man appeared out of nothing inside this sphere, that he has the capacity for language, and that he is totally astonished at what his senses are now informing his mind (astonishment at self-existence and the world is the spark of philosophy). Curious, he begins to think about what it is like on the outside of the sphere. He is interested in knowing how it really is. He wants to know what is happening "out there". He sees this watery domain on the outside yet still, in strange way, feels circumscribed. There is something that limits, something that sort of blocks his view, namely the sphere. He notices the rubber balls in the sphere and begins to throw them against the curved glass walls so as they might break through his confines. Additionally, let us say that the balls represent thoughts given material ascription (vocalization, written words), that the glass sphere denotes his mind, and the ocean outside is the material world. But what happens when this man throws the rubber balls? What occurs when he thinks and materializes his thoughts with sign or voice? The balls bounce off the glass, rebounding a number of times, until eventually settling at the bottom of the sphere. Once again this man is astonished (incidentally, TH2 assumes this guy is a bit of a moron). Why does he react in this manner? The balls which materially connote his thoughts did not rupture the glass sphere and penetrate outside of it. He sees, hears and feels the ocean outside, though not with total acuity as he is limited by the sphere. The sphere mitigates the sound of the thrashing waves into pulsating drones and the glass is translucent, i.e. not absolutely clear. But this sphere also keeps the water from rushing in from the outside. Ever so gradually, then, this man begins to think that he cannot breach the sphere (his mind) nor that the ocean without (the world) can penetrate within.

V. DISCOVERY. And now frustrated after many hours, days, years, decades and centuries of futile ball throwing, this man then notices something else. He is astonished again. He concentrates on the curved wall of the sphere, brings in his face to look closely at it. He sees that, at the interface of the glass inside and the water outside, there is border, a limit, i.e. the glass itself, that which forms a distinction between the inside and outside. But what kind of distinction is it? What is its nature? The water does not flow through into the sphere and thus he initially thinks himself closed off. However, his senses are still relaying information - he sees, hears, feels, smells and tastes. Again, he notices something else: at this line of distinction, the glass and the water exists side-by-side. They are adjacently situated, juxtaposed. There is a smooth, slick and streamlined curvature that neatly separates his inner atmosphere (the mind) and the outer hydrosphere (the world).

VI. CONCATENATION. At this point that our existential sailor is beginning to think that a sign is just a sign (locked within the mind) that cannot transverse the bridge leading to extraneous reality. The sign merely concatenates reality, like a coat of paint or a thin plastic veneer on a wall. His mind and reality do not intermix. Their relation to one another is like oil and water. The implication, then, is that this man is beginning to believe that his mind itself is the world. Unfortunately, this condition will get even worse, as we shall soon discover. In effect, this man assumes that he can only talk about reality, not as it is, but as if it is. And so long as he believes that a sign is only a sign (symbolical, mythical, and so forth), the downslide continues.

VII. So what happens?

VIII. SIGNED, SEALED BUT NOT DELIVERED. This man can only take so much frustration at presuming himself unable to break through the glass sphere that is his mind. His air is now nearly depleted. The internal atmosphere is suffocating. The pressure builds, strains and stresses augment internally. He begins to ruminate in an ever-growing state of anxiety, and this time without even throwing rubber balls. Just thinking, without the material connotation of thinking via signs or speech: "A sign is only a sign", he begins. "What I see is not real, it only seems so. I am trapped here inside my sphere for all eternity. No matter how many times I throw the rubber balls against the glass, they just bounce back. This is all routine, mundane, useless. No matter what I attempt, my will in doing does not appear to be free. I am constrained. No matter how hard I think in trying to find a solution to my condition, the paradox remains. My reason must therefore have some implicit quirk. Indeed, I must be going insane. For I cannot actually know or believe what is on the outside. There must, therefore, be something in my very nature that is wrong, something irremediably corrupt. But my senses still transmit to me an 'out there'. For when I look into that expansive ocean, in whatever direction from within my glassy domain, all is blurry. And when I glance forwards into that distant horizon, I intuit something, though it is not fully perceptible. I cannot make a real distinction between the sky above and the water below. The firmament is leaden and these dreary, stormy, unstable, ever-moving waters of the North Atlantic, pointing westward to the direction of the New World, leaves me in melancholy, even despair. Yet, despite the danger involved, this must be the way. Nothing is. Everything becomes. I no longer believe in the dictum 'esse quam videri'. All that I perceive within my glassy hell fluxes and transforms and changes and evolves. Therefore, my hope and my horizon must reside 'out there' in the future. For this is what I will, and I will powerfully! But since I cannot break through by silicon encapsulation, and since there is no objective reality, I will create my own subjective world, here within, alone, in the midst and in defiance to that absolutist hydrosphere on the outside that continually menaces me. I acknowledge my own existence and have no need of extrinsic confirmation. In my sphere, not only can I say 'I am', but I can even say more awesomely that 'I am God'. That wretched external reference has only produced in me pain and suffering. For the circular shape of my sphere must be the universal sign. It gyrates and rotates endlessly, gloriously. Nothing can stop it. Nothing can shatter it. My circular sphere is a great engine and it will guide me along my way as I stream forwards, as I thrust and scream onwards, into that grey, non-specific, unnameable, yet magnetic and mysterious unknown - that unknown formed entirely of my own cognition where there are no limits. In here, I am a Titan, I am a Revolution, the master of all and in all. I am who I am... no! I am becoming!"

IX. IMPLOSION IMMANENT. Obviously, our silicon sailor is having a bit of trouble. He seems not to be exactly the happiest of fellows, and TH2 doubts very much whether one of Fr. Greeley's cornball novels would be able to allay his imploding inwardness of spirit. Our self-segregating sailor is now going mad. His thoughts, feelings and actions are growing more despicable. The conditions inside the sphere are now deoxygenated, turning abhorrent, foul. This is because the once clear glass sphere has turned opaque, then murky brown, and then, at last, absolute black. He has defecated, vomited and urinated inside his sphere. He has expectorated and yelled at the glassy barrier in unconscious defeat and in vain self-assertion. The condition inside is now organismic, earthy, pagan. The air reeks with his hate.

X. RESCUE. But then something else happens. An occurrence intervenes from the outside, though our sailor is completely oblivious to it as his vision is totally occluded. He is blind as the glass sphere, his mind, is blackened. A mighty iceberg crashes through and completely shatters the sphere - again to our man's astonishment. He falls into the water. Pieces of glass tear and rip his skin and he begins to bleed. The blood and water mix. He feels a sharp yet still blunting sting of the saltwater. He is now cognizant of his breakthrough into the reality of the stormy hydrosphere. Strangely enough, although the saltwater on his wounds make him scream with pain, it has a cleansing aspect about it. His bodily grime washes away, his reason returns, his senses are more acute. One problem, however - and once again to the sailor's astonishment: he cannot swim! Again do the despair and defeat flood his being. He cannot save himself. He is alone again. This once unconquerable and unsinkable man, this Titan, this Revolution of a creature, begins to sink. The waves around him become larger and larger, more stormy and untamed… Yet at the moment upon final descent into the abyss, he sees, to his indescribable astonishment, a Ship on the horizon. It moves confidently, suredly, truthfully. It soars across the rough ocean as if were sliding downwards on a steep plane of ice. And the Navigator of this ship stands by a tall and directly upward pointing mast, in the one direction that the sailor did not look when in his glassy prison house. And in his direction, quickly does this Ship come...

XI. J'ACCUSE. What relevance does this narrative have with the Real Presence? What is its relation to Transubstantiation? Readers with keen eyes probably noticed the religious message conveyed. Those versed in the history of philosophy hopefully saw an analogical description of the philosophical implications of Martin Luther's revolt. Whether it is acknowledged or not, the denial of God's Real Presence - which TH2 specifically takes to be the formal rejection of Transubstantiation - has had a real and lasting impact on the history of the modern world. With this formal rejection, arising from the Protestant revolt against the Roman Catholic Church... effectively, Christianity becomes more so symbolical/subjective than material/objective in aspect, more so temporal than eternal, without interconnection, via material intermediaries (i.e. Holy Communion, Pope), to an external, transcendent reality. God therefore becomes more sign than substance. God becomes an endistanced "Totally Other", completely outside the domain of human affairs, where, in the final analysis, it is held as fact that man as a rational being cannot know anything about God.

XII. POST-REFORMATION ATMOSPHERICS. It is a fallacy to attribute the shockwave to world history, actuated by the Reformation, as caused by "political factors" or "historical forces" or "economic parameters". Prior to political frameworks or economic cycles or fashions of the day, always is there a religious or philosophical view of God and the world, undergirding that belief or disbelief in God, proclaiming His immanence and/or transcendence. There is also a view of man: his will, be it free or not; his reasoning power, be it able or useless; his inner nature, be it good or decrepit. When Luther declared that the "holy sacrament is nothing else than a divine sign" and not a Real Presence, and that Thomas Aquinas "invented transubstantiation" [1]; and when, a little later on, John Calvin organized all the precepts of the Reformers into a rigid system of belief, then, upon widespread acceptation of the Reformation's chief philosophical precepts (no freewill, irremediably corrupt human nature, the ineptitude of reason), the formally declared utter externality of God provokes an immense loneliness in man. God's grace cannot cure a vile human nature but merely conceal it like paint on a wall, and there develops a primacy of will and feeling over the intellect. The belief of a real God who works and is present in the daily lives of people gradually diminishes. The spiritual atmosphere that was borne of the Reformation resembled that of a vast and leaden emptiness, a miserable and gloomy sky without reference and solace, devoid of refuge, and only infinity lied within the range of human perception. The infinity once believed to reside in the realm of transcendence (God, Heaven) is substituted with a belief in the infinity of the immanent material world - a world confined forever within the bounds of space and time. The atmosphere thus becomes heavy, negative and brutal. God's omnipotence is overemphasized. He is presumed to be iron-like and dictatorial, like some brooding shadow weighing down upon the soul. Still, God is in a way gone, "out there", cold and distant, aloof to humanity. A God not near.

XIII. VACUUM FILLING. If God's Real Presence in the world is rejected, and if a man repeatedly told that he is entirely wretched in nature, and that he possesses no capacity whatsoever to contemplate or know about God, then he will eventually shift attention from his inward self to the exterior world. He cannot for too long withhold the inward strains of immanency. The vacuum created within will then soon be filled with another type of… indeed! - a new order of understanding and knowingness. New, unexplored and uncharted vistas open up where the outside world is grasped primarily in its materiality. Immanent time, matter and space become these new vistas. The former pagan belief of an eternal, fatalistic world again emerges into the forefront. Since there is no transcendent locus to configure and keep balance between the transcendent and the immanent, so as to maintain ontological stability, or because there is no sustaining Real Presence (transcendent) in the world (immanent) that provides an uplink beyond the world as such, dualisms become unbalanced. Because the sign is confused with the thing, the mind with the world, man's cognition of the world begins to seem peculiar, strange. Things begin to blur and fuse together. Everything is seen purely and solely in its potential, as movement in futuris. When man begins to increasingly focus on the outward material after the shift from the inward mental, and since materiality is not constant (it always changes), all is presumed to become and not to be. Actuality and the "isness" of things are thrown overboard on the Ship of Becoming which sails westwards over the cold and dreary waters of the North Atlantic to the yet undiscovered New World intuitively deemed to be in the midst of that grey horizon. Recall Aquinas on the Transubstantiation: "this conversion ought not to be signified... as becoming, but as in being".[2]

XIV. ORIGINAL SIN OF MODERN PHILOSOPHY. The philosophical ramifications are obvious. Mind and reality are confused and thus begins that excursion into danger, a metaphysical version of the Fall of Man. Said Jacques Maritain (1882-1973): "This reification of ideas, the confusion of the idea with an 'instrumental sign' and an 'object quod'... is the original sin of modern philosophy".[3] Man as a being is no longer open and directed to the theocentric. No longer is he compliant, trusting in answers given from authority above. Now he is in closure, disobedient and defiant. All is anthropocentric and internalized. Man now elevates questioning (once subordinate, humbling,) from below upwards into a virtue. Not to understand, but to overcome, to negate Being. Thus Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), the quiet Luther: "Questioning is the authentic and proper and only way of appreciating what by its supreme rank holds our existence in its power... man should be understood, within the question of being, as the site which being requires in order to disclose itself. Man is the site of openness, the there".[4] "Here I stand", goes the famously concocted enunciation attributed to Luther.

XV. LUTHER'S WAKE: DESCARTES. René Descartes (1596-1650) will, under Protestant influence, dichotomize the sensible from the intelligible and thus inaugurate the "body-mind problem". While in residency in Holland, he published his famous Discourse on Method in 1637, wherein we read: "...a substance whose whole essence or nature is simply to think, and which does not require any place, or depend on any material thing, in order to exist. Accordingly this 'I' - that is, the soul by which I am what I am - is entirely distinct from the body".[5] Hence mind and body are not separable, but separated, like two juxtaposing sheets of glass in contact with each other. No interaction existed between the two, akin to the sphere narrative outlined above. Thus disappears the traditional (Scholastic Medieval) view which deemed the mind and body as two through-going yet distinct units. For Descartes, intellection is intuition, unassociated to material existents. Descartes further dissociated morality from knowledge and raised mathematics over metaphysics.

XVI. LUTHER'S WAKE: KANT. Enter the quintessential German Protestant: Immanuel Kant. From permanent home base in Königsberg, he tears away the will from the intellect, makes religion a function of the will, and (akin to Descartes) sets Newton's physics over metaphysics. All philosophy after Kant is a footnote to his contention that reality is a subjective product of the mind - a mind that has negated and shut out God's Real Presence. Eventually, and not surprisingly, Kant declared himself to be God, as given in his posthumously published work.[6]

XVII. LUTHER'S WAKE: ROUSSEAU. From Geneva, Switzerland - and by inverse reaction to this centre of fatalistic Calvinism, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1788) proclaimed that man's nature to be absolutely good. Rather, he said, civilization is corrupt. His popularization of the "General Will", including his "Lawgiver" and his famous attack on private property[7] certainly formed the prelude to twentieth century Communist totalitarianism. By removing authority, individual success and privilege as an ordering factor in society, Rousseau opened up the floodgates to egalitarianism where everything was levelled out into a social plane that refuses acknowledgement of status, ability, innovation, intelligence, industriousness, personhood, and so on - those things which differentiate one person from an-other, that would otherwise maintain some degree of order and civility. All citizens, abstractly taken, must submit to the "General Will" and anyone who challenges this notion is considered to be against "the people". The State itself, acting as patriarch and highest authority to a citizenry now regarded as children, superintends action and thought, thereafter producing a sense of alienation as personal rights and freedom are debarred. With Rousseau we see the parturition of social engineering because a licensed and unlimited State is alone figured to instil goodness for all.[8] Rousseau's ideational corpus formed the prelude to the French Revolution. Napoleon followed soon afterward.

XVIII. LUTHER'S WAKE: MARX AND HITLER. Russian Communism and German Nazism emerge in the early twentieth century. Karl Marx (1818-1883) clearly saw the implications of Luther's revolt: "For Germany's revolutionary past is theoretical, it is the Reformation… Once it was the monk's brain in which the revolution began, now it is the philosopher's".[9] A century prior, the poet Heinrich Heine (1757-1856) penned: "Praise be to Luther!... Yes, the third man will also come, who will complete what Luther began, what Lessing continued, and what the German fatherland needs so much - the third emancipator!" [10] Heine also issued a prophecy that even today makes one shudder in its accuracy. There is that the spirit of the ancient Germans "which does not fight in order to destroy or conquer but simply for the sake of fighting. Christianity… has in some degree subdued that brutal Germanic joy of battle, but it could not destroy it; and when the cross, that restraining talisman, falls to pieces, then will break forth again the ferocity of the old combatants, the insane berserker rage whereof northern poets have said and sung. The talisman is rotten, and the day will come when it will pitifully crumble to dust. The old stone gods will then arise from the forgotten ruins and wipe from their eyes the dust of a thousand years, and at last Thor with his giant hammer will leap aloft and he will shatter the gothic cathedrals. When you hear the trampling of feet and the clashing of arms, ye neighbours children, ye French, be on your guard... Smile not at my counsel, at the counsel of a dreamer, who warns you against Kantians, Fichteans and philosophers of Nature. Smile not at the phantasy of one who anticipates in the realm of reality the same revolution that has taken place in the region of the intellect. The thought precedes the deed as the lightening the thunder. German thunder is of true character, it is not very nimble, and it rumbles along slowly. But come it will, and when you hear crashing as never before has been heard in the world's history then know at last the German thunderbolt has fallen. At this commotion the eagles will drop dead from the skies and lions in the farthest wastes of Africa will bite their tails and creep into their royal lairs. There will be played in Germany a drama compared with which the French Revolution will seem but an innocent idyll".[11]

XIX. Ecstatically greeted by a large crowd on a visit to the countryside, Hitler will say this to his architect and confidant Albert Speer: "Hitherto only one German has been hailed like this: Luther".[12]


1. Luther's Works, ed. J. Pelikan (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), vol. 54, p. 12. See also vol. 35, pp. 49-73.

2. Sum. theol., iii, q. 78, art. 2c.

3. J. Maritain, Three Reformers, Luther-Descartes-Rousseau (London: Sheed and Ward, 1936), p. 77.

4. M. Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. R. Manheim (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), pp. 83, 205. Originally published in 1953.

5. From Part 4 of "Discourse on the method of rightly conducting one's reason and seeking the truth in the sciences" in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff and D. Murdoch (Cambridge University Press, 1984), vol. 1, p. 127.

6. I. Kant, Opus Postumum, trans. E. Förster and M. Rosen (Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 218-235.

7. The statement comes from his Discourse on Inequality: "The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said 'This is mine,' … how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by … crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody". Ironically, like Descartes' Discourse on Method (1637), Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality (1754) was published out of Holland. The original title, translated into English, reads: A Discourse On A Subject Proposed By The Academy Of Dijon: What Is The Origin Of Inequality Among Men, And Is It Authorised By Natural Law?

8. See discussion in P. Johnson, Intellectuals (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1990), pp. 23-26. First published in 1988.

9. K. Marx, "Towards a Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right" in Karl Marx, Selected Writings, ed. D. McLellan (Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 69.

10. H. Heine, Concerning the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany, trans. H.H. Mustard (New York: Random House, 1973), bk. I, pp. 305-358.

11. Quoted in F.J. Sheen, Philosophies at War (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1943), pp. 31-32.

12. Quoted in A. Bullock, Hitler and Stalin, Parallel Lives (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), p. 353. The direct linkage between Luther and Hitler the "Catholic" (e.g. will to power ideology, the Holocaust) is an open secret amongst scholars. Referring to Luther's work On the Jews and Their Lies (1543), the English historian Paul Johnson said it was the "first work of modern anti-Semitism, and a giant step forward on the road to the Holocaust". This is found in his A History of the Jews (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), p. 242. First published in 1987. Compare also W.M. McGovern, From Luther to Hitler: The History of Fascist-Nazi Political Philosophy (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1941); P.F. Wiener, Martin Luther: Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor (Cranford, NJ: American Atheist Press: 1999, originally published in 1942; and W.L. Shier, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, A History of Nazi Germany (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1960), pp. 90-97.



robertgwirth said...

Superb summation!   Thank you!

I have to admit that I wouldn't have understood any of it before I read Philip Trower's book "The Catholic Church and the Counter-Faith.

TH2 said...

Going to look into that book. Just read a synopsis of it. Looks interesting. Cheers.

AllenT said...

"So while attempting to textually organize and collate the stream of thoughts presently racing through my brain"

Where have I heard something like this before, Oh yeah:

Hedley Lamarr: My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.
So were you the inspiration for Hedly Lamarr in Blazing Saddles?

That aside, a good time line of where Luther's actions have led things.

I wonder what Luther would think of the news that The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter is taking over a former Lutheran Church in Kansas City KS


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