Otherness & Personhood
The heart is primary when it comes to discernment about the Divine. The approach of the heart – “bringing the mind into the heart” – is indicative of the Orthodox Church hesychastic tradition, which is quite distinct from Western (Roman Catholic/Protestant) approaches to God that deal primarily with scholastic reason. Our reasoning cannot grasp God as Mystery, as Evagrius of Pontus says, “God cannot be grasped by the mind. if he could be grasped, he would not be God.” God as Mystery is encompassed by what the Greek fathers say – ‘God who is comprehensible is not God.’ Reason only turns out to produce for itself mere idols. The God of the Church, however, is emphatically not the God that reason fashions for itself in its own image.
The Divine is both known and unapproachable, which is to say, paradoxically – i.e. outside all Occidental dialectics of disjunction or “contradiction” – God is both Person and Mystery simultaneously. Saint Symeon the New Theologian writes, “As a friend talking with his friend, man speaks with God, and drawing near in confidence he stands before the face of the One who dwells in light unapproachable. Such is the dynamic between the Light of God and God who is revealed, like Moses, through the “pillar of cloud and fire” in the “thick darkness” or dark cloud of unknowing on Sinai (Exodus 20:21). Moses progresses from light into darkness: there is not a proceeding from the darkness of ignorance into the light of knowing, but beyond the light of knowing, a profound “darkness of unknowing” that culminates in the God “whose name is not known,” as Saint Gregory of Nyssa would say.
Yet, the Mystery that is apophatic in nature is affirmative, not simply a negation: it affirms beyond all language and thought an immediate experience of the living God. Thus linked to the Greek mysterion (myein, meaning to ‘close the eyes and mouth’) is an unknowing that is not emptiness but fullness. The Mystery is not simply a baffling thing as if Mystery translated to a mere insoluble “problem” or even an enchantment: Mystery is, rather, revealed in understanding in such a way that it never exhausts itself. The proper definition of God as Mystery is not simply some kind of enchantment to be “solved” but instead is the inexhaustible.
God is the wholly Other, inconceivable, invisible and radically transcendent, and yet this Otherness is also the Nearness of the Eternal. God calls each of us by our name in a personal way and God is present not as a nameless force but instead in a Personal relation of love. Love is never a mere logical certainty that is to be proved by a theoretical exercise, but is a relationality of love. All personal relationships, especially in the context of marriage (the “great mystery” as Saint Paul would say) is not known through an abstract principle: that which is loved is not thought. Even in the personal there is an essential aspect to love that is otherness, which surpasses our understanding: ‘by love he (God) can be caught and held, but by thinking never.’
The two aspects of the Divine, both Mystery and Personal, insinuates God that is close and yet further from us. These two aspects do not cancel each other, however, but enhance one another paradoxically: the more God becomes intimately known the more incomprehensible God becomes.
The two aspects of the Divine suggests by their juxtaposition an experience beyond the historical method.
A Man of Macedonia
To say that the heart ought to be extended or broadened to include or embrace the aspects of reality that goes beyond the mere empirical is not to suggest that the empirical is bereft of value, only that its valuation is inadequate when the heart is itself limited to “reason” and restricted to only that phenomena which can be experienced apparently – ( a self-limitation of reason that posits that we may only know what is apparent, i.e. “the dictatorship of appearances.”) The human heart points beyond itself and in pointing beyond itself suggests beyond the world of appearances to embrace the inexhaustible and complex majesty of being.
The inquiry of human existence not only poses for itself a question of the heart because its own inconclusive nature slides up against the unbounded. Indeed, it yearns for the unbounded. The heart, much more than reason when it aims to know itself, yearns for eternity even if it experiences itself only in moments. That is to say, the heart experiences a simultaneity of being limited and also poises itself for the unbounded. The heart, open towards God, prevents the human from resting within themselves. The humans only come to themselves by going outside of themselves, i.e. by moving towards the Other that is infinitely greater.
In the beginning was the Word (Logos), but the Word is not confined to the Occidental (ultimately, Roman Catholic view) which would limit it to meaning reason and word. Truly, it is creative and capable of self-communication, so said the Evangelist – Logos is God, creative and self-communicative. In Orthodoxy the creative is gathered together in a much richer orientation, outside of mere reason used as an instrument, and comes under the silence of hesychasm.
Speaking of the instrumental, consider that modern science and technology are based on a rationality that seeks the natural world – correlation between laws of nature and human reason that presupposes the capability of an orderly operation of predictable laws of nature. This development concedes to a dogma of scientism over the empirically existing. Without Occidental scholasticism, however, such modernism, which is wholly confining as to the field of experience, would have been impossible. It is a consequence of the “de-Hellenization” of Christianity.
We are all familiar with the modern/postmodern conundrum that persists as a separation of faith and reason. The project of de-Hellenization in the West rests on this false premise: specifically, that theology can and should be separated from human reason, and that this separation pairs out individuated, privative interpretation on the one hand, and “objective” reason on the other.
To be sure, the intersection between the biblical covenant and Greek thought did not happen by chance,
“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” [Acts 16:6-10]
But what is “Greek thought?” In the context of the Church, it is certainly not metaphysics. It is also not reason in the instrumentalist sense.
To the modernist, the questions about the existence of God or of the meaning of human experience or existence in terms of revelation is considered “pre-scientific” (or else, simply, “unscientific”). Reason has become in the modern era limited to scientific “truth” and “certainty” – such a label does not automatically necessitate a deflation of revelation’s contribution or its relevance to experience. There is nothing to prove or demonstrate through the arbitration of scientism when it comes to revelation. Yet, that revelation is seen no longer as a source of true knowledge about the human-being-in-the-world, and that it is regarded as something “subjective” or else a source of sentiment and individual preference, is not the result of scientism itself. It is, rather, the result of scientism’s condition of possibility, which is Occidental Protestantism. That “new” theological outlook, where theology is a matter of subjective, individual preference, is correlated directly with the rise of the natural sciences and achievements of technology in the West that, in many ways, conditions also the Enlightenment’s “self-limitation of reason.” Consider that Kant’s limitation (of self-limitation of reason) suggests that reason deals with things that can only be perceived by the senses, thus insinuating truth is a function of what can be observed or either falsified or verified through experimentation governed by the senses. That religious experience ought to be funneled into the private sphere as a matter of subjective experience, and ultimately as a matter of individuated aesthetic taste, and that the public sphere ought to be soley “rational” (or as Weber would say, capitalist or economic) is a product of the Enlightenment’s scientism that is itself a reflection in a mirror – a romantically Protestant mirror.
The background condition for this empirical approach, however, is not in the Enlightenment itself but – as it is being argued – also in Luther’s efforts to contain revelation solely to textual analysis in an effort to dispense entirely with the Oral Tradition. Such is the backdrop to sola scriptura (scripture alone), which becomes a keystone in what will eventually become liberal ideology in the West. In a move to get closer to what they considered an unadulterated Christ, which was ultimately a privatized interpretation for a Christ befitting their own stomachs, their own aesthetic taste, the Protestants treated Word as mere historical record and read Scripture without reference to philosophical or theological formulas that came out of the Greek language and the early Church’s Oral Tradition. The consequence of this is a refusal to acknowledge, in the end, that the Tradition itself choose the Scripture in the first place!
The presumption that Biblical texts cannot give us “objective” view of what is God, Jesus Christ, is a modern invention – the very notion that something ought to lend over an objectivity through the funnel of a scientistic explanation is modernist. This meant everything in regards to theology became a matter of being relegated to experience of the subject – that is the wager of the devolution of the Christian West. Of course, it doesn’t stop with the Protestant individualism: that aspect is only a way-station towards the end game of the deviation, which is atheism. The common Occidental atheist, if they are bereft of self-reflection, will never see the irony of their condition – that their condition is the result of Protestant theology.
There is some truth to the notion that God cannot be objectively “demonstrated” inasmuch as the God of covenant is relational and personal, however, the personal is not the same thing as individuated, and there is a thin, passable line to walk between self-affirmed interpretation and a heremeutics of the biblical that has been vacated of the hesychastic tools in which it is understood (which cannot be interpreted individually).
What is evident in the wider repercussion of the breakdown between faith and reason, which is everywhere present in the dialectical thinking of the West? Perhaps it stems from the historical effort to de-Hellenized Christianity? It is Western Christianity, after all, that brought theology first through the sieve of Roman legalism and then through the privative sieve of individuated, proto-capitalist Protestantism. These two features (Roman Catholicism and Protestantism) have more in common then they do difference. Before the subjectizing process of Protestant theology, Romanism had already elevated the idea in the place of any experiential hesychasm – hence the backdrop of favoring the “beautific vision,” which is only my idea of God, over and above any hesychastic experience that translates an experience of the uncreated Light as an experience of God as such. The idea becomes a standard in the West already in Scholasticism, perhaps due to a deviation that brought within the Western Church walls certain elements of pagan metaphysics (the West had always been closer to Plato than the East).
It must be added that the Tradition’s Hellenization (and here I am talking about the Eastern Tradition) ought not be confused with Greek paganism or Platonic metaphysics. That it would be conflated with such a scheme, say for example in Nietzsche’s critique and subsequent postmodernist followers, only demonstrates the lack of knowledge on the part of the philosophers as to their own Western deviation and a lack of understanding the subtle ways in which the Church fathers may have taken certain words but applied their own interpretive frame. To make such a distinction is crucial and is not without major consequence for the understanding.
I am wondering if all of this does not serve as a good background in which to present what is wrong with the historical method. I am wondering if we cannot go beyond it in order to retrieve a sense of Christology in the now-time; that is, the messianic time rather than historic time. Reason, at least as it has developed instrumentally in the West, is tied up into historic interpretation. However, the “Hellenization” in question takes more from the biblical account, the Judaic tradition of revelation, than from Greek metaphysics. It is this source that we ought to look towards in order to make hesychastic experience more clear to the understanding – it has very little to do with Western reason, although that does not mean it is unreasonable. I think one of the essential differences can be retrieved by looking at the contrast between historic time and messianic time.
Beyond Historical Method
The historic method devolves into the notion that all history is the same kind of history: that the human being, regardless of manifest difference, is determined by the same laws and limitations. This presumption is a consequence of modernist universalism. If this method is applied to the biblical texts then what tends to occur is a move towards lodging the events, persons and texts into a fixed past.
Doesn’t this, perhaps, owe a lot to Hegel, who believed that the subject is in many ways chained to their historical era – to mere empirically existing attributes that shape them? Isn’t this the same Hegel who, as Hart points out,
“could not abide…(with) the notion either of a God who possesses within himself differentiation, determination, community, joy, and perfection in complete liberty from the world, or of a world left thus devoid of meaning in the ultimate speculative sense of ‘necessity’ and so ‘reduced’ to ‘needlessness’ and thoroughly atheistic reality: as an unforced, additional expression of the love of God that enjoys self-sufficiently.” [Beauty of the Infinite, 140]
Hegel is by far the premier example of philosophy’s Egyptianism (see Nyssa). Egyptianism amounts to a concept of worldliness and it is for the sake of the world and its politics that a totality (of strife, agon, violence) is theorized against the infinite. Against a theology that makes difference and particularity good in itself and seeks to have alterity, the slippage as such, abide within the musical notes of infinity, philosophy can only presume an absolute pirmacy of univocalistic identity, where x can never also be y. It is incapable of thinking paradoxically, trapped as it is within Western dialectical sufficiency. It thus cannot view Christian revelation in any other terms than a dialectical strife, in formal terms reducing all difference to a unity just as in substantive terms it reduces all to difference. There is nothing in Egyptianism’s program that can thinkin paradox or the “metaxological” logic of love, itself having inherited an entirely different lineage of Greek paganism that merely plays dialectically with sameness and difference within the boundes of a sheerly indeterminate, violent intrusion (sublime).
The backdrop to the historic is an atheism where thought and reality begin with nothing, hence requiring an arbitration effect of determinate negation. If something really comes from nothing, as Hegel would follow (radicalizing the Christian ex nihilio) then the logic is that it is only because nothingness negates itself – without a positive supplement, such self-negation would determine the way things are, and this principle of negation is then grafted onto every experience (as a totality of negation). Notice, however, that this scheme that refuses the mutiple of alterity. Negative dialectics engenders the materialism that seeks the “actual,” which is to say, does not posit any virtuality (and even less the notion of a transcendent), and this nihilistic concept of an original negativity sets itself up as a formal unfolding (i.e. as a driving force of “reality”) that dogmatically overrides the existence of a multiplicity of opposites. Dialectics can only think a single disjunction. Egyptianism must posit a formalist consistency of the negative where the existence of the sheer contingency is funneled into a stricter concept of single difference. This suggests that the claim of contingency becomes rather self-defeating. All of this is a modernist assumption, which is ironically wedded to a Protestantism of universalism that makes dialectics and difference a conclusive site. It is a consummation of metaphysical logic presumed to be the only possible and necessary stage or mode (this simply is modernity, which is notably the Protestant metanarrative). The claim of contingency is the tell-sign where all the cards are exposed: while claiming for itself its own existence as a contingent event, Egyptianism nonetheless still desires to see itself (and have others see it) as a unique relationship to an eternal truth (a truth of a necessitarian negativity).
The result is that the historic reading, which can devolve and has devolved into the worst kinds of fundamentalist literalist interpretations, on the one hand, and atheistic displacement on the other – (ironically both the fundies and the atheists have more in common than they have difference) – suggests that the revelatory exegesis cannot transmit into our present lives. That possibility is excluded from “historical criticism” from the outset. It seems that what could not be tolerated is the Christian infinite: the infinite in which difference is always difference and where that difference is always an instrusion of a mutiplicity of infinite differences where paradox, not dialectics, is the mode of sensibility. This is a scandal that would leave philosophy empty handed of its arbitration over history.
What is needed for any sincere balance between self-affirmed interpretation and the text is not only a retrieval of the theological tools of interpretation (hesychasm), but also a disruption of the notion that things are set firmly in the past. The modernist can only think the historic in the latter mode. What is needed is to go beyond the historical method in order to retrieve a true theology once again, where theology is purely and simply a now-time of experience, and not a historical documentation. If it does not speak to who we are today, who we were yesterday, or who we are tomorrow, then it is a dead letter. All of this dead letter is already presupposed in Luther’s sola scriptura that made it the possible condition for the development of Westernized atheism.
Christian Revelation teaches us that every particularization of being, each instance of being, declares the glory of God: the only uniovity is the one of glory (kavod) where ultimately there is no distinction between being and beauty. This radicalizes the continuum of difference beyond a mere interplay between sameness and difference, i.e. beyond metaphysical schemes. Difference as such becomes a supplement to an increasing and ever-unfolding infinity, which itself gives over more and more beauty as it unfolds.
The first pass of de-Hellenization may culminate in a kind of attitude where, so to speak, we are taught that Christ can only be Christ yesterday. Whereas any deep sense of biblical exegesis, especially in light of Orthodoxy’s experiential mode (in the East, one experiences and then has knowledge, whereas in the Occident one assumes knowledge before one experiences), which is have always been informed by theological tools left intact and not destroyed in a process of sola scriptura, points to that which is in counter distinction to all historical methods. Specifically, it allows us to see that the overarching narrative removes the Scripture from its habitat in the Church (who formed its unity), and that this removal has disastrous consequences as to the immediate relevance for the human – a conscious mind and body in the commons – via Christian reflection that knows itself as all at once a creature and event of grace.
That the Scriptures have a continuity of relevance, that they may have a unity at all, and that they may contain a revelatory speech, is due to the Church itself as a body in time. It is not due to a text. Word/Logos is a living and breathing event that exerts itself through the processional (Holy Spirit) and not solely in letter. By the Church there is a specific reference which is that of apostolic succession – Tradition with a capital “T.” And it is Christ himself that utters that the Church will persist to the end of time. What does this utterance really mean? Perhaps that while historics can give us a sense of the context of events or even the meaning of different words as they might have been understood, and may or may not give the sense of how varying communities experienced God, without reference also to the commons of the Church’s Tradition and its own life and liturgy in the now-time, the messianic time of revelation, all experience becomes dead letter. Put differently, all meaning of hesychasm itself evaporates. Using the tools, for example of the Church fathers, to explore the biblical revelations is something that is immediately relevant, immediately contemporary also to who I was, who I am now and who I may be. It is only after the Reformation that Tradition can be seen at all as some kind of antiquarianism. That it could be rendered so (antiquarian) is exemplified in that process of de-Hellenization which leads ultimately to what Saint Gregory of Nyssa called physiologein, or treating things solely in a “scientific” way.
Consider the fourth-century debate between Gregory and Eunomius where Gregory disputes the claim held by Eunomius that he could understand or develop and understanding of God through solely “scientific” rational means. Gregory’s dispute resides in a extremely important turn of phrase that scientific undermining “transforms each mystery into a ‘thing.'” Is this not in Nyssa already present a kind of proto-critique of the reifying process of Western mindset? This physiologein is writ large in modernist ways of dealing with Scripture. The text, after sola scriptura ideology, becomes like a laboratory – it becomes a thing the privative interpretative framework can assemble and dissemble at whim.
And does this not remain the problem: the thingification of mystery? Isn’t this also the problem that remains elsewhere under the histotric method that displaced messianic time?
This issue underlines the concern of method. The theology cannot be studied in isolation from the commons setting it into praxis, and this commons is not a past mode – it is alive and well. But this is what the mode of its “scientific” interpretation seeks to do: such an approach is actually quite similar to the natural scientist failing at naturalism, as if the biologist would study an animal without reference to the habitat. And what concerns the habitat in this context? The concern is in deflecting the presumptions rooted in the Enlightenment’s anti-ecclesiasticalism which is rooted further back in Protestant deviations, and further still in what developed out of the Western Medieval period at the year 1054. It amounts to the biologist who gathers incomplete data and conceives their inaccurate picture as the complete study. Such a method is applied first at the time of the Enlightenment with the aim of “correcting” dogma by using history, and this ultimately devolves also in setting up the notion that Jesus Christ is a mere historic, human figure, which is ultimately set against the revelatory of Jesus the Christ.
The presumption of the historic Jesus over the Christ of faith led to the modernist rebuttal of the Church as veil that concealed the “historical” reality of Jesus or the biblical texts. None of that would have been possible without Luther. Therein Jesus is sought from a position against dogma (not through it) in favor of historical knowledge, making critical reason a bludgeon antipode to revelation. And really, the aforementioned is not some apologetics for blind obedience to institutionalized organization, but it is perhaps an interpretation of how we have gotten where we are since there is something already eliminativist, Hegelian, already dialectically nihilistic in this notion that there is a historic source (that is contingent) that is obscured by theological overtones.
The seeking of a historic Jesus misses the point entirely.
Consider tracing this out in the “literal” interpretations found often in Amercianism – first, of early Puritanism, but also as the Evangelical, fundamentalist Christianity found on the American continent. It is such a massive deviation that it cannot really be gotten into at present, simply because it is so obviously a deviation. Owing perhaps to an amnesia in regards to the Tradition of the Church and the teachings of the Church fathers, Americanism rests on that Lutheran sola scriptura which fails (or else, obfuscates?) to account for the subtle interactions between the theological themes of Greek thought and the conscience and covenant of the Jews as it ripples into liturgical time. Indeed, much Americanism has entirely dispensed with liturgy completely! Indeed, the entire concept of “text only” lapses out of the Truth of liturgic time altogether. This is why, yet again, Protestantism is a condition of possibility for atheism.
Because surely the point is mystery which is an entirely different kind of animal from historical method. The modernism in historic method cannot be undone and it will eventually slide against the Christ of faith: the point of view of that method it is not possible for a human being to really be God or to perform with divine powers, so the historian must seek to “explain” how such an idea came about by feigning the use of “objectivity.” Ultimately, eliminativism becomes the master arbitrator over all rhetoric (story). Does this not devolve into an apprehension of the world as a sealed immanence, where ultimately form is a petrified thing coming out of an original alienation? Does it not presume that we cannot know anything other than knowing through a reason limited and bracketed by the ‘dictatorship of appearances,’ and further, because of a failed interpretation of God as seeming not present in the apparent world, it is presumed we cannot know with certainty anything about God whatsoever except the idea of God? This is already identified as so much Romanism. The endgame is that in our finitude therefore everything can only speak for itself, and in the end being can only be spoken in its annihilation. From our mundane everyday natural laws of causation the modernist convinces himself very well that no person can walk on water or raise from the dead, whereas the point of theology (bringing the mind into the heart) has been missed entirely.
We Are Beings of the Word
“Reason” understood through the devaluation of Enlightenment scientism can only think an economy of order/chaos. It cannot conceive of being as a radiant donation of form, conceived as gift. That modern scientism, owning to its perversion of thinking, creates a world that is bereft of the notion that existence as necessity rather than kenotic or ecstatic love, ought to come as no surprise: it is not a surprise if one understands that modernity is stuck within the confines of a pagan absolute.
“Suffice it to say here that only in having broken from or interrupted the history of Western thought did theology open up the prospect of a peace otherwise unimaginable: one not bought at the price of restraint, or ethical flight, or abstraction, or reduction, of death, or an enervating distrust of vision and speech. The properly Christian thought of difference as harmonizable (not synthesizable), without any residue of inassimilable or tragic contradiction, remains possible (even in this postmodern hour) precisely because the regime of abstract essences was long ago abandoned, the immemorial anxiety regarding the ‘grounds’ of identity was stilled. In the light of Christian reflection, one knows oneself as a creature, an instance of grace, a ‘groundless’ overflow of God’s glory; one knows that one does not emanate from the absolute, but rather has been called from nothingness into the infinite – which embraces all manifestations of being as ‘paratactic’ moments in the unfolding discourse of divine splendor, as analogous enunciations of a divine rhetoric, without reducing them to pure, lifeless ideas.” [ibid 141]
Hence, to reintroduce the introduction: the concept of ‘reason’ ought to be extended or broadened to include or embrace the aspects of reality that go beyond the mere empirical, and in so doing there is a movement of bringing the heart into the mind. The Western concept of thought is profoundly limited in scope. This is not to say that the method of empirical analysis is not needed, or else is not sufficient to give over what it gives. Rather, we miss the point entirely if we don’t understand the biblical as a Divine that includes we ourselves as beings of the Word, where yesterday, today and tomorrow we may align ourselves to creative Intellect, and that this occurs at the immediate relevance of a living Scripture as it pertains to yesterday, today and tomorrow, and not to a mere historical explanation.
It is only when we dissolve ourselves of the need for a historic method that we may once again tap into a revelatory story. The revelatory story points to God in the infinite display of analogical differentiation. The fusion of being and beauty is always-already there, awaiting for us to vacate from our obsession of the object as a “thing” (that we can possess through our idea). And in that continuum where being and beauty merge, beauty is remains, so to speak, ‘at the surface’ in the manifest fragilities of being. Love of being therein is always a donation within the finite as eventuation of beauty.
The Messianic exists beyond historic time: Messianic allows a glimpse into the passage of historic time at the very instance that it is “not of this world.” In the historic, difference is only construed as a primordial violence, but in the Messianic all alterity is gift. The other is not reduced to the sameness but already a gift within the continuing enrichment of difference, as gift according to an infinite that reveals itself in beauty. This continual enrichment is a supplementation of peace and what is properly revelatory within the understanding (an understanding no longer trapped within an instrumental reason, and thus what is properly Logos).
Within the Christ of faith there is no reduction of the other to an alternate self, and no reduction of the analogies of other and same to a primordial violence. Only dialectics seeks to do such a thing, having for itself only a formalist distinction of singular differentiation. What is important here is dissolving the context of postmodernism that would have understood knowledge as representation of essences gotten at by a will of subjective consciousness – which merely places understanding in Kant’s transcendental subjectivity. Violence is implied in representation at the instance where consciousness becomes “alien,” seeing itself as a self-subsisting ego that is both empirical and transcendental. Conversely, the Christ of faith does not descend down the road of the heresy that culminates in a mechanical model of thought. The event of the world and the event of thought cannot be separated,
“….the self occurs as the manifestation of the world, the event of being; all knowledge is indeed intentional, which means, precisely, not only that all thought has an object, but that, as a consequence, thought belongs to being’s disclose of itself. Before the subject can be a conqueror of the other’s alterity, then, in what would be a strictly secondary moment of violence, the subject is already a recipient and, so, creature of a gift: an aesthetic effect. This is cognition’s ‘phenomenological circle’: the intention that ‘precedes’ all perception is also an intention already ‘invited’ by the splendor of concrete form, already awakened by the aesthetic exteriority of otherness, the beauty of the other, which informs intention in the intentional act, shapes and summons it, as an observation of a subjectivity that is only in being opened – formed – by the light of the other; one’s ‘self’ is that ‘matter’ in which beauty impresses itself, that ‘place’ where the light of the other, and of all being, shines, gathered in a reflective surface of incalculably various sensitivity (the physical senses, thought, imagination, anticipation, memory, desire, fear…).” [ibid]
Within the Messianic, what is given in knowledge is not the known, or merely the “thing” known as given over to the “knowing” mind, but an entire circularity of the event (of being and knowledge as illumination) that in allowing the other to be other and be in otherness and in recognition of otherness, appears in the form of an analogical difference, an aesthetic effect where the circle completes itself through a beauty grounded in infinite difference. This difference is not reducible to the abstraction of resemblance. Rather, we are all sustained accordance to a shared dwelling in “the light of that gives being.” [ibid 143]
The Logos beyond historic method is twofold: first, it is wholly Other, i.e. apophatically unknowable; second, it is Personal, which means it is knowable but only through love (rather than instrumental reason), and further, through a love whose knowledge knows the Personal as inexhausible (which dovetails the Personal back into the unknowable). Otherness and Personhood, then, are the two aspects of the Divine and they suggests by their juxtaposition a revelatory experience.
This revelatory experience is beyond dialectical “reason” as it has been handed down by Occidental philosophy. It comes about through the silence of hesychasm rather than the noise of knowledge. Only through looking at the way Christianity was “de-Hellenized” can one properly see this difference. The Hellenization in question is, however, not that of a pagan metaphysics (not “Greek thought” as philosophy knows it): it is, rather, the Hellenistic tendency within the thought of the church fathers of the Tradition and within the Greek language (the language of the NT) that inherited a unique means of theological interpretation of the Hebraic covental experience. The process of de-Hellenization is therefore a process through which the West in particular deviated, slowly at first but rapidly as time progressed, away from this origin. The first instantiation is Roman legalism, the Catholic scholastics that displace hesychasm in favor of an Egyptianist “reason,” and from this follows the consequences of Protestant thought, where an isolated individual can discern for himself the basis of interpretative formulas, and where, finally, Enlightenment scientism with its nihilistic terminus may unfold. All of this sets up the backdrop to the formulas of the historical method.
The historical method, seeking a historic Jesus, has a condition of possibility first in the “scripture only” ideology – quite distinct from the revelatory mode of neptic Tradition, which is the sole basis for a proper approach to the Christ of faith. It is not that the scripture is devoid of attention, only that the further the West deviated from the contemplative Tradition of the East the further it drifted away from the practice of “bringing the mind into the heart” in favor of an instrumentalist progression to reason. The key to this development is that the Occidental Reformers are not the endgame, only a way-station to a further development of a total metaphysical logic of negation: it is only a matter of time before this logic of negation, owing its presumption of the universal in the metanarrative of Protestantism, declares itself the sole arbiter for historic interpretation. Of course, this entire process is contingent – it could have developed otherwise (the entire history of the West, for example, would have turned out radically different if the events of 1054 would have never occured). It is part and parcel with historic method, however, it assume that the contingency of events leads to a necessary logic, as if modernity itself is an inevitability.
In any case, it is assessing the backdrop to the rise of the historic method that we may better devise the proper difference to it. Against historic “knowledge,” which ultimately dervives first from a legalism and only then through the instrumentalist reason, only to arrive at an eliminativist gaze as the master arbitrator over all rhetoric (story), we can pose a proper Tradition grounded in the revelatory existing outside historic time. The other to the historic is therefore the Messianic itself, which as Saint Paul says, is ‘the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.’ This experience is beyond worldliness, i.e. beyond Egyptianism’s philosophy. It is met within the dual of the Divine that is first, as with the fathers, the Light of the Personal, and then, as with Moses, the ‘dark cloud of unknowing.’ This does not lead us into a mere negation, however, since it immediately affirms itself back into the manifested world. It does so by the term “infinity” – out of nothingness comes infinity. It is this movement from nothing into the infinite that is the proper movement of difference, and retieving the glory (kavod) of the Messianic this infinite difference can be seen in the light of love. Against the historic method that wishes to reduce everything to a mere “actual” (which fundamentalism and atheism have in common), there is a properly aesthetic exteriority of otherness gained immediately through revelation (hesychasm).