Tuesday, November 03, 2009
I feel a little odd posting a picture of myself, but I didn't take any pictures today. Of the pictures I could choose to post, well, I don't feel I should be posting pics of Michael or Mulan without asking them first and they are watching TV. So here I am for your viewing pleasure.
Michael took this picture towards the end of Mulan's 10th birthday party on Sunday. Nine girls were in the basement dancing. The junk-filled room behind me is our basement guest room, where I threw everything from the other, bigger paneled room as I was wildly cleaning it up for the party.
We have a very arch-typical basement - lots of paneling, and it's one of the things I love about this house. In the basement, it's always 1975. The pictures on the wall around me are of our relatives, pictures we blew up for our wedding.
Once the party was in full swing, I was so tired. I think I had just said to Michael, "When do we get to start drinking?" And he took this picture. I was utterly exhausted.
I suddenly feel like a truly old parent. I can't believe my mother had five kids and threw big birthday parties for all of us. I'll be recovering from Mulan's birthday for about... a year.
I'm so sorry, but I just have to change the subject.
My mind is agog at the following realization: Plato is the true God of the Jesuits.
Now, to those of you well-versed with the Jesuitical mind-set and culture, what should be surprising is that this is - in any way - surprising.
I don't really know Plato very well. I mean, I knew the broad strokes - but I never read the Republic or his Dialogues or anything. I think I've even used the term "platonic ideal!" Now I realize that i have only a very superficial understanding of what that phrase really means. (Well, in my own defense, just try to understand Wikipedia's definition of platonic ideal.)
Mostly Plato seemed like gobbeldygook - a philosopher with great ideas but unfortunately who lived before science, psychology, and the social sciences usurped his musings with the cold hard facts of nature.
So, I've been listening to Will Durant's "The Story of Philosophy" on my dog-walk, on my ipod. And this is my probably obvious -to-many-but-not-to-me-until-now realization: THE TRUE GOD OF THE JESUITS IS PLATO! The Bible didn't inspire the Catholic organization of Europe - or the priesthood -or the Jesuits in particular - it was all Plato! Plato, Plato, Plato - Lordy it's so obvious!!!
C'mon, the ideas - that the men who are "worthy" and "of merit" should be living apart from others - shunning marriage and children, and rule over the others. It's all in there, everything. It was so familiar - the point of view, it gave me chills. The whole flavor of Plato - is so much like the spirit of the Jesuits -- the way they think of themselves, the way they've been organized, the way they look at the world, y'know, it's not really Biblical at all.
That was my big astonishment reading the Bible - it was so hard to believe that this was the book that inspired the religion that I had been a part of. Jesus didn't seem like he would have been Catholic, and particularly not Jesuit.
But hearing Will Durant read excerpts of Plato, I am, frankly, thunderstruck. I had to actually stop walking a few times and just breathe deeply. And the thing is, Plato even says that belief in the supernatural - well, ha ha, that's for the masses! That's for the common folk who cannot live without a supernatural moral code and need to think that God is watching them always.
And that was just exactly the feeling I got from the Jesuits I happen to be friends with when I began to question everything about God. Their reaction wasn't to refute what I was saying - no not at all. Their reaction was more like, well as if I as a member of, yes - one of the lower classes! One of the ones that should believe because it's "good" for me and my type - y'know the non-thinkers of the world (and more to the point - the women of the world!) We weren't supposed to wrestle with these questions. We were supposed to be comforted by the idea of god, more willing to send our sons off to war, more willing to die because we thought we would see our loved ones in heaven - religion was for people like me and I was breaking the rules - and that was the part that seemed the most upsetting to them.
Anyway... that's what i'm thinking about today.
Posted by Julia Sweeney at 8:18 PM
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What Jesuits were you talking to then? Seriously, I spent four years in a Jesuit seminary - as a lowly woman.
I never picked up *any* of this!
That is not to say that Platonic thought didn't leak into Christian Europe. One would be an idiot to think otherwise.
But this is a pretty broad brush - and doesn't take into account at all the core of Jesuit spirituality and theology - the Spiritual Exercises, which are all to help one to completely identify with Jesus and his mission. (Ergo their name, the Society of Jesus.)
Just my two cents.
Well, I went to a Jesuit school for eleven years, this is what i got from them, they liked thinking of themselves as intellectually superior, but looking back they were just elitists in all the wrong ways and for all the wrong reasons, they crammed information down your throat without the encouragement of critical thinking and/or without the proper development of intuition but yet they believed that the student of a jesuit school was actually smarter,...i also questioned their ethical and moral codes, they were big time hypocrites...it infuriates me to this day when i can reflect on it as an adult!!! Thank you for Will Durant, =)
Blind faith + temporal power structure, a heady mix that sometimes helps all the wrong people.
I don't know much about much, but I do know the gospels never forbade marrage. Someone told me that priests were forbidden to marry mostly for finacial reasons, so they wouldn't be needing to leave an inheritence to their fleshly families.
I like to comment daily, but I'd better stop chatting about that which I'm ignorant of!
Reading this I was reminded of a comment Rachel Kohn made on The Spirit Of Things when talking to Canadian religious commentator Tom Harpur.
But I guess for people of faith it prompts a metanoia, a change in them, and isn't it I suppose the larger purpose of faith to get people to act in a way. I mean we're lucky you and I, we spend our lives thinking about these questions in a big way, that's what we do. And I often think that, gosh, for a lot of other people it's just got to have almost a quick answer. It's got to have an instruction, it's got to make them go out and do something, which they then do.
The truth is that even people who are by nature OR experience critical of religion, and most particularly of the Roman Catholic Church... not unreasonable, given its numbers, its concentration of power, and it political involvement in the history or Europe from the era of Constantine...have a subliminal awe and even respect for the celibacy of priests and nuns..
We scoffers laugh at them, deride their pieties, and speak of them as twisted.... but because religion has imposed the equating of lust with our animal natures (to be controlled) as well as the idea that sacrifice (martyrdom) is admirable, we still have admiration, reluctant perhaps, for vountary celibacy..
Wacky, for sure.. but there you are, to be human is to be too often inconsistent.
So now add to that the reputation of the Jesuits for being above all scholars of the first order... wow, an unbeatable combination for indiscriminate awe..PURE and SMART.
Even I, cynic that I am was shocked to learn of the monstrous cruelty of the Jesuits in the colonizing by Portugal of the Islands off West Africa...
However, as an admirer of the Scholastic movement in Europe.. and the Jesuit role in restoring the glorious cultural contributions of drama, philosophy and poetry of the Greeks to Christian awareness.. I try to overlook the worst of their acts.
Yang and yin, yin and yang.
Nobody's perfect... so what if religion makes people do cruel and crazy things... think of the Sistine Chapele ceiling, the Kyrie in the Bach B Minor Mass......and all those Christmas gifts that are going to be under your tree.
I'm coming from outside the Catholic faith (a former atheist who became a Pentecostal!and then left that stuff); but from my own investigations of church history I would agree that the Platonic and Hellenistic influences were huge (see Augustine). I also have a suspicion that Augy forwarded to us the doctrines of eternal punishment which have done damage. The actual Greek words are "aeon krisis" which portends the justice of God, not the mad tyrant that everyone teaches. I mean, if God doesn't bring ultimate justice, who will? Our unjust world is then bleakly hopeless.
Christianity is, to be honest, pretty screwed up (kind of like the Jews in the OT). It is full of hypocrites and we all have a dash of that in us.
Finally, let me say that Jesus also dealt with the Hellenism of the Jews when he used the term we wrongly translate as "hell." He used the term "hades," which is the Greek version of the afterlife. I think he used that because his target audience was the Jews who were familiar with Hellenism. There is precious little in the OT about the afterlife and that was Jesus' central message. Most Jews today, I think, tend toward atheism.
The point is: hades has little to do with punishment. It is simply the place where the dead go (like the OT "sheol" or grave).
Theology over the centuries has been this long dance of "ring around the mulberry bush." Paul said we "see through a glass darkly," and no entity illustrates that better than the clerics of the church. Why it's that way, I don't know. We live in a fairly botched world and Jesus' mission was to fix it.
That said, your series is great and you are a superb orator.
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