Max Scheller, Ressentiment–Series on Love

Max Scheller

Ressentiment is a term that Nietzsche used to describe Christians. The term is synonomous with envy and resentment. Nietzsche characterizes the idea of Christian love as the most delicate flower of ressentiment. The Judeo Christian God is a God of revenge

Scheller argues that Nietshche is completely mistaken. Christian love is placed above the rational domain…blessed more than all reason. He explains that “…the Christian love (agape) transcends the natural sphere, defeating and superseding the psychological mechanism of the natural instincts such as hatred against one’s enemies, revenge, and desire for retaliation. It can place a man in a completely new state of life.” The expression of Christian love is a striving from ignorance toward knowledge. The beloved moves the lover.

Where Nietzsche sees the Christian as the weak suffering person who is jealous of those with wealth and station in life. They have therefore derived a religion with a God who will punish those wicked people and elevate the weak to a higher status in the life to come. Scheller argues that in fact the opposite is the case. Christianity is not about moving from a lower to a higher. He reverses the axiom. We Orthodox might refer to the term Kenosis, which is a self-emptying. In fact, Metropolitan Kallistos says, surely citing The Fathers, that there can be no theosis without kenosis. Scheller writes that the “nobler stoops to the vulgar, the healthy to the sick, the rich to the poor, the good to the common, the Messiah to the sinners and publicans.” Christians are not worried about losing something, he says. It is through this self-renunciation that the gains the highest good and becomes equal to God.

Incarnational teaching is that God descended to man, became a servant, and died the bad servant’s death on the cross. There is no place for hating one’s enemies, nor for revenge. The Christian God is a God who loves. Following are a few other points Scheller points out in his paper:

  • All are worthy of love: friends and enemies.
  • We don’t love for its achievements
  • Love grows in its actions
  • Egoism, concern for one’s own interests are a sign of a blocked and weakened life
  • Life can be sacrifieced for values higher than itself
  • Every living being has a natural sympathy for other living beings, which increases with proximity and similarity to himself

A teaching of Scheller’s where I found great value was in the process of Christian charity. Caritas is the Latin form of love that corresponds to agape. The widow who gave what little she had gave more in love, though less in quantity. Christ is not concerned with the utility of giving, but with the transcendent growth that the giver gains through the act of giving itself. Christ’s mission for us was not in a redistribution of wealth. Where one does see a sort of financial equality, communism if you will, is in free acts of love, such as in monastic communities. The teaching was not reactive or utilitarian. Jesus is concerned with the increase in spiritual value of the giver, not the increase in wealth of the poor. This self-renunciation allows a man to win himself.

Poverty is not better than wealth. Christianity is not concerned with “subaltern modern things” as socialism or altruism. “The important thing is not the amount of welfare, it is that there should be a maximum of love among men. The act of helping is the direct and adequate expression of love, not its meaning or purpose.”

Likewise, we should not love God because of his Heaven and earth–we should love Heaven and earth because they are God’s. God is the source of love, and His love is infinite. Genuine love transcends the natural sphere and is manifested most clearly when we love our enemy. God created the world as an expression of his love. We cannot love without turning away from ourselves. For example, the Christian must refuse to react to conduct that would lower him to the level of his enemy

 

Movie Recommendation-Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Darwin

Expelled is a documentary about how the mainstream scientific community will only allow Darwinism to be taught at Universities when considering how the world came to exist as it does now. Any professor or intellectual who dares to even consider Intelligent Design in lectures, papers, or published research is isolated and ‘disciplined’. This documentary outlines how professors and researchers at the Smithsonian Institute were relieved of their posts for even mentioning the possibility of “ID” in their research. The fired researcher who examined ID at the Smithsonian was even told that he was guilty of “Intellectual Terrorism.”

I am no scientist, and I am not well versed in all of the research on both sides, but I do know that this has been an ongoing debate for centuries. Isn’t  science supposed to examine how the natural world operates? Shouldn’t scientists be willing to examines all possibilities of the issue at hand? In terms of how we came to exist, there are essentially two scientific possibilities: Some sort of random act of nature together with a consistent development of cells to their current state OR some Intelligent Hand that has a role in the design of the Universe. The modern establishment has disallowed one of these two options from even having a place at the research table.

Charles Darwin, their hero, never had a formal job outside of his home. A wealthy father bankrolled all of his research and efforts. This is no longer much of an option for the modern scientific community. A great deal of money is required to conduct research today. This money is being allocated almost exclusively for the research of Darwinism.

I commonly meet students at University who are convinced of the ‘fact’ of Darwinism. Ben Stein interviewed supporters on both sides of the argument in his film. Some of the scholars are not convinced of either theory, but want to be able to examine both possibilities within the scope of their research. They are not allowed.

Richard Dawkins, a devout atheist who is one of the most outspoken critics of ID and author of “The God Delusion,” was interviewed in this documentary. He admitted, along with many others on the program, that nobody really knows how everything got started. He also told Stein that he was open to the possibility that some more advanced life form, perhaps from another Galaxy, had a hand in the design of our current world. Apparently, he’s open to ID as long as the designer is not called God.

Stein interviewed another Darwinian professor and asked him how creation came to be. He said that ‘one popular theory’ is that cells developed on the backs of crystals and continued to mutate and develop to what we have today. So, magic crystals can be taught to our students, but those who consider ID are quacks?

One point that I found very interesting is that Darwin had no theory about how everything got started. His evolutionary theories begin after the first cell is already in existence. How cells came to be are not explained. Most of us would agree that species develop and change. However, there is no evidence to show how one species changes into a completely different species. Additionally, Darwin admits that he cannot define a species. The cell, as Darwin knew it in 1859, is not even remotely related to what we know a cell to be today. A featured scientist said that if a cell to Darwin was a mud puddle, a cell today is a Saturn V, or even a galaxy. Today’s cell is something Darwin could not have even imagined, he said. So, Darwin does not know what a species is or how species came to be, but titled his book, “The Origin of Species.”  And this is the only option allowed to be taught to our students?

There are far-reaching consequences to this theory.

Darwinism has been the greatest engine for atheism for the last 150 years and it is being actively taught to our children as a foregone conclusion–a fact. My 8-year old son  has already been indoctrinated.

There are also significant moral consequences. We are not saying that people who believe in an evolutionary process are evil people. However, the theory itself has been used for the basis of human eugenics, abortion, euthanasia, and extermination of human beings. Mein Kampf has Darwinian Theory jumping from the pages. Death chambers were set up in Germany where 70 persons were killed daily who were deemed handicapped in some way. Hitler felt they were genetically weakening the human race. He wanted to remove them from the gene pool in order to create his perfect race. He likely even thought he was doing good. Imagine that. There is no intrinsic value of life when you follow the natural conclusion and spiritual significance of this thought pattern.

Once man is reduced to a simple collection of cells with no metaphysical reality, one’s whole perspective on the value of life is altered. One can effectively argue that many of the changes in laws today stem from this mindset. All of the judges on our current Supreme Court were educated in two or three ‘elite’ universities that are stamping out Darwinists who are speaking in one collective, uniform voice. History last century is riddled with leaders who systematically tried to eradicate religion. The  scientists interviewed in the documentary admitted that this is their goal.

We must allow our voices to be heard just as strongly. We must take care with the education of our children. Life matters. 

 

 

Vladimir Solovyov, The Meaning of Love

Solovyov

1.

Higher forms of natural organisms distinguish themselves with self-consiousness and spontaneity. They strive to push the the bounds of the law of death, so must not man in the historical process completely abrogate this law?

If man only multiplies like other animals, will he not perish like them? But simple abstinence from sex will not deliver mankind from death: both virgins and eunuchs also die. To remain in sexual dividedness means to remain on the path to death. Only the human being in his entirety can be immortal. In what then does true union in the sexes consist, and how is it accomplished?

2.

There is no clearly articulated norm in sexual relations, so any enquiries are arbitrary. Sexual impulses which are comparatively rare are pronounced to be pathological deviations demanding treatment. This treatment often cures one disorder only to lead to another. Perversions of sexual feeling studied in medical books are serious for us, as being extreme development of the same tendency, which has made its way int o the everyday usage of our society and is reckoned permissible and normal. Various attractions of a man toward a woman, such as her hair, hands, or feet, are seem to be an appellation of fetishism in love. But these are only parts of the body and not the whole. And the body is not the whole person/being. But fetish worshipers are not considered to be insane by psychologists.

These people take a woman’s body for the satisfaction of an emotional need, and by so doing separate body from soul, buts be acknowledged abnormal in sexual relations, mental defectives, fetish-worshipers in love, or even worshipers of carrion.  But they are reckoned normal people, and through this living death almost the whole of mankind passes. There is no isolation of lower animal spheres in the human being from higher ones. How do we find a distinction between what is normal or abnormal in the domain of sex? These persons are spreading the terrible infection, which is a sufficiently common consequence of the natural satisfactions of natural needs.

3.

He does not condemn nature, but the so-called natural methods of satisfying sexual feeling. Man is a complex creature and what is natural for one of this constituent principles or elements may be contrary to nature for another. As an animal, it is perfectly natural to allow unlimited satisfaction to his sexual needs. But as a higher being, a moral being, he is ashamed of such behaviors.  Before, legal unions in the social-moral order do not deliver us from death, ought to be union in God, which leads to immortality. That which is wholly natural considers  the man in his entirety. In this way, we partake in the supreme divine principle, drawing a link between with the source and the world.  Reducing ourselves to animals is contrary to our own nature. This logic would also hold for simple moral-social civil unions, while neglecting proper spiritual principles. This neglect becomes ‘normal’, which is a prevalent perversion.

4.

Psychologists devote their attention to unusual variations of a general pervading perversion, but which sin and death are maintained and perpetuated. There are three bonds, or links between the sexes:

  1. The bond of animal existence
  2. The bond of earthly morality, subject to law
  3. The bond of spiritual life –union in God

It appears that most put the first what in reality should be the first, the animal physical bond. Many recognize it today as the basis of the whole business, while it should be the ‘final crown’. Others the foundation is reared the social and moral structure of a legitimate family union. Then the exceptional phenomenon, for an elect few a pure spiritual love, which which all genuine contents are ousted beforehand by other inferior ties without any real tasks or ends in life. Most intelligent people ‘do not believe in such love’, or take it for poetry.

Exclusively-spiritual love is as much an anomaly as exclusively-physical love. The absolute norm is the restoration of the integrity of the human being. We should not separate the spiritual from the sensuous. Genuine spiritual love is not a feeble imitation of death, but a triumph over death–a transfiguration of the mortal into the immortal, a taking of the temporal into the eternal. A false spirituality is a denial of the flesh, true spirituality is the regeneration of the flesh, the rescue of it, the resurrection of it from the dead.

5.

Man was created to be in the Divine image. We relate to the other sex as Christ relates to His Church. Christ is the absolute fulness of being to the pure potentiality of being. Christ relates to the Church as actual perfection to the potentiality of perfection being revealed in realized perfection. The relation of husband and wife is the relation between two differently functioning, but yet equally incomplete potentialities, which attain perfection only in the process of action upon one another. And and his email mutually complete each other, not only in the real, but also in the ideal sense.

Christ has power by nature, while we have power by grace and adoption. Authentic love is the process of the integration of man’s nature, or the restoration in him of the Divine image.

6.

Genuine love is about faith. This transcendent relation to the other, this mental transference of it into the sphere of the Divine, presupposes the same relation in oneself. I can only acknowledge the unconditional significance of a given person, or believe in him (without which true love is impossible), by affirming him in God, and therefore by belief in God Himself, and in myself, as possessing in God the centre and root of my own existence. The act of faith is prayer. The indissoluble union of oneself and another in this relation is the first step towards authentic union. It is a small step, but without it, nothing more advanced or greater is possible.

7.

Perfection is in God and for us still being realized. Our world is aspiring toward that ideal unity, both historic and cosmic. The object of true love is twofold:

  1. We love the ideal creature, the creature whom we ought to install in our ideal world.
  2. We love the natural human creature, the ‘personal material’ for the realization of the former, and who is idealized by means of it in the sense of its objective transformation or regeneration.

 

 

You know you’re Orthodox when you’ve been asked…

  

You know you’re an Orthodox Christian when you’ve been asked these questions many times:
1) Wait, are you Christian? / Do you believe in Jesus/Bible? 

…yes.
2) But you’re not Greek? 

As the Good Book says, “They were first called Christians in Antioch.” Soo in other words, no, you don’t have to be Greek to be Orthodox as evidenced by the majority of Russians who are Orthodox Christian, pretty much everyone in Eastern Europe, and the majority of Christians in the Middle East.
3) So are you like Catholics? 

Short answer? No. Long answer: There was a major split in the year 1054 due to the West adding the filioque phrase to the Creed and the pope claiming to be the head of the church and breaking off from the group of patriarchs from various cities who “shared power,” (and still do in the East) along with: many theological differences, and Orthodoxy is more mystical while Catholicism is more dogmatic. Lastly, there is no pressure or feeling of “guilt,” as seen in the Western denominations, despite the fact that we do have confessions. 
4) So why is your Easter different? 

We follow the “old calendar” while the West (Catholics and the subsequent splits from them, the Protestants/Lutherans, etc) follows the Gregorian calendar which was introduced by the Pope. This is why some places, namely Russia, celebrate Christmas in January, although most people celebrate in December. During Easter, or as we call it, Pascha, we all celebrate on the same day because it’s the most important Feast Day in the church.
5) So who was first? Bc I’ve never heard of your religion before! 

This is because Orthodoxy is mostly in the East, so many Westerners aren’t aware, hence being asked these questions on the regular. There was only one Church in the beginning, The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; (Catholic means world wide). After the split of 1054, denominations “renamed” themselves. Orthodoxy is so named because “ortho” means “right/correct” and “doxy” means “practice,” as we follow the original teachings. 
Now that those questions have been cleared up, 😉 I have to pray for all of my Brothers and Sisters in Christ in the Middle East who are slowly being eradicated in the land where we were first called Christians. It saddens me deeply to see our Governor, along with many others, implement a fear mongering order declaring that no refugees will be accepted. This is inhumane and morally reprehensible, for when the United States involves itself in the Middle East to the extent that it does, we have more of an obligation than most to let these people into our nation. Don’t misinterpret me, as no matter the religion, we were all made in the image and likeness of God, and all deserve ethical treatment. I am ashamed that we are letting fear take precedence over human rights. Whenever fear guides any policy, history tells us time and time again that it has never led to anything good.

Series on Love Part V–Kierkegaard, Works of Love

  
Kierkegaard believed that the command to love your neighbor as your self presupposes that every person must also love themselves. This is different than having self-love. Christianity’s intention is to wrest self-love away from us human beings. The commandment to love others is incompatible with self-love. Therefore, one must learn how to love oneself properly.

Kierkegaard compares the love according to a poet to the love in Christianity. “Christianity knows better than any poet what love is and what it means to love.” He says that erotic love (eros) is not something eternal–its highest expression is the foolhardiness of riddles.

We have erotic love for a beloved. We have agape love for a friend.

He says that only One can truly love an object more than himself, and that is God. That is why, he feels, God doesn’t ask us to love Him more than ourselves, but with our whole mind, heart, and soul. When God says that we shall love him, we are loving in obedience and adoration. God is infinitely wiser than we, we only obey in love.

Preferential love to Kierkegaard is self love. Neighbor is a term that signifies nearness. Our neighbor is nearer to us than anyone else. Love thy neighbor means that we ought to love everyone, and love them equally. The key to pure love is to strip away self love. He writes that a person could love his neighbor being deserted on an island if he could strip away self love. More importantly, Christ does not talk about serving the neighbor, but of becoming the neighbor. One must love himself the right way before he can love his neighbor. We learn to become our true self when we strip away self love. Worldly goods are a service to self love. Even when one has them, the person should be taught that they are unimportant.

Kierkegaard believed that true love for God comes from a sense of duty. Duty stands the test of time–duty has gained enduring continuance. Only when love has become  duty has love secured eternity. He felt that love without duty has a temporal nature to it, that it could change–even if it doesn’t change, there is the anxiety that it could.

The love of a friend wants to test the bounds of that friendship. The love of a lover is tested by the beloved. Why would anyone test another’s love, he says, if there was the highest sense of certainty. But you shall love your neighbor is eternally secured.

The jealous person tortures himself with the flame of reciprocal love, which is to focus all the energy on his own love. Jealousy loves as it is loved. And then there is the anxiety and torture by the thought of whether he is loved at the same level. Can a person love fully if he doesn’t believe absolutely on this reciprocated love? One must not confuse love with the sense that one possesses his beloved.

Love comes with freedom and only ‘duty’ can give this kind of freedom. Despair is the lack of the eternal. Love’s commandment forbids despair. You shall preserve yourself, so you shall love. The commandment consumes and burns out the unhealthiness in a person’s love.

There is a question of whether a person can learn to love spontaneously instead of acquiring love for a person over time. Here, Kierkegaard feels that spontaneous love can change and learn to develop as a person makes it a habit. When the habit is formed, love can have ardor and freshness.

Kierkegaard says that Christianity is criticized for displacing erotic love and friendship. But, he says, love for neighbor is more tender than erotic love. He says that the poet would be frustrated to search the Scriptures for inspiration on erotic love, for he would find not a word about this form of love. Christian love calls us to love all people equally and unconditionally: erotic love and friendship are preferential love and therefore inferior to the love out of duty for the love of God.

Life After Delivery 


In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”

“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”

The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”

Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”

– Útmutató a Léleknek

Series on Love IV—Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics

Spinoza has a dubious position on free will. “Men feel they are free because they are conscious of their own actions…this is no less true than a baby thinking it freely goes to the breast.” He also states that it appears to him that men have little power over their own tongues….and it would appear to him that there is nothing of which men are more incapable than controlling their appetites. Emotions to Spinoza’s philosophy are simply a part of nature of which we are subject. And man, he says, determines all things from his emotion.
Spinoza posits that the mind and body offer no reciprocity to one another. The body is not simply available to do the bidding of the mind.  “Does the mind move the body? Does the body simply do the bidding of the mind? If the body is sluggish, is the mind fit for thinking?”He defines will as the effort of the mind and appetites as effort of mind and body. Appetites are the essence of man. Desires are our conscious appetites.
Because we are dictated by our emotions, Spinoza declares the following:
“From what has been said it is plain, therefore, that we neither strive for, wish, seek, nor desire anything because we think it to be good, but on the contrary, we adjudge to be good because we strive for, wish, seek, or desire it.”
Building on his definitions of joy and sorry, he defines love and sorrow:
“Love is nothing by joy accompanied with the idea of an external cause.”
“Hatred is nothing by sorrow with the accompanying idea of an external cause.”
When a man loves a thing, he endeavors to keep and preserve it. When he hates a thing endeavors to remove and destroy it.
A man rejoices when joy is brought to that which he loves brings sorrow. Conversely, the image of sorry brought to that which he loves also brings him sorrow. Further, a man hates that which brings sorrow to that which he loves and loves that which brings joy to the object of his own love.
A man endeavors as much as possible to make others love what he loves. But a mean is happy when joy is brought to another, unless by the man having it would detract from his own ability to receive joy from that object.

Plato’s Symposium–What is Love?


Phaedrus: (178a-180c)

Love is the oldest god and of the greatest blessing. Love would be a primary benefit to a man seeking to live a good life. It would be painful to be seen by his beloved doing a dishonorable thing. Therefore, Love inspires the greatest bravery–if only an army could be comprised of lovers anxious to be seen virtuous by their beloved. One looks to arete to inspire one’s lover.

Pausanias: (180c-185e)

It’s not that simple, as there exists more than one love. We must therefore clarify which love is to be praised. Pausanias says there are at least two forms of love, one common and one heavenly. Attraction of the soul leads to development of the soul. Not every love is right and deserving of praise, only love that directs us to love in the right way.

Eryximachus: (185e-186b)

Love influences not only human souls in response to physical beauty, he has influence on all other things and on their response as well. Love pervades the bodies of all animals and all that is produced in the earth, which means that Love pervades virtually everything that exists. As a physician, he posits that a great doctor is one who brings harmony among things in the body. Love provides for reconciliation of opposites. For example medicine or music must operate within their function in harmony with other parts of the body or other notes and instruments in a chamber.

Aristophanes: (189d-194e)

People look for their like matches. Originally people were round creatures with two bodies in one, four arms and legs as well as two sets of anatomy: male/female, male/male, female/female. They offended the gods, so Zeus split them in half. After this, the two parts longed for each other and tried to come back together. Heterosexual or homosexual proclivities were determined by one’s original anatomical makeup before being separated.

Agathon: (194e-197e)

Previous comments are illustrating the good things of which love is the source, but what is the nature of love itself that causes these positive attributes? Love must do no injustice to either god or man. Love cannot act by force: force and Love have nothing to do with each other. Love possesses self control in addition to justice. Self control means overcoming pleasures and desires: no pleasure is stronger than Love. So pleasures are overcome by love.

A person cannot impart to others that which he does not have himself. From love of the beautiful every good thing for god and men has come into existence. “Love is not only supreme in beauty and goodness himself, but is also the source of beauty and goodness in all other things” (197d-197b).

Socrates:

Diotima dialogue:

  • Is love a love of something or a love of nothing?
  • Does love desire that thing which he is love of, or not?
  • Does he desire and love it when he has in his possession that thing which he desires and loves, or when he does not have it?
  • Desire/love that which we lack and that which is beautiful. Love is lacking in what is beautiful, and what is good is beautiful; love is also lacking in what is good.

Love is neither mortal, nor a god, but an in-between spirit. Like that which is between wisdom and ignorance is correct belief. One might have a correct believe without having a reason for it. It can’t be ‘knowing’ if lacking in ‘reason’. And it can’t be ignorance if it is correct–it is a middle state. Such is love between man and god. Love is an intermediary that binds the two together into one entity.

Love is love of the good. Love cannot be directed toward the other half of a body unless that other half is good. Are people not perfectly willing to amputate part of their own body if these parts are diseased? What people love is the good. People feel that the good should be theirs and always theirs. So, “Love is the desire to possess the good always” (205e-206a).

But then the object of love is not simply the beautiful. “It is procreating and giving birth in the beautiful.” (206c-e) This process goes through a “stairway of love”.

The process:

Step 1. “A person who would set out on this path in the right way must begin in youth by directing his attention to beautiful bodies, and first of all, if his guide is leading him aright, he should fall in love with the body of one individual only, and there procreate beautiful discourse” (210a).

Step 2. “Then he will realize himself that the beauty of any one body is closely akin to that of any other body, and that if what is beautiful in form (eidos) is to be pursued it is folly not to regard the beauty in all bodies as one and the same. When he has understood this he should slacken his intense passion for one body, despising it and considering it a small thing, and become a lover of all beautiful bodies” (210a-210b).

Step 3. “After this he will realize that the beauty in souls is more to be prized than that in the body. If therefore someone’s soul is good even if his physical attraction is slight, that will be enough for him, and he will love and care for that person, and seek out and give birth to the kind of discourse that will make young men better people. As a consequence he will be compelled to contemplate the beautiful as it exists in human practices and laws, to see that the beauty of it all is of one kind, and to realize that what is beautiful in a body is trivial by comparison” (210b-c).

Step 4. “After this his guide must lead him to contemplate knowledge in its various branches, so that he can see beauty there too, and looking at what is now a wide range of beauty he is no longer slavishly content with the beauty of any one particular thing, such as the beauty of a young boy or some other person, or of one particular practice, and will not become petty and small-minded through this kind of servitude. Instead he will turn towards the vast sea of the beautiful and while contemplating it  he will give birth to many beautiful, indeed magnificent, discourses and thoughts in a boundless love of wisdom until there, strengthened and invigorated, he discerns a unique kind of knowledge (episteme), which is knowledge of a beauty whose nature I will now describe” (210c-e).

Step 5. “Anyone who has been guided to this point in the study of love and has been contemplating beautiful things in the correct way in the right sequence, will suddenly perceive, as he now approaches the end of his study, a beauty that is marvelous in its nature-the very thing, Socrates, for the sake of which all the earlier labors were undertaken. What he sees is, in the first place, eternal, it does not come into being or perish, nor does it grow or waste away. Secondly it is not beautiful in one respect and ugly in another, or beautiful at one time and not at another, or beautiful by one standard and ugly by another, or beautiful in one place and ugly in another because it is beautiful to some people but ugly to others. Nor, again, will the beautiful appear to him as a face is beautiful or hands or any other part of the body, nor like a discourse or a branch of knowledge or anything that exists in some other thing, whether in a loving creature or in the earth or the sky or anything else. It exists on its own, single in substance and everlasting. All other beautiful things partake of it, but in such a way that when they come into being or die the beautiful itself does not become greater or less in any respect, or undergo any change” (210-211b).

Summary of the 5 steps–Ascent of Love

“Now, whenever someone starts to ascend from the things of this world through loving boys in the right way, and begins to discern that beauty, he is almost in reach of the goal. And the correct way for him to go, or be led by another, to the things of love, is to begin from the beautiful things in this world, and using these as steps, to climb ever upwards for the sake of that other beauty, going from one to two and from two to all beautiful bodies, and from beautiful bodies to beautiful practices, and from beautiful practices to beautiful kinds of knowledge, and from beautiful kinds of knowledge finally to that particular knowledge which is knowledge solely of the beautiful itself, so that at last he may know what the beautiful itself really is” (211c-d).

Series on Love

I am taking a course on Philosophical Theology with a central focus on Love. We are studying various historical thinkers to those more recent. I will be posting various summaries of what I learn from the understanding of love according to these men as  a series over the next couple months.

Afterward, I will ATTEMPT to synthesis these thoughts into how the Christian View of Love is unique and also what is meant by Jesus’ Double Command of Love. (Matt 22:36-40)

The first thinker is Plato. This one is unique to the others. The idea of love is taken from “The Symposium.” It was a drinking party during which philosophers debated various issues. In case you’re not familiar with Plato, Socrates is the ‘hero’ of the Platonic Dialogues. In Symposium, there are a few speakers who opine on Love. Socrates goes last, proving why the first ideas are inadequate and then building to his thought on the subject. Plato’s works have been broken down into ‘verse’ similar to what the Church has done with the Bible. The quotes you see are references to those chapters and verses.

And as a reminder, I am not an expert. I hope you enjoy learning as much as I am.

Christian Morality

Christians believe that there is ultimate goodness, but not ultimate badness. Badness from our view is but a corruption of that which was once good. We must have some standard of what good is, so we can measure whether a thing is good or bad. Even the Prince of Darkness is not intrinsically evil, but fell from glory.

We as human persons are endowed with free will: God has bestowed that upon us. Love demands freedom, it is relational. We can choose to do a thing, good or bad, through unfettered choice. The Devil taught that man could be like gods separate from God Himself.

Men tend to judge others by selfish standards. But most believe that there are certain ‘Laws of Nature’ that determine whether an act is just, regardless of whether it brings a certain individual pleasure. These behaviors are obvious to most, even all. Some societies may feel that it is acceptable for a man to have more than one wife. But who would agree that a man should be able to have any woman at any time?

Selfishness has never been admired in any culture: we must not live a life of putting one’s self first. A man might claim that there is no absolute right or wrong, but that same man will cry foul if he feels slighted by another. Our culture has done a poor job at keeping this Law of Nature. And if we don’t believe in a Law of Nature, why do we spend so much time defending our behaviors?

Morality is not like the school monitor who is trying to uncover whether a student is having fun and then stopping it–as if the point is to put an end to fun and enjoyment. “Moral rules are directions for running the human machine. Every moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Below are views of morality from three sources:

Morality (running that machine effectively) according to C.S. Lewis is generally concerned with three truths:

  • Fair Play among individuals
  • Harmonizing the things inside an individual
  • The purpose of human life as a whole; What was man made for, and as a collective, what course should the whole of humanity be on?

Men often make moral defenses using the first point while neglecting the two proceeding. A person who says that a behavior cannot be wrong because it doesn’t hurt anybody else is only thinking of that first truth.

The signers of our Declaration of Independence uniformly agreed that a people should hold four virtues:

  • Prudence–discerning good vs evil
  • Justice–balance: to give each man his due
  • Fortitude–perseverance no matter the consequence
  • Temperance–using the created order for good

St. Paul teaches three key virtues for Christians:

  • Faith
  • Hope
  • Love

Mankind has a long, tumultuous history of chasing happiness apart from that ultimate goodness: God. A life without that intrinsic ‘yardstick’ leads to a macabre existence of turmoil that has been proven by so many failed attempts in human history: greed, poverty, trenchant ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, and slavery. Societies have tried to create that human utopia void of God, leading themselves into an ultimate conflagration. This mistaken zeal perpetrated the most atrocious of crimes recorded in human history.

Many Christians now claim that Faith is all that truly matters, while others say only actions matter. C.S. Lewis compares this to trying to determine which blade on a pair of scissors is most important. If our faith does not lead us to action, then we have no faith at all. Faith without action is but an intellectual acceptance of a theory about God.

Ultimate good is in God. We live our virtues through our relationship with Him. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” ( Ephesians 2:10)

I’ll end with one of my favorite teachings of St. Paul:

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worth of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do: and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

CS Lewis

*Essay relies heavily on excerpts from “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis and a lecture by Bradley Birzer of Hillsdale College on 1/9/2009. Bible Quotes are RSV 1978