History is an immense liturgical text

“There is no human being on earth capable of declaring with certitude who he is. No one knows what he has come into this world to do, what his acts correspond to, his sentiments, his ideas, or what his real name is, his enduring Name in the register of Light…History is an immense liturgical text where iotas and dots are worth no less than the entire verse or chapters, but the importance of one and the other is indeterminable, and profoundly hidden.”

Musings and Thunderings of Léon Bloy
Collected by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert

The Suffering God

Divine passibility in modern theology by Richard Bauckham


Divine suffering and theodicy

“It is part of the character of the specially modern awareness of the problem of suffering that any attempt to justify human suffering, in all its enormity, is ruled out. An authentic human response to suffering must always retain an element of protest against suffering which cannot be justified. Hence the autocratic God of absolute power who simply presides over this suffering world and cannot himself be reached by suffering appears a cosmic monster. It seems possible to justify God (‘theodicy’) only if he too suffers. ‘The only credible theology for Auschwitz is one that makes God an inmate of the place.’ Though this is a widespread motive for reflection on divine suffering, again it is Moltmann (in The Crucified God) who has made this the central feature of his approach to the issue and focused it on the cross. He sees the theology of the crucified God as opening a way forward in relation to the problem of suffering, beyond the unsatisfactory alternatives of ‘metaphysical theism’, with its impassible God, and ‘protest atheism’, with its rebellion against a world in which innocent suffering happens. Theism cannot explain suffering without justifying it, but nor can atheism keep up its protest against suffering without the longing for God’s righteousness in the world. The crucified God, however, shares in the suffering of the world, and in Jesus’ dying question he himself takes up humanity’s protest against suffering and the open question of God’s righteousness in the world. Thus for the sufferer God is not just the incomprehensible God who inflicts suffering, but ‘the human God, who cries with him and intercedes for him with his cross where man in his torment is dumb’. God himself maintains the protest against suffering.

However, if God were only ‘the fellow-sufferer who understands’ (Whitehead), it is arguable that the problem of suffering would be, not alleviated, but aggravated. It is no consolation to the sufferer to know that God is as much a helpless victim of evil as he is himself. In answer to this, Moltmann can argue, first, that the divine solidarity with sufferers does help in that it transforms the character of suffering: it heals the deepest pain in human suffering, which is godforsakenness. But secondly, and characteristically, Moltmann will not isolate the cross from the resurrection: ‘Without the resurrection, the cross really is quite simply a tragedy and nothing more than that.’ The resurrection is God’s promise of liberation from suffering for all those with whom Christ is identified in his cross, the godless and the godforsaken. In the cross all human suffering is taken within God’s own ‘trinitarian history’ in hope for the joy of God’s eschatological future. God ‘is vulnerable, takes suffering and death on himself in order to heal, to liberate and to confer new life. The history of God’s suffering in the passion of the Son and the sighings of the Spirit serves the history of God’s joy in the Spirit and his completed felicity at the end. That is the ultimate goal of God’s history of suffering in the world.’ The message of divine suffering would be no gospel without the message of the divine victory over suffering.”



“postmodernism is typically defined by an attitude of skepticism, irony or distrust toward grand narratives, ideologies and various tenets of universalism, including objective notions of reason, human nature, social progress, moral universalism, absolute truth, and objective reality. Instead, it asserts to varying degrees that claims to knowledge and truth are products of social, historical or political discourses or interpretations, and are therefore contextual or socially constructed. Accordingly, postmodern thought is broadly characterized by tendencies to epistemological and moral relativism, pluralism, irreverence and self-referentiality.





“Scholars have achieved no consensus on what modernism is, when it began, what methods its artists shared (beyond self-conscious experimentation), or what role American modernists played in international modernism. Some argue that American modernism was simply constructed out of the self-promotion of its artists, critics, scholars, and camp followers (Poirier 1992); others that it is a habitus, a structural field equivalent in importance to Victorianism or the Enlightenment (Hoffman 1992). While many scholars understand the 1950s and 60s as a continuation of modernism (or “high modernism”) via the Beats, Abstract Expressionists, and Black Mountain artists, others — myself included — argue that the events of 1945 marked the birth ofpostmodernism. Beckett differs from Joyce and Pynchon from Stein because artistic responses to the failure of technology, progress, and rationality between 1890 and 1940 must be distinguished from later responses to the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and the arms race.”

“Modris Eksteins’ Rites of Spring (1989) picks up the thread in 1913 Paris, and immediately establishes the concurrent modernisms of art, technology, and politics just before World War I exposed German nationalism and the shock of modern warfare. In the dynamic physical display of Russian ballet, the spatial reorientation of Cezanne and the Cubists, the Futurists’ embrace of machine technology, and the rage for ragtime dances, Eksteins reveals the diffuse desires of those attempting, in Gertrude Stein’s term, to “kill off the nineteenth century.” In these histories, the US provides the innovations and inventions of industrial capitalism and its responsive cultural forms: skyscraper cities, assembly lines, sleek powerful cars, jazz rhythms, and African-American kinesthetics (physical movement).”

“The analogous texts on American modernism are two anthologies. One maps the impact of technology across the spectrum of the arts, from George Antheil’s Ballet Mecanique to Busby Berkeley’s musicals (Ludington 2000); the other explores race, class, and gender responses to the quicksilver shifts in markets and production, equating modernism with the embrace of mobile identities (Scandura and Thurston 2001). Both works focus on individual negotiations of the massive social changes in the half-century between 1890 and 1940: the demands of the industrial workplace; immigration and urbanization; ethnic consciousness and labor rebellion; adaptations of the body to machines; the emergence of a national media culture. Such experiential modernism registers “the simultaneous disenchantment and reenchantment of the world … both anaesthesia and shock, boredom and exhilaration” (Stewart 2001: 22).

“To be modern was to reject the wisdom of the ancients for self-authorization through experience. For such mid-nineteenth century figures as Whitman, Baudelaire, Nietzsche, and Dostoevski, an objective, transcendent ideal of beauty gave way to a relativist notion of the sublime (Calinescu 1988). Exposing one’s self to the world — unaccompanied, unprotected — became the objective of the artistic (or intellectual) life; experiences became the equivalent of deeds. The self-conscious modern artist came into being as a seeker after new truths — a rebel, a pathbreaker, the avant-garde of an army-not-yet-born.

Certainly the novelists of Stein’s Lost Generation — Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Dos Passos, among others — conceived of themselves in these terms. Their canonical works narrated the search of self-conscious bohemians for a floating community of cosmopolitan free-thinkers; their drunken adventures validated a free-spirited lifestyle achieved through engaging the dark side of life spurned by bourgeois Victorian society (sexuality, transience, criminality, substance abuse, poverty).

“Valorizing unproductivity was an exemplary strategy for disaffected modernist youth…”

From The Blackwell Companion to American Cultural History, ed. Karen Halttunen (2008)

The fate of man in the modern world (I)

“(Nicolas Berdyaev’s) The Meaning of History is particularly worthy of study since it alerts one to the signs, conditions, and terrors of our present fate and to the pattern of our moral and spiritual declension. Our modern “slavery to fallen objectified time” is characterized by the extremisms of technique, organization, and the
productive processes discerned early on
by Berdyaev, when assertions of the will
to life are interlinked with promises of a
“false eternity.” For Berdyaev, the passage from culture, with its sacred patrimony and symbolic character, to technical “spirit-slaying” civilization, is strewn with great hazards to an organic relationship between man and nature, to man’s social environment and ultimate destiny, to what Solovyov termed a “metaphysics of all-unity.” The inveterate enemies of the permanent things especially thrive in an industrial and mechanistic environment that revolves around universal domination and organization.” -Revisiting Nikolai Berdyaev, by George A. Panichas


Readings from Nicolas Berdyaev (1874-1948)

 Berdyaev: the meaning of history, 1936
The end of the renaissance | the crisis of humanism: the advent of the machine

“The era we are now entering is for me synonymous with the end of the Renaissance period of history… the triumphant advent of the machine constitutes one of the greatest revolutions in human history. The advent of the machine brings about a revolution in all spheres of life. It rips man away from the bowels of nature and changes the whole rhythm of his life. Formerly, an organic tie had existed between man and nature, and his communal life had been governed by a natural rhythm. The machine radically modifies this relationship. It steps between man and nature; and it conquers not only the natural elements for the benefit of man, but also, in the process, man himself. It both liberates and enslaves him once again. If man had formerly depended on nature and had, as a result, lived a meagre life, the invention of machinery and the resultant mechanization of life while in some ways enriching him yet impose a new form of dependence on him, a dependence, perhaps, even more tyrannical than the exercise of nature.

Further reading and resources:





“Suicides also involuntarily prove that life has a meaning, for their despair is due to the fact that life does not fulfill their arbitrary and contradictory demands. These demands could only be fulfilled if life were devoid of meaning; the non-fulfillment proves that life has a meaning which these persons, owing to their irrationality, do not wish to know”

-Vladimir S. Soloviev


Berdyaev on theosis or divinization



May 29, 2016 by: Dan Peterson

Nikolai Berdyaev (Николай_Бердяев), in 1912, before the Bolshevik Revolution, his imprisonment and torture (memorably discussed by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn), and his eventual (astonishing) exile from Russia to Paris

The central idea of the Eastern Fathers was that of theosis, the divinization of all creatures, the transfiguration of the world, the idea of the cosmos and not the idea of personal salvation. . . .  Only later Christian consciousness began to value the idea of hell more than the idea of the transfiguration and divinization of the world. . . . The Kingdom of God is the transfiguration of the world, the universal resurrection, a new heaven and a new earth.

Nikolai Berdyaev (1874-1948)

Fish Have Feelings, Too


Poissons 1 | French dictionary, Fish and Animal 1923

“In his new book, What A Fish Knows: The Inner Lives Of Our Underwater Cousins, Balcombe presents evidence that fish have a conscious awareness — or “sentience” — that allows them to experience pain, recognize individual humans and have memory. He argues that humans should consider the moral implications of how we catch and farm fish.

“We humans kill between 150 billion and over 2 trillion fishes a year. … And the way they die — certainly in commercial fishing — is really pretty grim, ” Balcombe says. “There’s a lot of change that would be needed to reflect an improvement in our relationship with fishes.”



“In humans, sensory nerve fibres send electrical signals from the site of the stimulus to the spinal cord and then to the brain. Signals reached the thalamus, via the brain stem. The thalamus, a sort of relay station, which forwards signals for processing in different areas of the brain. One of these areas is the limbic system, which is the emotional centre of the brain. The neocortex, which is on the outer surface of the brain, handles conscious thought in the perception of pain.

All of these areas are present in fish, or the fish have the same function elsewhere in their brain.

  • Fish have human-equivalent areas for pain processing
  • Fish have areas for emotion, learning, memory, fear, social behaviour
  • The pallium may be equivalent to the human neocortex for feeling pain

See also http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/8881656

and: Aquatic animals, cognitive ethology, and ethics: questions about sentience and other troubling issues that lurk in turbid water:

Click to access d075p087.pdf

And http://www.distinctlymontana.com/fish-pain-discussion