Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Book of the Heathen (in process)

What is the fascination, and dread, of Judaism with Christianity? Though the question has little troubled the Jews, forever anchored in the rather painful and often deadly reality of the Christian history in which they have participated, the question terrorized the Christian, common believer and saint alike, through the ages, like an Ocean of hesitations that surfaced more like supplications at the shrine of an unknown and well-masked deity. The path trodden by those whose faith has been safely insured in the sword of Moses' law, seems rather obscure and bizarre either in the case they mean to uphold this law or to destroy it, replace it, improve it, dispel it, and the like; the equation or formulas implicit in the relationship are far less than important than the crude fact of the relationship as such. People would be little surprised if told that these are ancient times no more, and that the discussion over the nature of religion has moved away from the soteriological cycles of anxiety far more rooted in geography and anatomy than in the argumentative absolutes of science, not necessarily Cartesian science but not altogether too distant, for it is the logical argument over the nature of religion - just like one discusses the nature of stones, the origin of water and the physical chemistry of the universe, what distinguishes that brand of modern knowledge known as "the religion of reason", a form of religion contained within another form thereof. This particular mode of argumentation, that pays extreme and careful attention to detail in the most sophisticated scholarly fashion, known as "the critique of religion" is ultimately more scientific in the contemporary cats-and-mice sense of "catch the fallacy" than any venture endeavored by the science that supposedly brought to life such principles; this is only because the questions of science - and where it topologically coincides with classical theology - ultimately are aimed at the discovery of the "stuff life is made of", and in working out the principles behind it all, cannot pay enough attention to detail without the "last things", here meant otherwise than in the timely meditations of the saints: hereby the last things are nothing but the first things, how life began at all. The enterprise is less inimical to a comprehensive world view than it is the case with the critique of religion that is ever so pretending that one can chemically separate the constitutive elements of an scrambled egg into carefully labelled atomic and sub-atomic particles inside petri boxes and yet keep the scrambled egg intact with a self-serving pride of contemplation.

That "the stuff life is made of" is the one and only pretense of science and theology is no surprise, until the men of faith ultimately advance the beheading of God with the help of hyper-Christian heresies whilst science continues unmolested in the pursuit of "that stuff life is made of". The pre-modern overlap between scientific and theological forms of story-telling was less obvious than natural, at a time when the word "life" had not been trivialized to the extent of becoming a scientific premise for every form of early modern fringe science - sociology, anthropology, ethnology, philosophy of history - so that a certain philosopher was not entirely mistaken when he said that the philosophy of life was a tautology as embedded in fantasy as the botany of plants. Descartes and Leibniz had been both deeply pious and it was said of Newton that it was strange how the greatest theologian of the 17th century had found time to write about science; the piety here is not meant as a compliment but rather as circumstantial evidence in a secular trial against the philosophers and the theologians that expropriated the domain of science from rather harmless critical observations in order to apply them forcefully to a science of life that shattered to pieces "the stuff life is made of" with "scientific precision" and argued in the name of science that the "science of life" had been found at the same time that they delved deeper and deeper into the fringe science of rational thought - a system of absolute values that kept all the particular details and believed in infinitude whilst recollecting finite pieces thereof.

Thus Descartes turned out to be more of a Biblical man than the simplest science teacher in a school far inside the provinces - irrespective of the confession, even at the expense of having subverted the order of reality that circumscribed his piety in an earthly existence. Descartes, together with Pascal and Wolff, concerned himself about the relationship of Christian life (that is, dogmatic theology) with Biblical teaching (that is, with the Hebrew and Northwest-Semitic background of Holy Scripture). Because the history of the Jewish people (by both self-imagined and critical versions thereof) was spared the conflict between "the stuff life is made of" and the "sciences of life", no critical versions of Judaism or of any system of beliefs emerged until modern times, as everything from literature to history to science was filed under the same rubric: Holy Scripture. However the critique of religion was subjected in modern times to a religious critique of the critique of religion just like the critique of reason was subject to a rational critique of the critique of reason, the vicious disease of the Renaissance and Enlightenment: insofar as every principle is due to be "critiqued", the principles of the critique and thus the whole apparatus of truth is subject to any possible critical critique of principle. The result of this is that those encroached in the supreme worship of methodological truth ultimately accept the failure of all truth to deliver any promises at all and yet proceed to build a systematic science of life thereupon. The careful cross-examination derived from this process resulted in a growing interest in the "Origins", a favorite abstract referential in the "philosophy of life" which helplessly it tried to derive from its own principles slowly boiling down to a masterful blend of biology and fairy tale; but whenever the "Origin" as a referential category for surveying the nature of religion comes up, the modern scholar (no longer fluent in the medieval quadrivium, but within its more circumscribed specialism, a mixture of part-time tinman and self-taught alchemist) had to pay attention to a vision of himself and the other that want back further than the ideal of equality and humanity that unfathomably coincided with the golden age of discoveries of ancient cultures known as "Oriental Studies" that shed even more unfathomable information on the childish world of the Hebrew Bible that critical studies until then, now seen as paradoxically primitive, rejected as folk tales. There occurred a resurrection of manuscripts and treaties of Christian apologetics, pamphlets, obscure mystical commentaries and personal correspondence from very fine men of letters that dealt with the troubled relationship between Christians and Jews; the interest in this parental and fraternal relationship that today would have troubled any social welfare agency, wouldn't have grown to its current dimension of reversing the order of the critique of religion, weren't it for the fact that it matched with surgical precision the timing of the decline in organized religion that surprisingly came hand in hand with an unprecedented wave of institutional, criminal and intellectual antisemitism that was no longer confined to the pulpit of the churches on a beautiful Sunday morning but had reached the desk of government officials and very reputable writers from Monday through Friday as well - It seemed as if the Death-of-God theology in progress (with all due respect to Harvey Cox and Gabriel Vahanian who had something else completely in mind as they toyed with the concept with more American naive than apocalyptic seduction) included also in its road-map the death of the Jews.

While the extant Christian literature on Jews that spanned all the way from the late ancient world through yesterday's newspaper was more than abundant and by no means all antisemitic in the modern sense - medieval literature provided a vast array of dialogical literature, fiction and chronic, of exchanges between learned Jews, Christians and Muslims - the discovery of Judaism as a fertile field of theological and scientific study (and here we are not dealing with the professors of Hebrew and Jewish controversies in European universities since the Middle Ages that did nothing but giving a substantiated claim and face to popular antisemitism and were more often than not political appointments) revealed extra and post-Biblical sources for the study of Christianity; the realities of antisemitism

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