WEDNESDAY, 25 MAY 2005
An important piece of information about me as writer: I am not really a storyteller; I am a maker of points, an observer, a critic and one who offers suggestions.
[19/06/15: Not that it necessarily important, but storytellers are usually popular guests and are generally regarded as good people to spend time with. Makers of points, on the other hand, annoy a lot of people; observers are often regarded with suspicion (“What does that guy see when he looks at me?”); critics are often ignored or swatted away like a proverbial gadfly; and makers of suggestions are often dismissed as unwelcome and their suggestions as unsolicited.]
Two types of people, and a quote:
Type one: “I am 25 (or 35) years old. I have built up a life for myself with which I am happy, and in a place that I like. I want to maintain this life, in this place. I certainly do not want go backwards, but if things do not change very much or even improve at all, that is okay. I am in a good place.”
Type two: “I am 25 (or 35) years old. I have so far built up a life for myself that is good, but I am convinced that it is within my grasp to pursue a better life – one that is sustainable and does not reek of greed or extravagance. I am aware that there are people on this planet who dream of the kind of life that I now call my own. But I also believe that if it is within the reach of these people to attain a life that is better than my present life, they too would not stop where I am now. I believe in sustainability. I hate greed. And I think if something better is within your reach, you have to work as hard as you can to realize it for yourself.”
Quote: “All that is human must retrograde if it does not progress.” (Edward Gibbon)
I reckon human beings … or before I get stuck in definitions of what is meant by “human being”, let me be concrete: I consist of two parts. One part is mortal and in turn consists of body, consciousness, personality and identity (given and/or self-defined). The other part is immortal. Because I have command of a very limited range of vocabulary, I will call this latter part “soul”. These two parts are interwoven for the duration of my earthly existence.
What the purpose of this combination is, I do not know. How this combination came into existence, I also do not know (except for the biological part).
I am both parts and yet, if my body stops functioning and my consciousness is destroyed, I cease to exist – even if the other part of me continues to exist.
My earthly existence, the choices I make and the results I achieve in my life, have a dramatic impact on my immortal part – another illustration of how closely the two parts are connected.
The connection of the two parts is indeed something to be discovered – this discovery may even be considered a goal in itself.
What is the difference between this belief and the Christian version (influenced by the pre-Christian philosopher Plato)? The Christian believes that the body is mortal and that the spirit (or soul, self, consciousness, personality, or “inner being”) is immortal. I split the “spirit” or “inner part” in two – mortal and immortal.
I will henceforth refer to the above as the 25 May 2005 Declaration of Faith.
THURSDAY, 26 MAY 2005
What I am therefore saying is that the “inner” consists of two parts: mortal consciousness and time and place specific identity, and immortal X (sometimes called “spirit” or “soul”).
In my opinion this is a radical departure from Christian dogma.
A Christian, who has some dogmatic knowledge and understanding, may inform me: “This is not what we as Christians believe.”
To which I will reply: “Jesus was not a philosopher. If it were important to him that people got this philosophical foundation right, he would have given his disciples proper lectures on the subject. In such a case he would have preached less about love and compassion and spent more time making sure everyone has the correct understanding of all the philosophical concepts. If Jesus did not preach philosophy, who did? Why are Christians so convinced of the mortal body and the immortal soul? Has it perhaps to do with the Church Fathers, who were fortunate enough to be schooled in Greek philosophy?”
Shall my companion retort: “Maybe it was so intended. Maybe it was the predestined role of the Church Fathers with their strong philosophical background to explain what Christ – a carpenter with fisherman disciples – did not explain.”
Answer: “Perhaps. Or perhaps it has to do with the First Council of Nicaea in the fourth century during which Constantine became impatient and pressed delegates to come to a conclusion regarding doctrine that had been tabled? Maybe that was also part of the predestined plan. Or perhaps my understanding is closer to the truth? What is the real value of the difference?”
In each of Western and Eastern Christianity, four Fathers are called the Great Church Fathers, generally influential Christian theologians, some of whom were eminent teachers and important church leaders.
Ambrose (340–397): educated in Rome, studied literature, law, and rhetoric
Jerome (347–420): studied rhetoric, philosophy, Latin and some Greek
Augustine (354–430): developed his own approach to philosophy and theology, employing a variety of methods and perspectives; helped formulate the doctrine of original sin
Gregory the Great (540–604): like most young men of his position in Roman society, Gregory was well educated, learning grammar, rhetoric, the sciences, literature, and law
Basil (c. 329–379): an influential theologian who supported the Nicene Creed and opposed the heresies of the early Christian church. His ability to balance his theological convictions with his political connections made Basil a powerful advocate for the Nicene position.
Athanasius (c. 296–373): Athanasius’s earliest work, Against the Heathen – On the Incarnation (written before 319), bears traces of Origenist Alexandrian thought (such as repeatedly quoting Plato and using a definition from Aristotle’s Organon). Athanasius was also familiar with the theories of various philosophical schools, and in particular with the developments of Neo-Platonism.
Gregory of Nazianzus (329 – c. 389): As a classically trained orator and philosopher he infused Hellenism into the early church. Gregory made a significant impact on the shape of Trinitarian theology among both Greek- and Latin-speaking theologians.
John Chrysostom (347–407): John began his education under the pagan teacher Libanius, from whom he acquired the skills for a career in rhetoric, as well as a love of the Greek language and literature. He is known for his moral preaching and his denunciation of abuse of authority.
FRIDAY, 27 MAY 2005
The Particular I
the Universal X