Thursday, 28 March 2013

The symbolic and the sensible in religion

Here is what Lonergan has to say about the symbolic and sensible component of the divine solution to the problem of evil:
The divine solution to the problem of evil "will be not only a renovation of will that matches intellectual detachment and aspiration  not only a new and higher collaboration of intellects through faith in God, but also a mystery that is at once symbol of the uncomprehended and sign of what is grasped and psychic force that sweeps living human bodies, linked in charity, to the joyful, courageous, wholehearted, yet intelligently controlled performance of the tasks set by a world order in which the problem of evil is not suppressed but transcended.
     "Further, since mystery is a permanent need of man's sensitivity and intersubjectivity, while myth is an aberration not only of mystery but also of intellect and will, the mystery that is the solution as sensible must be not fiction but fact, not a story but history. It follows, then, that the emergent trend and the full realization of the solution must include the sensible data that are demanded by man's sensitive nature and that will command his attention, nourish his imagination, stimulate his intelligence and will, release his affectivity control his aggressivity, and, as central features of the world of sense, intimate its finality, its yearning for God." (B. Lonergan, Insight CWL 3:744-745) 

Rossi de Gasperis speaks, with Ignatius, I suppose, of the 'spiritual sense.'
The body of Jesus here. Interacting with the environment.
Our bodies are a flux. We are not contained in our skins. We are the ‘crossroads’ (De Smet) of a thousand schemes of recurrence.
This land, this history – they were part of the body of Jesus. That is why Rossi de Gasperis can talk of pilgrims kissing the stones. And PierVito’s testimony during the IME retreat at The Beatitudes, Galilee: "I laid my shame aside and embraced the stones."

And see also "Joseph and the splendor gloriae" at

Rossi de Gasperis can help fill out Lonergan on the symbolic and sensible component in the divine solution to the problem of evil. See Sentieri di vita 2.2:568ff on the sacramental dimension of the faith and of the Catholic liturgy. See 2.2:123: people kissing the land, anointing the stones, touching the places in the sanctuaries of Israel and of Palestine... 2.2:120-123: Il 'qinto esercizio' di Ignazio. L'applicazione dei sensi. Application of the senses.

Von Balthasar, symbol and theory

I am guessing that von Balthasar made an option to return from a systematic to a more symbolic theology - much in the way perhaps that Heidegger wanted to return to the pre-Socratics. In this case, what of Lonergan? Lonergan surely is not one who would ever want to set aside systematic theology. Does that mean that von Balthasar's project is entirely foreign to him? I would think not, because for that matter Lonergan would not want to set aside the symbolic either. There is place for both. Theory is necessary but does not warm hearts. Symbolic language is not everything, but it is what warms hearts. And perhaps von Balthasar's project is part of the sensible symbolic aspect that is so much part of the incarnation.

And perhaps here Rossi de Gasperis' insistence on the sensible might tie up.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013


Even an initial reading of the material I have collected on Experience confirms what De Smet said to me long ago: experience is a recent term; it became popular with the Protestants, and was accepted into Catholic thinking properly only in Vatican II.

The pieces I am reading, even the ones from theological dictionaries, tend to be varied in their reading. Many mention Mouroux, but not Balthasar or Ratzinger; only one mentions Lonergan. But then the one that mentions Mouroux but not Balthasar is from the New Catholic Encyclopedia of 1967, carried over seemingly unchanged into the second edition of 2003.

One of the secular dictionaries brings in Wittgenstein, who I had been forgetting or ignoring in this context. Heidegger and Gadamer tend to be mentioned. I have not yet come across Gadamer's dictum about experience being still a largely unexplored and undefined term.

My impression is that many presume experientia-perceptio rather than the experientia-conscientia that Lonergan has exposed so well.

The pain of reading Lonergan

Abbot Gregory Collins was saying that he had read Insight as a young man of 20, but that he would like, if he had another life, to go back to it again. Insight and Lonergan’s corpus is something formidable. You cannot really read The Way to Nicea without constantly bumping into the need to go back to what Lonergan has been saying earlier in his work. And that is true. That is what it means to be a systematic thinker. Not very popular nowadays, however. 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Antecedents again

Pierre Rousselot influenced Henri de Lubac.
The Neo-Scholastic attempt was to explain doctrinal development in logical terms: the process of development was the logical process of making explicit what was merely implicit in revelation. Revelation here was clearly still understood as a set of propositional truths.
A major development came when Pierre Rousselot (1878-1915) suggested that revelation be conceived not as a sum total of distinct truths, propositions, judgments, but as a kind of knowledge that is indefinitely cashable (monnayable) in distinct ideas and propositions which explicitate it without being able to exhaust it, and without claiming to supplement it. Revelation, he proposed, was the living and loving knowledge that the apostles had of Jesus. The mode in which the many dogmas are precontained in the single changeless knowledge which is the apostolic deposit is not logical, but Christological. [Aidan Nichols, From Newman to Congar: The Idea of Doctrinal Development from the Victorians to the Second Vatican Council (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1990) 202.] De Lubac’s contribution to the question of doctrinal development is largely a restatement of that of Rousselot, whose papers he studied and published. [See I. Coelho, "The Tradition-Innovation Dynamic in Christian Doctrines," Tradition and Innovation: Philosophy of Rootedness and Openness, ed. Saju Chacklackal (Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, 2011) 225-265, at ??.] 
De Lubac’s materials: the Fathers, the great Medievals, the Christian Platonist Maine de Biran, and Blondel. [Nichols 204.]
De Lubac rejected any view of ressourcement that scorned later development as decadent. [Nichols 205.]
When removed from teaching, de Lubac turned to the topic of doctrinal development. His chief contribution was a bulletin in which he expressed his views by criticising those of others, notably Neo-Thomists from Gardeil to Boyer. He distinguished his own views chiefly from the Logicism of Boyer. His positive remarks amount to a re-statement of Rousselot, who, being unpublished, was unknown. This bulletin would bear fruit in Rahner’s more massive exploration of the theme, and in the making of Dei Verbum. [Nichols 206. See H. de Lubac, “Bulletin de théologie fondamentale: le problème du développement du dogme,” Recherches de Science Religieuse 35 (1948) 130-160.]
Henri de Lubac was von Balthasar's teacher.

Von Balthasar was involved in the translation of Pierre Rousselot's Les yeux de la foi (1910) (dt.: Die Augen des Glaubens. Mit einer Einführung von Josef Trütsch. Aus dem Französischen übersetzt von Albert Mantel und Hans Urs von Balthasar. Einsiedeln: Johannes 1963)
Im deutschen Sprachraum wurden vor allem Hans Urs von Balthasar und Karl Rahner von Rousselot beeinflusst. ["Pierre Rousselot," Wikipedia, at, as of 20 March 2013]
The Italian translation of Les yeux de la foi borrows subtitles from von Balthasar's translation; that translation has also served as a constant guide in the work of the Italian translation, as the editors / translators admit (see Gli occhi della fede, tr. Claudio del Ponte, presentazione di Ursicin G.G. Derungs [Milano: Jaca Book, 1977] 7).

Von Balthasar himself has a book on de Lubac: Henri de Lubac: Sein organisches Lebenswerk (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1976); It. tr. Il padre Henri de Lubac: La tradizione fonte di rinnovamento, tr. Aldo Terrin (Milano: Jaca Book, 1978). In the very first sentence of the Preface he calls de Lubac "mio maestro ed amico." (11)
La voce 'dinamismo' ci da' l'occasione di dire qualcosa su coloro che sono stati gli animatori del pensiero di de Lubac; due nomi vengono immediatamente alla memoria: Blondel e Marechal. ... a loro si deve aggiungere il nome di Rousselot (che insegnava san Tommaso in modo nuovo). Ma a nessuno dei due si lego' de Lubac, nella misura in cui essi erano dei sistematici; da loro egli assunse solamente l'elan fondamentale.... (von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac 15)
See also Antonio Russo, Henri de Lubac: teologia e dogma nella storia. L'influsso di Blondel.

"Maurice Blondel, the Christian Philosopher that Cardinal Ruini Recommends. In the words of the one who knows him best, all the reasons that update the teaching of this unjustly forgotten philosopher. Interview with Peter Henrici."

So: Blondel - Marechal - Rousselot - de Lubac - von Balthasar, with the qualifications about the first two, and a stronger link between the last three.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Experiential conjugates

We've been discussing the Insight chapter on distinctions and relations these days with Sandy Habib and Frederic Masson. I was wondering: how do experiential conjugates analyse in terms of relations? can we talk here of a relation and a converse relation? From subject to object, and from object to subject? Seeing red, and red as seen. See Understanding and Being on this topic. 


Talking with Gianni Caputa yesterday, on the way back from Nazareth, I learnt that von Balthasar was a disciple of Henri de Lubac. I know that de Lubac was himself influenced very deeply by Pierre Rousselot, whose unpublished work he edited for publication. See my paper, Tradition and Innovation in Christianity. 

I was wondering about the connection between de Lubac and Blondel. A cursory search of the net throws up a book that i actually have, though in Nashik: Antonio Russo, Henri de Lubac: teologia e dogma nella storia. L'influsso di Blondel.

On the other hand, it might be interesting to explore De Smet's roots in Pierre Scheuer and Joseph Marechal. 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Persons and love

"A Gesu' interessano le persone." (Rossi de Gasperis, Sentieri di vita 2.2:114) Persons: in the final analysis, those who are able to love. That love is of course made possible by the intellectual nature, which means their ability to know and to freely decide and act. Love presuppose freedom: without freedom there is no love. And somehow, freedom is linked also to knowledge. Not in a necessarily linear way, but yes, linked. (Nihil amatum nisi cognitum, and the exception, minor and major, to this principle.) 

Monday, 4 March 2013

Authenticity, major and minor, and missio ad gentes

Thinking about Lonergan's distinction between major and minor authenticity, I was wondering: could we identify 'good conscience' with minor authenticity?

The distinction might also well be applied to missio ad gentes. We need not question the minor authenticity of people: they might well be good Hindus, good Buddhists, good Muslims. But proclamation of the Good News of Jesus raises the question of major authenticity.

Or perhaps: it may also raise the question of major authenticity - especially if the tradition in qustion has no place for such a revelation. E.g. the rationalism that seems to be to be inherent in Judaism and Islam - by which I mean that both these religions seem to me to remain within the bounds of what Catholics call 'natural theology', and there is the inbuilt temptation to say: nothing beyond, which where the rationalism thing comes in. Perhaps also Hinduism and Buddhism - though with these, especially with Advaita and Buddhism, the question of whether the finite can bear the weight of the infinite also comes in (here Ratzinger might be helpful). 

Aesthetic, moral and religious

I think we are called to move from "I like / I don't like" to "it is good to...", and then finally to "embracing it as God's will for me."

Or: from the aesthetic to the moral to the religious (Kierkegaard).

Moral conversion is from satisfactions to values (Lonergan). I would think it is from the aesthetic to the properly moral. The aesthetic is a broader and more significant category. It is more than merely 'satisfactions.' It is refined taste, for example.

And religious conversion is not necessarily theistic. Provided there is universal loving, a loving 'without limits', I think we are dealing with the properly religious (Lonergan). But it is possible to go further (not without an at least implicit intellectual conversion) and recognize not merely love but Love / God / the God of Jesus.

Specific to the Christian faith is not the gift of God's love, but the mediation of that gift in Jesus. (Lonergan)