Reverse Engineering Neoplatonism with Bishop Maximus | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Reverse Engineering Neoplatonism with Bishop Maximus".
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Welcome everyone to another Voices with Raveki. I'm very excited to be here with my friend Bishop Maximus. We've had two amazing conversations while they've been more than conversations. I think at times they get into a biological flow. And we're going to pick up this third conversation on ritual and theosis. But the Bishop also recommended talking about my project and after Socrates and I'll use this as a venue to shamelessly plug for my series after Socrates, where I'm trying to reverse the engineer on the neoplatonic way of life especially practices around dialectic entity logos. And I'm going to propose to you Bishop that we, we start with that third thing, the reverse engineering neoplatonism. And I know you have thoughts on it and I want to give you space and time to give me your reflections and your your responses to that project of trying to reverse engineer a neoplatonic way of life.
Exploring Orthodox Christianity And Philosophy
Thank you so much John for having me me on again. It's always a huge pleasure to speak to you. And you know we've had great conversations and I believe that this conversation is going to be wonderful as well. Thank you very much for for having me on, and I will try to plunge into the topic that we proposed. I've been listening avidly to your new series after Socrates, and you have in clearly a project in that series of reverse engineering neoplatonism I think you state that explicitly. Yes, I do. Right. So, and it's a project that interests me because there was a sense in which I tried to do the same thing or something similar. Right. Although, of course I reached ultimately reached somewhat different conclusions from you. Yes. Which by the way, do not necessarily preclude everything that you're saying, by any means. So I think I think in order for me to explain where I'm coming from on this question. I'm going to have to go back in time a little bit and explain a little bit, or something about my personal life. Which is, I don't know if it's a little bit embarrassing but it's, you know, it's just human existence has its ups and downs, and we have to recognize the fact that this is this is our human life. So, I'll hold everything you say like in respect and in the trust that we placed in each other.
Orthodox Monasticism (03:13)
I know you do. I know you do John. So, I became a monk at a young age. I really tried to live the monastic life as best as I could, according to the traditions of the Orthodox Church, according to the teachings of the Orthodox fathers, particularly those fathers who, who were writing specifically for monks and, and how to lead the monastic life. Even though in the Orthodox Church we believe that those writings are ultimately applicable to everyone. And, according to the guidance of my spiritual father, the abbot of the monastery. This is called Holy Ascension Monastery is in New York state where I lived for about, about 17 years I live there. Now in the Orthodox Church, we have the spiritual father in, in, particularly in a monastic context. We have a term that we use in English would be elder. In Greek it's year on us year on an ancient Greek here on does a modern Greek and in Russian is called status. Now there's actually a literary representation of Russian studies in the Just the asking in the brothers cameras of when they go to meet the elder the started to zosimus. If you remember that, that episode. It's an attempt to, to represent what an elder is in in the Orthodox Church. For reference to those who have never heard of this phenomenon in the Orthodox Church. You could think of it. A little bit like a guru in right Hinduism. Now, obviously it's not the same thing I don't want to make an identity claim at all. And maybe some more the Oxford criticize me even for mentioning that idea. Perhaps like a seafood within the martial art tradition, the master teacher leader that you sort of interest yourself to. Right. Even even though the word guru in in Sanskrit just means teacher. So, and anyways, in order for access is in every monk is supposed to have his elder. The obedience to to his elder and receive spiritual guidance from from his elder which is passed down from one person to another. There is an unbroken succession in the in Orthodox monasticism and to the best of my ability I was trying to, to live the the the teachings of the father, the institutions of Orthodox monasticism, the guidance of my my elder my spiritual father and so forth. And it was, and I was trying very hard. I mean, I was really putting my heart into it. And it was, it works. I was making spiritual progress genuine spiritual progress and everything that I was experiencing. Both within and without was completely in accordance with everything that I was reading in the writings of the Holy Fathers. And I felt very, very comfortable. And I'm very let's say even optimistic about my my spiritual life in that, let's say in that phase of my my my metastasism. What happened was I ran into a wall. I ran into a kind of dead end spiritually where I found that I just that doing the things that I was doing I couldn't advance spiritually anymore. And it wasn't just that I wasn't forcing myself enough. And it was that there was actually some sort of psychological block. I use psychological for lack of a better term. You know, you can call it a spiritual block, call whatever you want. There was something, something in my mind in my soul. And if I had pushed myself harder in that way. Not only would I have not made progress, I actually would have damaged myself. Right. Maybe that's wrong intuition. Yeah, maybe to the point of going crazy. Right. So it was it was a big issue for me because this was my life right, so what am I going to do with my life if I don't write any any kind of progress. So I was, I was in this kind of crisis. Which did not manifest itself too much externally, you know, externally I was doing everything that you know I continued to perform the external aspects of the monastic life and the way that they're normally done. But internally there was there was a kind of a kind of a crisis, which lasted for some years it was not something that just came and went it was. It was a serious reexamination of what's what's going on here. And you know, is the problem with me is the problem with. And I admitted the thought I should can't see is the problem with the teaching so the fathers are they, are they missing out on something. You know it was a real, it was a real problem and, and, you know, it would be dishonest if I didn't. And I mentioned the various thoughts that went through my mind, which, you know, I don't think they, they would sound unreasonable to anyone who would, you know, be going through something like this. I know that many other people have gone through their own spiritual crises and have obviously not the same thing but you know, all these kind of thoughts end up here. So, so as left with the question well what do I do, I can either just accept that this is the way things are and basically resigned myself to stagnation. That, that was not a very appealing option to me. Stagnation is something that I abort. And I guess you feel that way to ask very deeply very deeply. Yeah. So, the only other option that I could see was, well, I need to find another way forward. If what I'm doing is not working then then, and, and if my beliefs and the orthodoxy and orthodox monasticism are fundamentally true, which I believe and believed, then there has to be another way forward. So, so then I put myself to look for what that other way forward was.
Ancient Greek philosophy. (11:15)
And now, there was another factor that was influencing the way that this played out for me, which was that around the same time or maybe a little bit earlier, maybe a year or so earlier. I had begun to study philosophy in a serious way, particularly ancient Greek philosophy, not exclusively. I mean, I read widely, but particularly the ancient Greek philosophy. And the reason for that was that I was reading the fathers of the church and I read practically everything that was available in English and I was starting to read what was, what had not been translated into English, what was still in Greek. And I realized that the, in order to really understand the fathers of the church, I had to have some sort of basic knowledge of in Greek philosophy, of course, because that was the thought world that they were living. Yes, yes. And so, all of the, all of the fathers of the church, those who, you know, in the earth, which we use the word father to very broadly, basically, because in any saint of the church who these behind writings and instruction, regardless of their, let's say philosophical or intellectual or logical level. But for the, let's say for the major fathers of the of the church were talking about theological issues on a deeper level. There was a heavy philosophical element there that couldn't be avoided. And for me to understand them I had to study ancient Greek philosophy because of course that was the environment that they came from.
The fathers of the church; philosophy. (13:05)
So, you know, by, so I set myself to basically to duplicate the ancient Greek curriculum, educational curriculum. And, you know, basically so that I could build up in my head, the same thought world, right, right, all of the fathers of the church, or most of the fathers of the church had. So, in other words, so I can understand them on their own terms. So, you know, by, by late antiquity, the educational curriculum had basically been standardized. And it included things like, you know, you start out reading the, the earlier the Odyssey, you would read the selection of the playwrights. And you would read some of the the orators the most in these, you would read the some instructional manuals on on oratory because rhetoric was in many ways the framework which education was presented in the antiquity. So, homogenies, for example, and his program, which are the, the rhetorical exercises that I'll prepare you to speak in a rhetorical manner. And by rhetoric, you know, we think of the record modern and, and our modern world is, you know, just being kind of florid. Yes, often excessive language in ancient times rhetoric was virtually indistinguishable from just clear thought and composition. Yeah, yeah. Oh, you know, and then of course the philosophers era Aristotle first of all is his logical works and his what we could call his physics and some scientific works these were a basic part of the curriculum for everyone. And then on a higher level of more advanced level, there would be the study of Plato. Right. So, you know, I went, I went through, can't say I read every single piece of ancient Greek literature but you know I read a lot.
NeoPlatonism; temptation & pride. (15:26)
And particularly with particular emphasis on the philosophers. And well, I was presented with or confronted with a different way of looking at what we could call the spiritual life, or the structural reality one which was extremely powerful. And many of the same claims that we have in the Orthodox Church and Christianity, you know this idea of the Union, maybe the one with God, however you want to call it this idea of the, you know, something like realism. And then we want to conceive the question of the forms or anything like this. The contemplation of reality, the the purification of the soul. So many ideas were similar to parallel with what existed in the Orthodox Church and of course there is a lot of mutual borrowing tremendous amounts of mutual borrowing. Yes. Yes. And it was, well, in a way, it was a new world that was being opened up to me. In another way. It was extremely familiar because much of it. I was already doing. Yeah. Yeah. Since I was in this kind of spiritual dead end. And at the same time, I was discovering a similar but sufficiently distinct. Right. So, path, method, let's call it method to union with with God. How do you see with a temptation for me. Right. Right. You know, it was a temptation, the Neil Platonism, and it's, and it's somewhat intellectual means of a sentence towards God was was a temptation to me. Right. And it was something that I thought about very, very hard because of course, when you, when you're looking for an answer and a possible answer is presented to you. You know, you're not going to throw the opportunity away. No, no. So, well, so, so what happened. Basically, I, I thought about it very, very, very hard. And, you know, in the context of my own person, my own soul. And this idea of, of basically, a set of intellect, which is more or less how I was, I was understanding the, the platonic method of dialectic and, and the contemplation of the forms. I know you have your own version of that. Sure, but keep going. It's good. This is really good. Maybe addresses some, some of the issues that I was thinking. But anyways, that's, that's, that's where I, that's where I wasn't how I was thinking. But I realized being honest with myself. If I pursued that path. And I wasn't talking about abandoning the other church or abandoning my nasses as a man. I'll be within the context of what I was already doing. Just kind of a reorientation of, of my, my methods. And my, my frame. The, I realized that if I went down that route. I, there would be no way that I avoid. Getting it mixed up with a lot of ecotism. Yeah. Ultimately a form of intellectual pride and some sort of elitism. You know, which put it, put in its most simple form. It's like, I'm smarter than you. Therefore, I'm better than you. Yes. And, you know, that, that temptation exists within neo-platonism. Yes. You know, I'm, I'm sure you've seen it. I'm sure you recognize it or. Yes, I recognize that I recognize it in myself. I hope. I'm, I'm, I'm, I hope that recognition isn't just some subterfuge of the very thing we're talking about. Right. I hope. I profoundly hope that it's, that it's authentic and genuine. The recognition. So I totally acknowledge that point. And we'll take it up in the discussion, but please continue your narrative right now. Right. So. I understood that if I wanted to lead a. A pure spiritual life.
Spiritual Integration: Stoicism, Neoplatonism, & Maximus the Confessor (20:48)
That wasn't. On some fundamental level mixed up. With my own pride. My own ecotism. My own passions. That that was not going to work. That path was not going to work for me. That was one reason why I didn't do it. There is a second reason. Which is that at the core. I'm a Christian. I believe in the gospels. I believe in in. All of the, the doctrines of the Orthodox church and. You know, when you, when you read the gospels. And then if you compare it to let's say platonic. By electric. It's clear there's a, at the very least there's a difference in spirit. At the very least. Now that doesn't mean that there's not a way to reconcile the two on, on some level and. And in fact I believe that. Christianity did reconcile them on, on, on some level, but, but if we were going to take, let's say the pure unadulterated version of, of neo, neo, play, and is on. It was, it was a spirit that was alien enough to, let's say the pure message of the gospels that I just didn't feel like I could. You wouldn't be at home there. You wouldn't be at home in that other. Honestly pursue it and still be more a Christian than a neo-Platonist. Right, right, right, right. And you know my, my soul wouldn't allow me to do that. Okay. But I was still confronted with a question of wow, this is a, this is powerful. Yeah. And it's not, you know, it's not something to be dismissed. So, so there was a question of what to do with it. Now, if we go on to, that was the hang of it. Let's say we would call the dialectical method. We can call the dialectical method. I don't have a problem with that. That's one aspect of neo-Platonic spirituality. It's not the totality. There is other parts to it as you acknowledge the, and I think are trying to integrate. There's also spiritual practices, practical things, which are many of which are borrowed from stoicism. Yes. Which really is, I think, criminally underrated in modern scholarship, or at least up until very recently. Although it's a big deal now in the popular world, stoicism is going through this huge revival. I think of neo-Platonism as the, the integrated, the integration, and not just the adding together, but the integrating the shtalt of sort of platonic and agaga spirituality, and the Aristotelian psychology and science, and stoic ethics and existential practices. And so that's, yeah, I. That's exactly the way that I view it. Yes, good, good, good. So, you know, so there are all these stoic practices that were integrated into, into neo-Platonism. Yep. And many of them were adopted into the Orthodox Church with, as particularly as part of monastic practice. So, so things, for example, like the, the remembrance of death. There is the stoic practice of the, the contemplation of future evils in order to prepare one soul. Premeditatio, yeah. Premeditatio. There was in particular very, perhaps the most important element in stoicism, stoic practices. The distinguishing between those things which are within our power, and those things which are without outside of our power, and acquiring a quantum of soul or apathy, the word that they actually use, which is not apathy. Yes, you have to say that very clearly. And, and Greek, the things that are dependent on us, the things that are not dependent on us. And, and this was completely 100% integrated into Orthodox monasticism. I just want to say that I did not find them present, even in a reduced form in the Protestantism that I was brought up in and I'm not sure. Perhaps there's versions of this in Catholic monastic practice so I don't, I won't speak to that. But I was like, I first, when I encountered them in stoicism, they were completely novel to me. And so, I just want to point that out that because there's probably a lot of people listening that are from other Christian denominations or not, and they might say, what are you talking about I don't like it. But that's interesting. How much that is like, are there things like also the view from above practice that was taken up in stoicism and also taken into neoplatonism I've done some work on on that. Sure. And in fairness, practically all of this is in Roman Catholicism as well. Okay. Okay. Now, I mean the problem in Roman Catholicism is not not that it doesn't exist, it most certainly exists. It's just that the mainstream presentation of Roman Catholicism is so watered down that that many people don't see it. They have to dig a little bit. I see. Which is by the way, this is a tangent but don't mention any ways which is by the way. One of several reasons why people who convert to Roman Catholicism, usually convert to traditionalist forms of it. Yes. And then the final reason why they find traditionalist you know, very few people convert to the more, I don't know popular. I think water is exactly the right adjective. Right. So, and then in Protestantism well of course since Protestantism, Protestantism explicitly rejects tradition. That's a really good way to cut yourself off from any of these kind of practices, not to mention the fact that if you have this idea of salvation by faith alone more than why you need all this extra stuff. Now, that's not totally fair to to Protestants because I know that Protestants make a distinction between justification and sanctification. And there is certainly a mechanism within Protestantism whereby they could, couldn't in theory reintegrate that. Yeah, I've had a very interesting conversation with Jordan Cooper around that. Let's go back to the, to the main theme. All right, so, so basically you had, you had with a new playlist of number of practices. Some of them, many of them were already present in orthodoxy and particularly an orthodox monasticism. So well I didn't have to change anything there because I was already doing it. Yeah, right. All of these had already been internalized very much into my spiritual life. And still still are. Now, there is another set of practices, which were not accepted by the church historically. And these were primarily the practices that were connected explicitly with paganism. So, most, most obviously the worship of idols. Yes. And by extension, the, the neo-Platonic attempt to just find the philosophical justification with this which ended up being theology. Yes. Yes. So, you know, as I mentioned on a previous, and our previous conversation. It's very difficult for me. And historically, it was difficult for the church to see. Theurgy is anything more than simply a kind of refined intellectual version of magic. Yeah. Yeah. And now I know you, you have, you have some thoughts on that which may be leading a slightly different direction. And I'm open to hearing your thoughts on those, but at least for myself, what I saw was that, of course, as a Christian, I wasn't going to worship idols. No, Nora, Nora was a, Nora is like going to engage in any sort of, any sort of pagan rituals where I'm trying to animate statues or do do any of these practices which were connected with, with theurgy. Rather, I saw that the elements of theurgy which were actually true and actually valid. And of course there, there were some present. We're already present in, in orthodoxy in the, the liturgy. Yes. In the services that we, that we perform. So, and from my point of view in, in a much better way. So, I, I thought to myself well, I'm not going to go down that route and I have a better version of it version of it. Yeah. Anyways, so, you know, there's no, no question there. Now, the third element which we haven't discussed which we can get into is there is the question of dialectic which you, which you want to bring up but anyway, the long and the short of it is that this was my spiritual experience this was my, my confrontation with neo platonism.
Maximus the Confessor & The Problem of the Divine Darkness (31:52)
I, I learned a tremendous amount from it. Absolutely tremendous. I ended up rejecting the, let's say the more pure form of neo platonism. But I did come to a, I don't want to say a compromise solution. I, the, the power, the truth, the nobility, the beauty of neo platonism forced me to take it seriously.
Movement beyond Neoplatonism (32:47)
Very seriously, along with the fact that, you know, I was at a dead end with what I was doing before. And so what that did was since I was committed to being Orthodox and that meant working within the framework of Orthodox tradition and the fathers of the church. What that, what that motivated me to was to then re read some of the fathers of the church in order to see if there was something that I was missing. Ah, something that I was missing that addressed some of the same issues or approaches that existed in neo platonic dialectic. Right. And where I found that was primarily in St. Maximus. Yes. Yes. And St. Maximus talks a lot about contemplation. They were here. Yeah, very much. Very much. I'm reading Maximus right now. Right. Now, of course he's not the only father. There are lots of others in the church that talk about this but, you know, he was the one who most appealed to me and who maybe who spoke the most extensively about it. And so, so what the conclusion that I reached on maybe on an intellectual but also on a, on a personal practical spiritual level was, was that the way forward for me spiritually was well not abandoning any of the practices that I was doing, which in fact still form the, you know, the most basic layer of my, my spiritual life my monastic life, in which under under no circumstances what I dismiss or deprecate or diminish. In order for me to live a more full spiritual life and to actually make some real progress spiritually when I had been stalled out. I had to take up a new practice. Let's call it that which was, which was contemplation. Right. In the maximum sense of the word. Yes. Which is not the same as the neopatonic version, but which nevertheless does share certain commonalities and which I would, I would argue. How convincing me I don't know but, which I, at least which I can see though, as, as being another element in the transfiguration of the next slide. So that's where I am right now. And that I'm, I'm really happy with it. I'm really happy it. You know, and it both provides a way for me to have a fruitful meaningful spiritual life and it certainly provides a bridge for me to speak with, you know, with you and many other people. Well, I have a bunch to say that was wonderful and beautiful and I'm honored to be able to just bear witness to this. So thank you so much. One thing is I might put it to you that you pick you've taken up another practice and because I properly regarded as a practice which is the teaching of philosophy.
Reverse engineering, ritual & DIA-LOGOS (36:51)
And I view I view it as part of the same thing. Yeah, good, good. And for that matter I view our conversations as part of the same. Yes, great. Excellent. So you alluded to a question I'm going to raise it more explicitly. And thank you for that. As you said, I'm trying to reverse engineer and I, I think of sort of this triangle of things I'm trying to reverse engineer when I'm reverse engineering. Neil Platonism one, which we've just ended on is, you know, the meditative contemplative whole. I use those terms slightly differently from each other as you know because they point in sort of different aspects of mindfulness reflective practices. Yes, like you I reject most of what you would call the magic in a the urge, yeah, I'm not trying to bring back the urge, you have proper or anything like that I'm not interested in worshiping idols or anything like that. But I do want to pick up on the use of the imaginal within ritual to enhance our ability to detect. Otherwise undetected subtle patterns, psycho, somatic psycho social psycho ontological patterns. I feel that very present, for example, when I in Tai Chi Quan practice doing Tai Chi. And I think, I think struck spoke on divination and human nature, the ancients. They treat divination very differently and the name is of course kind of important to, they treat it differently. They don't write treatises about magic or sorcery, but they care about disability and struck makes I think the very good point that the term we would use for what they're talking about is intuition, and they're trying to really understand this ability we have for insight intuition. I think it one way of thinking that is the way of imagining exercising the capacity for news that capacity. And so I'm interested, I'll make a hybrid word for this poll ritual liturgical poll. And then I'm interested in this third that properly depends on them, which I've been calling dialectic into the logos where dialectic is a practice and deal logos is a process that you can only participate in you can't do deal logos. If you're trying to do deal logos, you're you've missed it. It's like doing love, you have to participate in it. But it's not something you can make happen. You can't be the causal agent. And so, dialectic helps you cultivate a receptivity to getting into deal logos and I think the deal logos is not being reducible to dialogue, precisely because it has the seriously and deeply has these ritual liturgical aspects to it. And so, these contemplative meditative aspects to it. And it's seriously trying to work with something like the collective intelligence of distributed cognition. And so, for me, I hold that. And so, I'm going to do the triangle deliberately that for me and this is the time as he holds dialectic is being, you know, the greatest practice and Socrates, you know, repeatedly says to engage in dialectic, right, or deal into the logos is the best way that a human being can live. And I know I know I know you don't agree with that but I'm just saying why I justify putting it at the top of the pyramid. And so, my question that I want to raise to you, and I don't know I'm ignorant about orthodoxy so I'm just going to state the ignorance. I've, I don't see these practices. I don't see them. Like, so people are something like in a platonic dialogue. And they're getting into deal logos and as Socrates says he's following the logos like you follow the wind. And there's some resonance there with Jesus about comparing the right where does the spirit flow from and blow from right though like the wind. And I don't see those practices those dialogical practices in the Protestantism that I'm familiar with or that I've examined. I'm not clear. I don't see them in Roman Catholic churches perhaps they exist in Roman Catholic monastery so I'm open to hearing that. But my question is, for me, this is the core thing, because this is where we can encounter something like and I'm saying this with respect, and I hope you take it that way something like analogous so not exactly like your encounter with the elder or exactly the Vedanta's encounter with the guru or the Dallas encounter with the seafood but at least in that family where the group actually acts like Socrates to the individual and provides in the process in the practice something that can overcome ego centrism and significantly challenge a kind of intellectual pride. I'm not saying it's a panacea and I'm not saying it's an algorithm for resisting those but I think these practices like philosophical contemplation, philosophical fellowship around a philosophical text, Lexio Divina, and I think into deal with I don't see I know Lexio's in the Catholic tradition in the monastic thing in the Orthodox church right right so I'm asking is there anything like that in Orthodoxy and first of all I want to make sure that that's a fair question to ask. So it's a very fair question it's an excellent question. Let me answer your first question first about ritual and the imaginal. Yes. So you've been talking a lot about the imaginal which I guess you get from Corban.
How do we understand ritual in Orthodox Christianity? (43:10)
And some other things yeah Hillman and others yes and and RAF yes. Those are the three biggest influences on me about the imaginal. You know I think I understand what you're referring to when you talk about it. Of course, the imaginal is not part of common parlance. You know, have people talk about the the imagination. Yes. Fantastic. You know but the but what you're referring to is something quite quite different. Yes, very much. And, and obviously, I think once I understood what you were referring to it seems to be obviously true within at least within its own parameters. So you give the example of the the Tai Chi, and you know obviously it works. Yes. So, all right now if we apply that to ritual. So, first of all, let's let's try to define ritual at least in Orthodox terms. In Orthodox ritual is a kind of symbol. Yes. But specifically it is an enacted symbol is or you could say a performed symbol. Yes. And that's that's actually indicated in the Greek word for ritual which is telety or the the new playness sometimes use word. It's not just the key. But it comes from the word. Telo which means to finish to to complete or you know, just something or to perform. Right. You know, and there's words in Greek that are related to like a low you know to execute a task. So, so the idea in Greek of ritual is even by the word itself which is obscured in English. Connected to the idea of a physical practice. Yeah. Right. Now I know you talk a lot about how we need in our ecology of practices. We need a physical practice as yes. You know as included in that. And of course in in Christianity, the way that we have this or in this part of the way that we have this is through ritual. And so if we think of it as enacted symbolism. We of course, a symbol is understood in the other abstract is. If you'll allow me the explanation. You know we we we view we have. If you concrete individual particulars within the world we abstract to them in order to come up with a general idea. And we can do that within a religious context so we can think of obviously the good the beautiful the true. These are abstractions from specific examples of you know some beautiful thing or some true statement or whatever. But the problem is that human beings. We think more easily in concrete terms than we do in abstract terms to think abstractly requires a certain mental effort. And it's, it's, well it's difficult for for a lot of people and it's difficult for everybody over, you know, a sustained period of time so. So what a symbol does is it. Re represents to us an abstraction in a concrete way. But in a way which contains within itself. The totality of the abstraction and thus all of its particular examples. So, you know, we have, we have all sorts of rituals in the Orthodox Church. The turgically this would be the primary primary mode and of course we have. Ritual statements virtual gestures. We have, you know, movements, processions. We have the chanting. All of which, you know, goes according to a certain order we have the, the structure of the music itself, which is. Of course, which is according to a certain set of rules with, you know, we don't just use any music in church. The music itself is symbolic. And, you know, as St. Athanasius the great says that music brings the soul into harmony with itself. And, you know, he didn't come up with that idea. He was previously stated by a diverse. So.
Integrating imagination into the rest of life (48:46)
And what, what symbolism. In the, especially in the context of the church allows us to do is, it makes these abstract ideas immediately accessible to us. In, in a way that. Everybody can can experience. And ultimately what that does is, you know, connecting again to your work. Although, obviously it was thought of before, you know, a couple thousand years before you were around. You know, is, is that. In, it allows us to experience the, what could, what could be understood as a proposition. It allows us to under to experience it. In a perspectival way. Well, first in a procedural way. I mean, chanting as a teacher, for example. Then in a perspectival way, because, you know, we, we, if we enter an orthodox church, we see all the icons that immediately puts us in in the mood to think about, you know, all of these, you know, think about God, the left with Jesus, the saints. And then in a participatory way. You know, we, we are very much participating in the liturgy. Obviously, if you're, if you're, if you're listening to, to the chanting, for example, you're with attention. You are participating in it. And if you're actually doing the chanting, then, then you're participating in an even more obvious manner. So, so basically the, the symbolism allows us to, to experience on a practical level on the, on all of the levels of knowledge that you that you talk about, which I think are great category by the way in which I frequently refer to. So thank you for for your work there. You know, it allows us to, to experience those things which otherwise would be difficult to, to access. So it's basically, and, and you know, all of the symbols of the church converge. And when we talk about when we talk about abstractions, you know, we're talking about the things which are ultimately the structure of reality. And so when we have, when we have symbols which are representing elements of the structure of reality. And of course we have many different symbols. They all mutually reinforce one another. We can participate in the entire structure of reality by means of these symbols. All right. So, could I just reply to that point before you move to the. Sure, sure. I do agree with that, by the way. I do. I do. I, I, but I want to extend it and see if you agree with the extent. First of all, that joining of the intelligible to the sensual, if I can put it that way because I want to use Corban's terms. That's, that is the defining feature of the imaginal. That's, it's the symbol. It actually is what brings the two together. You were calling it the abstract and the concrete, but that maps on exactly to what he's, he's talking about. And that, by the way, the fathers do use that, that terminology you just said the intelligible and the essential. Yeah. Yeah. Don't get to SD ton. And, and, and yes, I think the imaginal is, like you said, it's a way of engaging the non propositional properly. And then I pick up on the work of Jennings and show, break and others that what makes imaginal ritual is that it transfers that non propositional knowing to non ritualized context and informs those non ritualized context such that people can more conform to a good life. Yes. Yes. Right. And so, and that's it. So I want to extend that horizontal dimension that I talk about. I think that's properly and you're saying yes so I think you agree with that. And then the other is, it, I want to, I want to talk about how it not only reaches up it reaches down because the point is everybody, and you did say this, but every, all of the propositional is always deeply reliant on and embedded in the non propositional you and I are both gesturing when we're trying to talk we're nodding. We're playing with intonation we're flipping around perspectives with metaphor. We're doing all of this and it's to say that, right, it's not only so much that the symbol reaches up. And I'm going to, and I hope you'll take this the right way but it reaches down it reaches into the depths of our embodiment and are like a recognition. So it's deep calling to deep if I can put it that way. And so that's a little scriptural reference by the way. Yes, that's one of my favorite passages from the songs. And so I, that's, I just, I'm just, I think, and you seem to be nodding and saying yes so I'm just trying to amplify it. I agree entirely. Okay, good. That's what I'm trying to get out. Right. That's what I'm trying to get out and that's that that that one part that one poor I'm trying to get that out and bring that into the Neoplatonic way of life. Now I'll let you go to the next question. Wait no no no I there's one more thing I want to say about the first book about the ritual. Okay. So this is where we're going to differ a little bit I think yes, but it's a really important point. Please, which is that for us in Christians in the ritual and in all of the symbolism which we use.
And the word, imagine all four to express our participation are and the way that we can see them interact with with the, with these symbols. And the word that we would use in Christianity is faith. Yes. Because we are not conceiving these as some sort of provisional mental concepts that perhaps in theory could change. So whether we are conceiving them as eternal truths fundamental truths about reality, which we accept on faith. Obviously by faith I'm not referring to a blind faith and something which we accept on faith and by faith. We have accepted in in some absolute sense. In other words, there's some absolute core to what we're believing or there's, but it differently there's some absolute basis a grounding to reality, which has to be there Otherwise you're just chasing your tail continually. And which really goes to what St Paul says about faith, he says, "Pisty, Serpis, Omenon, Iposasis, Pregmato, Nellen, Hosmile, and Comenon." Faith is a substance of things hope for the evidence of things not seen in the Kingdom of translation in Hebrews. So, regardless of who wrote Hebrews as a relevant. So, when we say that faith is a substance of things hope for the evidence of things not seen, what we're doing, and you know some of the fathers of the church talk about this explicitly and actually Clementa Alexandria talks about it, very explicitly. Same maximizes as well. The, with faith with Christian faith, it's not, we understand it in the Orthodox church, not as mental as sent to a series of propositions. Yeah, by which if we assent we therefore gain salvation as, you know, maybe the most extreme Protestants you would be. And I realize that many Protestants would not want to go that far with that some purification, but anyways there's enough truth in it to make it a useful reference to contrast with. In the Orthodox church were viewing in these terms it's almost a definition that that simple is offering here. That faith is making present, actually present to us. Both those things which we believe to be in the in the future you know, eternal life and so forth. But, but also the, the whole life of the church, the whole structure of the interaction of God with reality with with us with the human soul and the way that we correspondingly interact with, with reality and with God. All of this is being made present, actually present in such a way so that it, I'll say how use this phrase, but I don't want it to be misinterpreted so that it becomes real. And, but the thing is that the, I can say the key difference here is that we are believing it as something real and something true, and something absolute not something provisional, or, you know, something which in the back of our mind we know is, well, it's not actually that way. I'm just, you know, using it as a useful convention. So, so, I think from from an Orthodox point of view, at least. This is where this is one of the ways it's not the only way where where faith comes in in a in a very practical way. And so, where you are describing all sorts of virtual and your, your, your describing all sorts of. And ways of having perspectival, knowing, which are genuinely useful for us to grow, and to find meaning in our lives which I totally agree with. And so, where you are using the word, imagine all in many of those places, not not all of them because I recognize the place of the imaginal on its own terms. But in many of those places, we would use the word faith and we would think of it in something in terms that are somewhat more amplified than than what you mean by the imaginal. In a sense, it does. And I want to, I want to respect that. So, let me, let me, I got to actually go in a couple minutes. And so I want to, I want to invite you. Maybe very soon if we could pick up this thread and because you still have had a chance to answer the main question. We normally would have gone longer everyone but we had a bunch of technical difficulties as we were trying to do a previous filming and so we decided just to start all over but that cut out some of our time. But, well, it goes without saying that Bishop and I are going to talk again and hopefully soon and we'll have a fourth. And we'll start with him answering maybe that the main question that he's still preparing an answer. We're preparing a framework for within which to answer. So, I want to acknowledge what you're, you're saying. I do think that they're, I'm not going to claim its identity but I'm wondering how far away it is. Because I do think of this as real realization that we're, we're not just sort of like I don't think of the imaginal as projection. I think of the imaginal as a way in which we cultivate a receptivity that the disclose is real patterns and real real principles. So it's a matter of realization in both senses of the word that I like to use. And it's not a realization that's grasped as you said propositional ascent. It's, it's a relation that is realized as really Gio, ratio really Gio a proper connectedness bindingness.
The Importance Of Enacted Symbols
Enacted Symbols are Indispensable (01:02:22)
And I go further, I think, you know, many of these. I'll use your words for now many of these enacted symbols are indispensable. I don't think they're replaceable. I do, I do wonder, because of, you know, I see other symbols and other traditions also acting powerfully. I probably don't have your exclusivity, but I do acknowledge, in dispensability and I go even explicitly so in the theorizing. You know, it's not just, it's not just the Jennings emphasizes the what you might call the innovative aspect of ritual. But Williams and Boyd emphasize what you might call the conformity they say rituals are masterpieces that you that you're not trying to transform them you're trying to be transformed by them. They were there they were doing some anthropology on Zora Lasterian ritual. And so you're faced with what's sometimes called the ritual paradox, which is rituals are treated as if they're unchanging masterpieces and they should be please hear the second thing, but it's also clear that they have a history and they have evolved and changed over time. Right, and trying to get a proper framework that recognizes both of those is. Well, in the Orthodox Church, obviously within the history of Christianity that have been different many different rituals. That's right. What is important, of course, is the principle behind. Yes. Yes. Rather than the specific manifestation of of a ritual which could be variable according to time in place, although in the Orthodox Church, we are extremely cautious about any sort of change in rituals. I think you should be, and I want to say that's functional. I think you want to have a proper tonus between sort of a ritual, but you'll allow me seriously playing with the ritual so that it you did it to some degree you went into Neil Platonism and you came back and you re ritualized some of your rituals. Right. And that's what I mean by this this, this, you didn't you didn't like change the principle or the form but you changed the the fact that you were in the ritual, which is a kind of perfection to it. And that goes back to the Greek word again. It's like a masterpiece. You know what we'll do. Let's take Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and let's change it. Let's make do this and this and then we know we think no, no. And you're trying to get that. And I think that tonus is actually functional for rituals in a really, really important way. So, I'm sorry we do have to end. This was wonderful. And I mean, and half of this, and wonderfully so this is this is a gratitude, not a complaint was you doing that, that really brave narrative which I really appreciate so thank you for doing that. So I want to, we are now poised I think I think we're in agreement at least poised. We're not in complete agreement about ritual and I get that but I think there's, there's lots of good connecting points to go back to the main question about that that that apex in the in the triangle, right.
Continuation Of Discussion
Continuing the Conversation (01:05:51)
I know you really want to get to that. Yeah, I really want to get to that. Of course, because, you know, I mean, obviously that's, that's, at least it seems to be where your work is focused right now. That's right. You know, your new series of after Socrates, and I have, I think I have something of an answer. I think you have something of value to say and I want to hear it and I want, I want us to continue doing this. I do need to jump. This has been, I really appreciate these discussions in in all the meanings of the word appreciation and let's, let's get out. And then let's set up an email chain very quickly and let's get in, let's get you on the books for something very soon. And so we can just jump into this and get the fourth one and then we'll, we'll, we'll have three and four to release. Two is going to be released while we probably have been released by the time this video is open. I'm just excited about continuing this conversation so I, I hope you'll come back. Of course, of course, of course I'll come back if you'll have me. Of course. You know, these conversations are so thrilling and so fulfilling. I really appreciate the opportunity that, that you've given me to be able to speak with you about these ideas which are so really so important. And so, so relevant, no point intended to. You know, both both I think to ourselves personally, and, you know, to a lot of people in the world so, so thank you so much for the conversation john and I'm really looking forward to continuing it.