I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Lateral and Mystical Narrative Encounter and Sharing


In his article "Theology and Narration: Reflections on the 'Narrative Theology'- Debate and Beyond", Andreas Mauz, discusses the role of argumentative theology and narrative theology. Mauz holds that each of these approaches has its appropriate place in theological discussion and development. However it is often frustrating in the world of academic studies for those who are more lateral and mystical in their way of thinking and writing. Those who are more inclined to be systematic, argumentative and vertical in their thinking do not 'get' those who are lateral and mystical.

Pope John Paul II's writings are often disparaged by many Western academics because he writes and thinks in a more lateral and mystical way. Rather than an argumentative monologue or dialogue this 'other' (alterity) approach is a sharing of wisdom where everything is connected to everything else and needs to be encountered rather than debated. It is more of a theological and philosophical storytelling or narrative approach that draws on many sources. This approach Liesbeth Korthals Altes in “A Theory of Ethical Reading” calls "post-structuralist bricolage". For the argumentative and systematic person (who is more sensing than intuitive) this seems confusing and jumbled.

Unless the more lateral and mystical person can find a teacher of a similar outlook they will not perform well in the present peer-reviewed world of academia. Those of the systematic and argumentative school consistently misunderstand mystical writings even when they specialise in these areas. A good example is Gershom Scholem, who while very erudite from a structuralist perspective, totally misunderstands Kabbalah and mysticism, as do many of his academic disciples. 

This is also true of those erudite priests and scholars (such as Jesuits etc) who misinterpret the writings of mystics because they interpret the words of a mystic with an ontological approach rather than a mystical approach. This was the case of those holy but ontologically focused priests who criticised the writings of Luisa Piccarreta because they could not discern the difference between the ontological use of a term from a mystical use of the same term but having a different emphasis and meaning in mystical theology.

Fortunately in the world of post-modernist philosophy and theology we have the ideas of Levinas who challenges us to move away from ontological focused philosophy and theology into a transcendent ethical focus or paradigm. Unfortunately Levinas is often interpreted incorrectly by those coming from the systematic and vertical approach as they seek to understand his concepts from an approach centred in ontology.  

These 'ontological structuralists' dominate in both the worlds of liberal/ modernist theology and orthodox/conservative theology. They turn everything into an argument or debate in which one must take sides and demonise everything the other side holds dear. They both found Pope John Paul II an enigma, that one side demonised and the other idolised, while misunderstanding most of what he wrote. I fear that they may do the same with Pope Francis. 

The world of the spiritual and mystical is beyond human comprehension and systemising (totalising) and can only be glimpsed in the beauty and inner truth/message of an icon. The created world itself is an icon in which we can glimpse the "beyond" just as we can in a painted or artistic icon or in a literary icon. However those of a limited vertical structuralist mentality can only see a superficial aesthetic and /or ideological meaning to such icons of the "beyond". 

The 'vertical structuralist' needs to climb a vertical ladder and tread on every step. Each connecting link must be marked out with clear, blatant and logical information and instructions. They are on a set journey following a seemingly clear, marked out route. Whereas the 'lateral mystics' ascend on a spiral ladder or staircase in which they leap like a stag or deer from level to level. Those who follow these 'leapers' follow their lateral leaps, through mystical intuition, preserving the mystery or enigma of the whole adventure into the mystical depths of the Heart. To mark out the detail between leaps is to destroy the adventure and to pervert the ascent.

Often the 'lateralists' are forced (in a sense) into the straight-jackets of the 'verticalists' in order to succeed in a 'verticalist' environment. Sometimes these 'crosses of the spirit' are a necessary discipline for a short period of time (a time of ethical melancholy), before the 'lateralist' can be set loose to bound over the mountains with joy once again. We all have the potential to be a  free and creative 'leaper' and we all have the perversion to become a verticalist 'enforcer' of totalities. 

I hope and pray that Pope Francis will be the anti-enforcer (the humble shepherd) who frees us from all catholic 'totalities' whether on the right or left. That he will be the one that opens the doors of the Church to the 'fullness' of a time of free, simple, creative and holy leaping in mystic delight at the approach of the coming eschatological kingdom (present sacramentally already in the Eucharist). The culmination of this Eucharistic kingdom and reign will be when the Divine Will is done on earth as it is in Heaven.

For a bit of mystical leaping see The Church as Sophia