Friday, December 24, 2010

The Genesis of the Idea of God as Human Destiny

John McNeill Spiritual Transformation

In my three areas of expertise; spirituality, psychotherapy and theology, I am aware of a desperate need for spiritual transformation in the culture, the nation, and the Church. I will do my best to make a contribution to that need from my perspective as an older man with many years of involved experience.

This Christmas eve i wont to post this blog because I feel it iis the one most revelant to a theological understanding of the importance of the Incarnation for all humanity.

Blondel believed that he could discover all the a priori aspirations implicit in the human will by means of his dialectic. Most fundamental is the drive out of isolation and alienation into unity with ourselves, the world, our fellow man and God. This is the central message of Christian revelation concerning human destiny: “May they be one, Father, even as you and I are one.” Accepting this word not merely as revealed but as revealing, Blondel traces the stages in the dialectical process by which man searches for that oneness.
The appearance of human self-consciousness in the evolutionary process marks man and woman's awareness of moral consciousness as a thrust toward unity: humans are morally obliged from within to act as if humanity were one. Unlike Kant who was tempted to see moral truth as an end-in-itself and the other person as a means to that end. Blondel maintains that, like all truth, moral truth does not exist for its own sake. It is only by acting in accordance with the principles and values of moral truth that humans can achieve the unity of humanity in a human community.
Beyond the felt unity with other humans in the concept of humanity and the moral unity in the order of intention, the will strives for a unity with all humanity on the level of existence itself. The will as willing cannot be one with the will as willed until this existential unity is a reality. For Blondel, the ideal of existential unity among all humankind is the primary example of the category of human commitments that remain simultaneously necessary and impossible. In so far as these commitments are necessary, they represent a possible immanent dimension of the human’s existential reality: in so far as they are impossible for humans to achieve by their unaided freedom, they indicate the presence within humans of a power that transcends them. This is the key experience that leads humans to form an idea of God as the immanent transcendent. Having its genetic origin in the experience of the necessary and the impossible, it is a “projecting out of the unused and unusable potentialities of the human will” In order to find the perfect identity of themselves with themselves in their voluntary action, humans must look within theimselves until they reache the point where that which is of themselves ceases, yet something remains.
What humans can know of God is precisely “that surplus of interior life which demands its employment.” Blondel is well aware that the possibility of existential unity among humankind, to which all humans necessarily aspires, would remain forever an abstraction unless humans could realize an existential unity with God, A human’s knowledge of God consists fundamentally in an immanent awareness that “at the root of his or her ego there is an ego which is no longer his or hers.” Yet it is only in the act of freely consenting to such an intimate presence that the actual consciousness of it as an immanent dimension of human’s existential reality is achieved: Only by free consent does that presence pass from abstract possibility into experienced actuality. According to Blondel, this transformation is the ultimate meaning of human freedom and the ultimate dimension of our moral life; it is grounded in the power to make God exist or not exist in our lives by reason of our own freely chosen existence.
Although the idea of union with God is a necessary idea, it is seldom brought to the degree of clarity and precision that it achieves at the end of a dialectical presentation. No matter under what form it is presented in consciousness, the thought of God as absolute is produced in us by a determinism which imposes that idea from within as a necessary result of the dynamism of our interior life. In turn, it produces a necessary influence on the organization of our conduct.
What emerges necessarily in consciousness and is inevitably efficacious in practice is not the concept of a speculative truth to be defined, but the perhaps vague yet certain. and imperious conviction of a destiny and ulterior end to be attained. The vital source of this sense of destiny is the presence within us of the absolute person. No matter under what form this presence reveals itself to consciousness, be it clear or confused, accepted or hidden, admitted or unnamed, the living truth of that presence has an inevitable efficacy. For this reason Blondel calls human action a sort of théergie: We cannot posit a free human action without cooperating with the absolute subject within us thereby causing him to cooperate with us. To inset the character of transcendence into our lives it is not necessary to perceive its presence or directly recognize the action of the absolute in us and on us. Indeed, even our denial of its presence and action displaces only the object of affirmation; the reality of human action is not affected by this superficial play of words.

Since the idea of the absolute is necessarily projected as our destiny, it is equally necessary to sense the need actually to achieve it through the combined forces of our thought and action. Human action has the inevitable ambition to realize in itself the idea of perfection: “We cannot know God without willing in some way to become God." Just as the idea of God represents a paradoxical reality, at once immanent in us and yet transcendent, so too the choice and the action which necessarily follow upon this idea exhibit their paradoxical nature. Our ground for affirming God as absolute subject is the fact that He is conceived as that which we can neither be by ourselves nor accomplish solely by the force of our free action. Yet we have neither being, will nor action except on condition of freely willing and somehow becoming one with the divine who is the source and being of our own will and action. Hence, the only way to become one with ourselves is to admit another being within us by substituting another will for our own: “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

It is impossible to enter really into contact with another being, in fact, it is impossible to enter into contact with oneself without passing through the Uniquely Necessary who must become our unique will.

Rejection of the absolute by a human is nothing more than an attempt at avaricious self-possession which isolates us in a false subjectivity and inferiority. This results in a world of solitude and hostility, of rejection and discontinuity, without meeting or true presence, namely the modern world. Release from the prison of selfhood comes by communicating with the transcendent who as immanent in oneself is bridge to the other. “One cannot be for oneself or for another without being for Him first of all.” One cannot communicate with anyone unless it be with and by God.
Blondel sees in the act whereby humans achieves living communication with God an active dialectical resolution of the metaphysical problem of the one and many. It is love’s death to self and sacrifice of self that resolves this problem existentially: “Sacrifice is the solution to the metaphysical problem by an experimental method.” The act by which humans chooses to supplant their will by the Will of God is a negation both of ego and of the false appearances of being in it: “... it is the destruction of that self-will that holds me in isolation from all the rest.” Implicit in this “death” to self, which is the most perfect act of sacrifice, is the most perfect revelation of being, for one no longer sets the absolute source of being from without, but begins to possess it within oneself.

At the very root of being, in the common practice of life in the secret logic of consciousness, without God there is no fellow man for man. In order to be one, in order to exist, it is necessary that I do not rest alone; I have need of all the others. What is necessary, then, is to capture within myself the source of all unity (the divine will) and transmit the truth of its intimate action.

It is important to understand that a metaphysical priority of communion with absolute being does not imply a temporal or psychological priority of divine love over human love. Blondel repeatedly insists that the true nature of the option need not be explicit, but is necessarily implicit in the living reality of every free human action. Hence, to live “metaphysically” is not contingent upon the prior conceptual resolution of any metaphysical problem. To resolve the problem of unity by love in any one of its three possible aspects: love of God, of self, or of neighbor, involves a vital solution of that problem for all three.
Yet, the problem and its resolution are ordinarily posed within the context of love of neighbor. “Without that love which is active within the members of humanity there is no God for man; he who does not love his neighbor has no life in him.” Therefore, in any human encounter where a genuine interpersonal bond of mutual love is factually established, there is necessarily an implicit resolution of the option in favor of the divine will: “If any man loves he knows God, because God is love.” Without an implicit commitment to God there is merely a semblance of true love, which will prove to be ultimately unfounded and deceiving. A true act of love involves death to self, which in fact is a positive opening of the spirit to the action of the absolute. It thus goes well beyond an attitude of strict justice, which considers only the impersonal character of the other in his abstract dignity as a member of human society. An act of love, in order to be truly such, must be directed to the other as unique and as end in him or herself. “Charity is always universal and always attached to what is unique.”


In Blondel’s dialectic of life, existence and truth continually draw closer together without ever becoming entirely the same. The dialectic in life of the singular existence and universal truth is thus posited as a constant movement towards realizing in the human the immanent and necessary connection between essence and existence, nature and liberty, constructive project and transcendent end. Yet throughout the course of their dialectical development, existence always remains to some extent inward and solitary, while truth remains to some extent abstract and exterior.

In the Hegelian dialectic the mediation of singular existence and universal truth could take place only in the abstract dimension of absolute spirit. It occurs independently of the existential freedom and moral commitment of man as a person. The individual is merely a means that reason uses to obtain its objectives. In contrast, it is Blondel’s conviction that such a mediation of existence with truth can be only the result of man’s free moral commitment and that its ultimate condition of possibility may depend on union with one man, Christ, who is “the way, the truth and the life.”

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