By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger
Exercise 1: “Become a pious Roman Catholic. Explain in three pages why the Church is still infallible and holy despite Popes like Alexander VI (the Borgia Pope), Pius XII (ally of Hitler), etc.”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, thank you for spending this time with me to contemplate the role of Church in God’s plan. First of all, the Church is not infallible nor has it claimed to be infallible. However, we do believe the Pope is infallible in matters of faith and morals when speaking ex cathedra. Please note that this belief was not canon law at the time of Alexander VI. Also, please note that the Venerable Pope Pius XII was not certainly not Hitler’s ally. He did all he could to protect many Jews. He had very little power at the time of the Fascist take-over of Italy, and he did all he could to protect Jews from the Nazis.
Putting all that aside, God sent his only Son to give each and every one of us the opportunity for life everlasting. This is the real life extension Doctor’s Leary and Wilson searched in vain for. God established the Church to guide us to everlasting life. The Church exists by the will of God. All humans except for Jesus and Mary commit sins. Pope are included in this. They may be imperfect, but that is part of God’s miraculous plan.
In Faust Goethe has Satan say, "I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good.” In a small way we each play a role in God’s miraculous plan, despite all we squander of our divine entitlements. In general, the popes have been good men, often great men, who shoulder a tremendous burden. Each priest, in fact, shoulders a tremendous burden, helping to guide the members of their flock in the right direction, dealing with all the privations of life and the hostility of so many people, especially in our modern, all too secular, world.
The Church is certainly holy. Oxford Languages defines holy as “dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred.” The Church is certainly “dedicated or consecrated to God”. It always has been, and it always will be. (I find myself slipping out of E-Prime, but some things are just self-evident. I can only feel sorry for Dr. Wilson. He was a very good man, but, alas, he was led away from the one true Church by evil companions, I fear. Perhaps the weak wording of this exercise reveals a part of him trying to remind him of the one true Church. The sisters tried so hard to teach him about the role of the Church in history, but his human hubris led him to value his own opinions over those of the Church. He preferred to think for himself, alas, and to always question authority. Perhaps he would have had a happier life if he had just trusted God.)
I got raised in the RC religion but didn't pay close attention. It meant going to Catholic schools, almost the same as Public schools in Calgary except we had a few priests and nuns running around and a required Religious Studies course. I don't recall ever hearing of the doctrine of infallibility regarding the Church. Our grade 9 secular, liberal RS teacher taught us horror stories about the Church beginning with The Inquisition - the human, political, terrorist side of the Church, not the Divine.
Research indicates that the ecumenical councils, tasked with codifying the Ideas from which Church dogma derives, got promoted to infallibility after the Pope's say so. The implementation of those Ideas in the real world can never completely reach the perfection of those Transcendental Forms, merely hope to copy them as well as possible. Church dogma will always appear infallible because it comes from outside this world. Any deviations or molestations from this dogma by Church representatives stem from impure or imperfect (sometimes extremely so) copies/simulations of the original source code which remains above it all, therefore infallible. Catholic theologians call Plato's Ideal Forms "God's thoughts."
The remaining 2 and 3/4s pages of this exercize left intentionally blank.
I find exercize 5, "[t]ry to get into the Joycean head space ..." quite profound, an exercise which could easily last a lifetime. I've been reading Joyce on and off since the summer and have reached a conclusion that one can learn several salient points also covered in Crowley's theurgic magick, beginning with his earliest works. For instance, Joyce often emphasizes the extraordinary nature of the ordinary. In his brother Stanislaus's diary he records Joyce explaining the rationale behind this:
"Do you see that man who has just skipped out of the way of the tram? Consider, if he had been run over, how significant every act of his would at once become. I don't mean for the police inspector. I mean for everybody who knew him. And his thoughts, for anyone that could know them. It is my idea of the significance of trivial things that I want to give the two or three unfortunate wretches who may eventually read me."
Using the reminder of death as a way to wake up and appreciate "ordinary" life echoes some practices found in Castaneda, Gurdjieff, and Crowley.
Great post, Eric Wagner! I like the idea of a pious Roman Catholic using E-prime. A recipe for dissociation?
If I'd be a pious RC, I wonder how much of telling someone else about the alleged infallibility of the Church would actually be self-convincing (self-deceiving?) If this type of religion usually requiers an act of faith from the believer, then is it not pointless to try and rationalize it? Sending a message to the wrong adress? I think Eric is very right to underline the idea that one will have to give up thinking for themselves and questionning authority if the infallibility of any Church is to be demonstrated. And the reasoning seems bound to be flawed. Some C2 emotionality and C4 morality will probably be used, but little if any of these will stand up the test of rigorous C3 logic. Theology has to be one of the most baffling 'discipline' ever invented.
Oz Fritz, I would agree that some exercizes seem like they're worth being implemented for a very long time, if not a lifetime. Perhaps the one you are referring to could be a way to better navigate the post-modern fractured world of diverging reality-tunnels (the 'balkanization of epistemology', as Terrence McKenna was calling it) we currently seem to be inhabiting.
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