In our ongoing discussion of Gil Bailie's tape series on conversion, William Blake's painting depicting Cain's remorse at his murder of his brother, Abel, is operative. In the excerpt below, Bailie speaks of the absolute necessity for remorse in pulling away from the crowd (of which modernist "individuality" is a shammy parody) in order to experience authentic Christian conversion. As brother Aramis points out, however, this removal of oneself from the crowd is not meant to be an isolatory event. Rather, it is so one can (a) realign oneself with the true source of ontological substance, and (b) enter into true communion with others so graced in the Catholic Church, the gathering of those called into being around the eucharistic Lord at his eucharistic table. Bailie:
Christian conversion always means coming out of the crowd. When Peter heard the cock crow, it was curing him of that little crowd he gathered with around the charcoal fire at Jesus’ trial. When Paul is knocked down on the road to Damascus and he hears the word ‘persecution’, he is being pulled out of the crowd, of the mob.
It is/was in both cases for them and is, I think, the revelation of the cross that brings us out of the crowd for absolutely obvious reasons, once you think about it, because the crowd is brought together and it generates its social camaraderie precisely in those events that are structurally indistinguishable from the crucifixion. The crowd produces the crucifixion. So it is in identifying with the victim of the crowd that one comes out of the crowd. So the cross is the thing that brings us out of the crowd in the Christian economy of things.
So the birth of subjectivity, real subjectivity, is conversion. And the cross reveals because it destroys all the illusions, eventually, that allow us to believe in the god of the sacrificers. And once those illusions are taken from us, it is possible then to see the living God, the God of truth, which in human culture is always the God of the victim. Not because God or Christianity is perverse or masochistic, but because in a world that generates its culture and coherence sacrificially, the living God can only manifest via the victim. So the cross takes us out of the crowd and reveals to us something that takes the crowd’s place. You can’t come out of the crowd and just stay out of the crowd with no other grounding. You will just drift right back into another version of it, probably a sillier, shammier version of it …