Monday, November 27, 2006

A Tuning Fork for Let This Mind Be In You

This post will lead us into a discussion around the tape series entitled "Let This Mind Be in You" by Gil Bailie. Please join us as we explore the psychology of Christian conversion.

St. Paul – I live now not I, but Christ lives in me. – Galatians 2:20

Walker Percy: Doctor of Soul – This is the age of anxiety because it is the age of the lost of self.

Gil Bailie – Individualism, once considered an alternative to social conformity and a remedy for psychological alienation has turned out to be only a more ingenious form of conformity and a flamboyant form of alienation. What we thought was a cure for the epidemic for the psychological distress was only the next step of the epidemic. A real cure and a source of genuine psychological authenticity is what Christians call conversion, and it is a phenomenon, the psychological implications of which we yet to fully appreciate.

Gabriel Marcel captured the essence of Christian conversion and the psychological freedom it entails when he said that genuine selfhood involves “the subordination of the self to a superior reality – a reality at my deepest level, more truly me than I am myself.”

Gil Bailie – We have failed to grasp the scope and significance of today’s profound cultural and psychological crisis because we have yet to fully appreciate the depth and power of the revelation that is bringing it about.

Leszek Kolakowski from Modernity on Endless Trial “The strength of Christianity does not reveal itself in a theocracy or in a monopoly on the creation of rules for all areas of civilization. Its strength is manifested in its ability to build a barrier against hatred in the consciousness of individuals. The requirement of the renunciation of hatred was a challenge thrown down by Christianity to human nature. If Christians are only to be found among those who know how to meet this challenge how many are there now in the world? I do not know, however many there are, they are the salt of the earth and European civilization would be a desert without them.”

Entrance here to anthropology.

So if we are all tuned up, let us begin.


Athos said...

For someone not knowing where your "florilegia" of quotations is coming from, Aramis is extracting from Gil Bailie's "Let This Mind Be In You - The Psychology of Conversion."

Good beginning, Aramis. Rather a lot to chew on, as a matter of fact, for the average blog reader, let alone one used to dipping into Bailie's tape series!

The Wikipedia lead to "Anthropology" is a bit of a blind lead, unless it it an intro to Bailie's "perichoretic anthropology," which I'll bet it is not!

For the person who wants to read Bailie, a strong suggestion is his book, Violence Unveiled - Humanity at the Crossroads.

But with this blog, the 3 Massketeers begin talking about the aforementioned tape series.

So, brother Aramis, why did you select those quotations from Bailie's tapes?

David Nybakke said...

These quotes were what Gil led off tape 1 with, I guess setting the stage for what is to come.

Yes, the Wikipedia lead to "anthropology" was trite and I apologize. Maybe we could start here for I did a small search for an appropriate definition but did not quickly find one. Would you care to help us with a good understanding of anthropology as maybe a Rene Girard would come at it?

Athos said...

Tongue in cheek, and yet with sobriety too, Bailie offers a definition: anthropology is the study of culture by people who no longer have one.

And why does the West not have culture?

Because of the effects of the Gospel in history. From tape 1, side a, Bailie quotes Rene Girard (Violent Origins):

"In the Hebrew Bible, there is clearly a dynamic that moves in the direction of the rehabilitation of victims. But it is not a cut and dried thing, rather it is process underway, a text in travail. It is not a chronologically progressive process, but a struggle that advances and retreats. I see the Gospels as the climactic achievement of that trend and, therefore, the essential text in the cultural upheaval of the modern world.”

(Bailie:) It shoves a stick in the spokes of the conventional apparatus for restoring cultural order and psychological poise; and, therefore, it is the essential text in the cultural upheaval of the modern world.

David Nybakke said...

I think this anthropology stuff as Bailie talks about needs further clarification - an explanation of the difference between anthropology, as a discipline of study and thought, and say philosophy or theology as a discipline of thought (or economic or historical thought). Is there a need for us to understand our own discipline of thought when entering into discussions like this? (I bring this up because I have friends who simply believe everything is economic centered and they just don't have the time of day to listen to some other whimsical discipline of thought.)

If the Gospels have really stuck a stick in the spokes of the apparatus for psychological stability (as it is linked to conventional culture) then we need to get a good picture of what that all looks like. And how is culture's equilibrium connected to our psychological well being? Suddenly we have a religion entering into fields of thought that for the most part were off limits to authentic studies of science – can we do that?

Athos said...

If I'm reading between the lines of your first paragraph immediately above, Aramis, I sense that you had a tough time explaining to the econ types the originary scene of founding violence as Girard sees it happening.

And that may be, as disappointing as it is.

There just is no "sound bite" approach to mimetic theory. It's as though no matter where you start talking about it, it becomes a Russian nesting doll, or a labyrinth, or a darkened wood, thick with nettles and difficult to get out.

The thing is, however, for intuitive types, the truth of it begins to grow in the hearing about it. One's mind and heart keep sparking with "Yes!" and "Yes!" and "Yes, again!"

The capstone is the ontological substantiality with the biblical narrative, the biblical revelation. With that, the heart and mind bow in reverence and see a figure once hanging on a cross now come striding strong and loving from an Empty Tomb.

See? How could an econ type do anything but roll his/her eyes as I fade into poetical figures of speech?

You're the monkish one, Aramis. Explain!

David Nybakke said...

I see yes that's it; we Midwesterners have more trouble getting our big ol' farming arms around such a concept as Girard's originary scene than you Easterners (tongue in cheek). I guess my point is that we don’t stop and see just how radical this entire theme is. We, who have bought in on Girard, do you call us intuitive types, spout this stuff off and all the rest are left scratching their heads. I get a feeling that there are very few intuitive types out there for when I have tried to advance MT in any shape or form it has been like pulling teeth.

But the series is supposed to be on conversion. Gil acknowledges that in the world of modern spirituality one would study Teresa of Avila, but he wants to come at this topic by focusing on what Jesus says, I shall draw all men to myself. (John 12:32) The question is, draw them from where? What is it that generates a gravitational field from which we have to be drawn out by the cross? Obviously we have here a link between the person or self and culture. I say this is obvious, but is it?

Gil continues with, what is Christian conversion all about? We mistakenly think of Christian conversion in 2 ways: we think it is some pious thing that just has to do with deciding you want to be this of that or we also think it is something we can do at will. People who understand conversions are the people who prayed for one for 10 years without getting one. Conversions don’t happen like a flip of a switch – oh, I think I’ll be converted so I’ll flip this switch and a light will come on – no, it doesn’t work like that.

Do you think your average Christian sitting in the pew every Sunday (or not) realizes that conversions aren't something they simple will? That just like their "individual rights" they have "rights" to conversion?

Are there Christians who have not had a conversion?

Porthos said...

Havent had too much time to post, but you two have a nice thread going and I don't have too much worthwhile to add.

One minor gripe--not a gripe really, just an observation. This series is not really about conversion except maybe on the first half of side one of the first tape and the last half of side two of the second tape. It's mostly about what mind NOT to have in you. Excellent job on that, but still. Of course, it is possible to guess what Gil Bailie would say on this tape set if it actually covered the topic of the title.

Athos said...

Well, that takes care of that. How quickly the blush on the rose fadeth.

Next project? Japanese homeboy hikikomori?

Porthos said...

Wasn't meant as a thread stopper, or (for Heaven's sake) a project stopper, or a cue to (erhem!) smoke out Massketeer identities. I think it was a fair characterization of the conversion component. It's an excellent series about what we want to convert away from and why this conversion is necessary, but it barely gets started on the psychology of conversion itself.

And that's OK. Even if I knew that beforehand, I'd still get this series and I'd still benefit immensely from it.

About Taiwanese thingamajigees I cannot say, although if I ever did choose to write about Taiwanese thingamajigees, the first thing I'd do is . . . open it with a Gil Bailie quote.

Athos said...

Gents, in today's Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours, St. Marcarius' homily is extraordinary. It paints the picture of what happens when the revelation is discarded in both a culture's life and that of an individual.

I'll try to either find web access to it or do some transcription later today when more time is available.

Meanwhile, I vow not to bring up those Mongolian whatchamaycallit thingamabobs again, Porthos. Promise!

Porthos said...

Let me try again. This series, with regard to the psychology of conversion, is like a photographic negative of it, because it is looking primarily at the traps and illusions of the modern "individual" consciousness (which are covered superbly). Using this photographic negative as a guide, yes, I might be able to get a pretty good idea of what the right conversion would look like, the conversion away from this. But the real picture, of the positive conversion (and probably no-one could do that better from a mimetic perspective than Gil Bailie)--that series is yet to be done.

PS: I think it was W. H. Auden who stated the original version of that sanits/sinners thing: "The Church is not a showcase for saints, but a hospital for sinners."

David Nybakke said...

"...the traps and illusions of the modern "individual" consciousness..." well that is a mouth full, isn't it, or am I the only one who runs into people who look cross-eyed at me when I say such things?

We let these comments slide right off the tongue and I bet, to the average joe/jane, that they would have no sense of what it is we are saying. What is wrong with "individual" consciousness – you got a problem with that?

Aawwhh (I smile), you add, “...what the right conversion would look like...” Does that mean that there is a wrong conversion (or a left conversion)?

This is where some of the rubber hits the road as far as I am concerned. Can we say that there is criteria, objective or subjective, that can be applied to an experience that determines whether one has had a true Christian conversion?

David Nybakke said...

Porthos observes that this series on the psychology of conversion is more like a photographic negative than an actual picture of conversion. What do you think?

Gil began with some quotes as he usually does to set the tone for the series. Maybe we should explore his use of this "florilegia" of quotations; is it to tune our minds to what is to come? Gil used the metaphor of a tuning fork: so let us look at that.

“Tuning forks are commonly used to tune musical instruments and this enables musicians to play instruments together in harmony, without clashing pitches. A tuning fork is normally used to set the pitch. Pitch pipes and electronic tuning forks can also be used, but are not as common. Oddly, some people are gifted with 'perfect pitch' and can remember exactly what a certain pitch should be without using a tuning fork or any other kind of reference. Many of those same people say it's not always a gift because a lot of music is played slightly out of tune and for those with perfect pitch it sounds horrible!”

Hummm… “a lot of music is played slightly out of tune…”
Can we be slightly off with the psychology of conversion and still sound okay?

I have a little more to add to this tape 1 florilegia.

G.K. Chesterton cautioned that “if some small mistake were made in doctrine, huge blunders might be made in human happiness.”

There are 2 roads to conversion:
1) Road to Damascus - and

2) Road to Emmaus -

The first one is a real shocker of a conversion and the second is a gradual de-construction of the myths that justify the social and psychological structures which we live by.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, and do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

Lastly, here are some phrases that seemed to lunge right out at me when we are addressing the issue of human violence and having a conversion to something else. How do they or do they even speak to you? I find this entire concept most interesting in light of Pope BXVI's work on exposing violence.

> the morning-after (dilemmas that we find ourselves in after getting all worked up the night before - there are all kinds of implications one could think about here);
> binding together (facing the consequences of living in community);
> empathy for the victim (the Holy Spirit breaking in on us);
> race between the effect and the message of the Gospel (the effect is the breaking in of the Holy Spirit, awakening an empathy for the victim that IS HAPPENING and the pace at which our willingness to live the Gospel message, which is totally voluntary); and
> violence creates order (Heraclitus) vs. conversion (we are called to build community around communion – be Church - does this mean that there is no such thing as autonomous (existing and functioning as an independent organism) conversion?

Athos said...

One really can't fault Bailie for not covering what conversion is per se. The Church has provided extraordinary documents (CCC, National Directory for Catechesis, etc.) that describe it vvery well already, even from a mimetic theory pov.

Gil is a diagnostician of pathologies; he examines the symptoms of what pass for and are passed off for authentic conversion, but end up being poor parodies of it. It's St Augustine's notion that evil is a diminution of the Good. One chooses what looks/feels/seems to be the Good, but is a cheap knock off article.

But in modernity, which set of criteria do you use to know the difference?

Muslims have the Koran. Protestants try it with sola scriptura. Individualists, so-called, ignore the fact that they are imitating a model or many models and do it "MMYYYYY WAYYYYY."

Catholics are supposed to follow the Magisterium, but I know many cafeteria Catholics who pick and choose (which is a slippery slope).

So: Bailie spends most his time diagnosing common maladies of post Christian modernity in his approach to the study of authentic conversion -- Here is what it's NOT.

There are worse approaches, in my book.

Porthos said...

Hi guys

No, nothing wrong with Gil Bailie's approach or content at all (for me, just a very small problem with the title).

That's a good point, Athos, about the "traps and illusions of 'individuality'" rolling so easily off our tongues (since we've abosrbed this stuff) but not being so obvious to others. This series does a great job of making that particular point lucid, though, doesn't it? The example of Rousseau, in so many ways the father of the modern consciousness, is a very good one, and I really like what Gil does with it.

Anyway, I was also thinking over the St. Paul verse Aramis uses to open this post (and Gil uses to open the series):

St. Paul – I live now not I, but Christ lives in me. – Galatians 2:20

Therese of Lisieux used to say that verse after receiving the Eucharist. This factoid struck me when I encountered it this summer. It was one of those "Duh!?!" (slaps forehead) type insights, the sort that help this sorry old soul along in the ongoing conversion process. I mean, theoretically, I already knew that--kind of, sort of--but I never really made the connection.