The Massketeers press on with our look at the psychology of Christian conversion through a study of a tape series by Gil Bailie called "Let This Mind Be In You." This post will lead us into a discussion of tape 2 (we discussed tape 1 last month). Please join us as we explore the psychology of Christian conversion looking at metaphysical desire which can be either vertical (Real Transcendence) or horizontal (deviated); the former brings us into true personhood and love and the ladder leads to first scandal and then violence. Now don’t be shy, we are open to responsible comments.
The following are a few excerpts from tape 2.
Matthew 22:37,40 -- And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."
We have heard this a million times, but I don’t think we have heard it enough, particularly the first commandment. He did not say to believe in God and love humanity. He did not say be nice and love others. He said these two go together and the first is to love God with all your heart, mind and soul. And the second is to love others AS yourself. Now historical Christianity's compliance with this injunction and the compliance with individual Christians down through the ages has been a hit and miss affair. But thank God the injunction is there as a reminder for us when we need a touchstone.
Partly due to the romantic view of basic human benevolence, which was retailed by Rousseau, and others and partly due to the rationalistic, ‘where there is a will there is a way’ spirit of the Enlightenment, the modern world came to believe that it could obey the second commandment without bothering with the first. …
In practice, if not always in professed belief in doctrine, the modern world enshrined only the second of the two great commandments, the one Jesus said was the lesser of the two and the one that was dependent upon the first one. The modern world has assumed that the two commandments could be separated. The creaking and groining, indeed the shouting and the shooting that you hear outside, is coming from the collapse of that assumption. …
Girard, in Things Hidden, says: "In reality, no purely intellectual process and no experience of a purely philosophical nature can secure the individual the slightest victory over mimetic desire and its victimage delusions.
… There is so much territory covered in this statement. It is precisely that arch between mimetic desire and the victimage delusion which Girard has made it his business to delineate…
He goes on: "Intellection can achieve only displacement and substitution, though these may give individuals the sense of having achieved a victory."
What he means with displacement and substitution – when we try to explicate ourselves from the mimetic desire and the victimage delusion we do so by being morally offended by the effects of someone’s victimage delusion and so we crank our own victimage operation in order to direct it toward the victimizer that we have just been scandalized by. So we have substituted or displaced the object of the victimage delusion, but we haven’t broken the spirit of the prince of this world (to speak in Biblical terms).
Going on to the last sentence of this Girard quote from Things Hidden: "For there to be even the slightest degree of progress, the victimage delusion must be vanquished on the most intimate level of experience."
This is where Christian conversion comes in. And that is where the first commandment comes in. ...
We are desire. This desire is metaphysical - not desire in a Freudian sense - this is not some impulse-response to a natural need of urge, because those desires can be satisfied, but ours can’t. What happens with that desire is the big question anthropologically? What do we do with this enormous desire? Well, we fool ourselves completely by thinking that it is animal desire or some version of it, like some materialists desire. However, Alexandre Kojeve, in his analysis on Hegel says, “Human desire must be directed toward another desire.” ... It must be directed toward another desire. So to speak metaphysically, could I love God if God was not love and did not love me? Human desire must be directed toward another desire. But there are plenty of other desires around. The world is filled with them and of course the most potent are metaphysical ones.
Now we come to the human socio-drama and the contagiousness of the desire – desire must be directed toward another desire and what happens when it is?