Thursday, April 12, 2007

History and Salvation, Prometheus and Pan

Immediate warning and disclaimer: the following post thrusts the reader into an already ongoing conversation on lots of things between two people who view those things differently. So be prepared to do lots of mind-bending imagination-gymnastics, which you hopefully enjoy...

Recently, John Doyle proposed - over at this particular post at his ktismatics blog - the following: "And The [Nicean] Creed doesn’t even cover a lot of the big debates that would take center stage in subsequent centuries: transubstantiation, the Fall, predestination, universal salvation… It’s not that consensus broke down later; it’s that nobody had thought about these issues clearly enough for a controversy to arise."

Then whether my response really had a whole lot to do with what he meant by that I said the following: "I think that the emergence of these pot-stirring debates over time owes less to Pandora than to Prometheus and/or Pan. Pan does, however have some similarity to Pandora. If you ask me, Pandora is a bit of a knee-jerk attribut(ion). That scientific evolution stuff, man. Fight or flight. Or maybe even the emergence of particular arguements at particular times owes less to Prometheus than to Genesis. Regardless, 'because no one thought of them clearly enough' sounds way too 'endless series of chance-driven cause and effect relationships' for me." Eventually, we got on more of the same page, but in the more immediate future, he asked me who on earth I meant, and I said something like the following. Let this serve as some of my thoughts on history.

Pan/Prometheus? I was referring to our conversation about Giotto, Crosby and that whole time period (example here). The relationship between the unification and universalization of things coupled with the tying down of things. While Dante was unifying the languages of Italy and the mystics were being all spiritual and what-not, Giotto was distinguishing each separate figure in the field of a painting. Dante probably did something that corresponds, most likely, and the mystics were obsessed with the meaning of each little number. My guess is that with Dante language took one step in the direction of the positivists, in which each word and each referrant has a one to one ratio, and only such.

I know that the discussion on predestination and universal salvation arose around that general time, or soon thereafter. These are very much questions that are tied to the ability, nature and working of the human mind. Questions as much of its grasp on things as on the “truth” of one side of the argument or the other. Which, of course, has almost nothing to do with who wins or looses the argument, but with the very historical preconditions of the argument in the first place. Its man who lived history. Its man who is being referenced in the myths of Prometheus and Pan. McLuhan doesn’t speak of War and Peace in the Global Village in terms of who wins and looses wars, and why, but in terms of the Man who is fighting the wars in a global village.

As for the Fall, predestination, universal salvation, ect. Aquinas was roughly contemporary with Giotto. A generation previous, I think. Augustine, I think, was decently soon after the monstrosity of the Roman Empire - a key fact about the Roman Empire, again, being its conquering of the whole KNOWN world - was broken up into two whole big monstrosities in themselves.

And…so far as I know…Augustine lived sort of in that nomands land between classical Rome and when the “darkness” of Medievaldom set in…called Byzantine Europe…which actually produced some of the most beautiful and glorious art and architecture of Western history. Nonetheless…Augustine’s time was still one in which the tension between what is seen from a Promethean mountain top (”universal”) and what is seen from the great view of being chained to a rock with an monstrous eagle/vulture thing tearing at your liver every day. I consider the period between the fall of the Roman Empire, or just before, and Augustine, to be a key period in the story of that very tension.

Just like the key historical events in the Bible, the key points in that story (described above) sort of occur roughly every 400 years. Nicea/Augustine (don’t remember the exact date of Augustine) was like around 4000-500. Then Charlemagne, who brought back classical values and fought off the barbarian hoards coming up from Spain (who, if they would have won, would have radiacally altered the course of WORLD history), around 800 or 900 or so. Then Giotto, Dante, Aquinas and the mystics, sort of around 1200 or 1300 or so. Then Galileo and the modern scientific revolution, around 1600 (which is also when humans appeared the the foreground of perspective painting, and also like a generation after the tumultuous events of Michelangelo’s time). Then around or just before 2000 you have two WORLD wars, Sputnik and electronic media that turns all experience into a global experience. The internet got big right around 1990ish, I think. And we might be about to have WW III.

As for Jazz in particular…that’s interesting. It would be interesting to compare Jazz with Gregorian Chant, which, as has been noted, was erotic. Both, however, sort of have a general erotic thread running throughout that doesn’t really climax at any one point. Jazz, however, was developed after Max Planc. After the telegraph, after electric technology had taken hold. After the radio, after Imagism, after cinema. Dude, we were already in “acoustic space”, as McLuhan (and Corbusier) would say. We were already in a space of “universal experience” of everything-at-onceness, really…although not to the degree that we were in after WW II. I think Jazz was developed a bit earlier than that, like the 20’s or 30’s.

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