Atheist warning. This is a religious post.
One of the positive developments with regard to Neoreaction has been
the reassertion of the role of biology with regard to human nature. This
reassertion has far deeper sociological significance than may be
initially appreciated and poses as direct challenge to one of the main
tenets of Liberalism, namely, the "blank slate" theory of man. This
theory is one of the pillars of Liberalism since it posits man as a
being of endless potential. All it takes to shape man into whatever a
social engineer wants him to be is to have control over what is written
onto the slate in order to form a man of his choosing.
assertion of the role of biology is a direct challenge to this view and
places strict limits on the ability of social engineers, hence, both
the danger and potentiality of Neoreaction. Thus wherever Liberalism's
aims are thwarted by biological reality, the liberal approach will be
the attack the validity of the underlying reality or deny it. So it's no
surprise that when presented with mountains of evidence asserting the
importance of biology, the liberal Cathedral does all that it can to
discredit those who assert it. (Intelligent readers can already see the
foundational tension between liberalism and science.)
important to understand how "blank-slatism" was able to gain widespread
acceptance. Though the notion had been debated since ancient times, it
was never taken seriously given the obviously manifest natural
inequalities present in men to those who can see. It only gained serious
traction in the West once John Locke published An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. From
that point on we see it gaining gradual widespread acceptance, until
now, where the concept of unlimited human potentiality is nearly
universal. How did it happen?
The space offered in this
blog is insufficient to do the subject full justice, but the increasing
literacy of the population, the advancement of science and the rise in
democratic sentiment all were influential. However, ideas are like
seeds, and in order to flourish they need a fertile "culture". It's my
contention that it is Christian culture, particularly its more ascetic
factions, which provided the "superfood" in which the idea could grow.
Sure, history does show that Christianity fought like a tiger against
the more radical ideas of the Enlightenment, but eventually it lost the
battle because, unknowing to itself, it was providing the enemy with
ammunition. One of the more diabolical features of the radical
enlightenment is was able co-opt various strains Christian thought to
further its cause.
To understand the problem we need to
visit the subject of Hylomorphism. Hylomorphism is the Aristotelian
idea, further developed by Aquinas, that humans being are unified entity
comprised of matter(body) and form (soul) [Ed:this is highly simplified] and it needs to be understood that hylomorphism regards body and soul as one thing.
The Catholic Church and other strains of Christianity have always
advocated the idea of the unity of the soul and the flesh. Now, amongst
the intellectually disciplined the unity of the body/form concept is
recognised, but amongst the intellectually sloppy, which comprise the
bulk of humanity, it's easy to see how the idea of body and soul could
be seen as two separate entities.
It didn't help
things, that despite upholding the doctrine of hylomorphism, the Church
in practice worked against it. Its continual emphasis of the importance
of the spirit and the denigration of the flesh meant that when it came
to the average man's conception of the human being, two notions were
associated in his mind. Spirit=Good, Flesh=Bad. Thus, not only was a
duality was formed but so was a polarity.
Overlaid upon this were several other notions of Christianity:
1) Firstly, the idea that man was completely able to be "renewed in Christ":
2) No man was unforgivable, and thus everyman was capable of being reborn.
3) An emphasis on the flesh being a source of evil.
4) Christianity's emphasis on "getting souls to heaven" and a "who cares" approach to the demands of the flesh.
balanced mind could see the context and limitation of these notions,
but to the average-bulk-of-humanity man, who's thought processes are
more an amalgam of associations and impressions, these notions could be
corrupted into ideas that the human spirit is infinitely
malleable and good. The flesh on the other hand, was an impediment
toward spiritual perfection. Thus ascetic Christianity, despite its
intentions, drove a wedge between body and soul. Furthermore, it was
traditionally thought that the mind resided in the soul so its quite
easy to see how people could conflate the soul's infinite transformative
potentiality in Christ with the mind's infinite transformative
potentiality. Once you've reached this point its only a small step away
from liberalism. It's not very difficult to see the analogy with
Liberalism's blank slate and the soul's unlimited potentiality. And the
more the Church doubled down with religious asceticism against
Liberalism, the more support it gave to its enemy.
you can get people thinking that spirit/mind good, flesh bad, then all
sorts of interesting things become possible. Biology becomes
disassociated from person-hood and its seen as something that can be
overcome. It's very easy to see the analogy between some desert ascetic
trying to break away from the desires of flesh to become a more fully
"authentic" Christian and some homosexual male wanting to become a woman
but who is "trapped by their flesh". Both men are trying to escape the
realities of their biology.
Sex and gender, likewise
become disassociated: the sex being the biology and the gender being the
spirit. The feminist approach to sexuality, largely opposed by
traditional Christianity, is nevertheless supported by by Christianity's
"real world" approach to the human person. Radical feminism is enabled by a Carnal-Lite human anthropology. Being true to biology doesn't matter if you think the flesh is bad.
given the infinite potential of the human spirit. Human person-hood can
be constructed in such a way that is totally divorced from reality.
Masculinity and femininity no longer become identity's intimately
entangled with their biology, rather, they are identities superimposed
onto it by whatever is the prevailing philosophical system. The
congruence with biology being incidental or haphazard. "Authentic"
sexuality thus becomes a series of competing philosophical claims with
scant reference to underlying physical reality. Manhood (or womanhood)
then becomes whatever you want it to be.
One of the
interesting phenomenon of history is the rise of Gnosticism, a
phenomenon which was relatively unknown till the rise of Christianity and which shares many of the features of liberalism.
It too, emphasised the goodness of the spirit and the badness of the
flesh but took the notions to extremes. Scholars have approached the
subject of Gnosticism from philosophical perspective but I think they
have erred. It's my view the Gnosticism is a product of the product of
the cognitive limitations of the average human, particularly his
preference for System I thought. System I thought is "thinking" by
association rather than thinking by logic and evidence. The coincidence
of Gnosticism with Christian culture is easily understood as arising
from a Christian culture which though, theoretically committed to the concept of
hyelomorphism was practically biased against the flesh and very
Gnosticism, in its various forms,
will be inadvertently enabled by Christianity as long as it keeps
regarding the flesh as an inferior to the spirit. In my opinion, any
push back against the modern understanding of the person will only come
about when the Church starts reasserting not only the goodness of the
flesh but of the obligation of the spirit to conform to it insofar as it
is compatible with Caritas. Biology matters.
I have a feeling that JPII sensed this.
His own Theology of the Body was, in my opinion, a botched attempt at
reasserting the flesh's goodness. But it was a noble effort. It falls
upon a new generation of men to build a new Theology of the Body. Christian thinkers need not only to reaffirm the hylomorphic concept but to proclaim anew the goodness of the flesh.