My Anthropocentric Version of the Hub of Ultimate Incoherence
The major thrust of this missive is to affirm a global ethic and to impress upon those who have a difficult time wrapping their epistemological arms around a nonauthoritative deontology that they might could learn much by "trying it on". I have to tell you, the paradox involved in my embracing the intrinsic over the extrinsic and by attempting to validate internally rather than externally still gives me the epistemological willies. The nowhere anchored paradoxical trust in uncertain reality does leave one open to ideas of total menace and decay. I thank our hypothetical God for having made me stare, not unflinchingly, into the abyss, for each time I look up, the sky is bluer and grass is greener and my compassion for self and others sends bolts of ecstatic lightning up my spine even as my mind is obnubilated by the ineffable numinosity of it all.
I have chosen to pursue the transcendent in a community structure and have found great hope and much consolation in creed, code and cult; in dogma, moral law and liturgy. I have been drawn to the truth, beauty and goodness which my community claims to have encountered at its mystical core. I drink from the deep well of one tradition and have drunk deeply there. I have listened, poorly, to some of the voices of other traditions. Still, their creeds, codes and cults have shed some light on my own experience of dogma, morals and liturgy. I have listened to these voices, occasionally in person; sometimes on internet listservs, usenet, IRC or website message boards; but perhaps most often in books. I ask myself if the mystical core of these other traditions is drawing water from the very same well as my own tradition. I don't think I would be asking this question had I not gone deeply enough into my own tradition because it seems that it is at the very rootedness of our traditions, the place where we drink together from some primal stream, that our lives somehow intertwine the most. It seems that once we leave the ground of our being and reach upward toward the light, which also nourishes us, that we less often converge and more often branch out. Even then, convergences do occur and common words are spoken in this light, for instance, the golden rule excursus.
All of these convergences and divergences make me wonder if my tradition is literally true or whether it is partly mythic. To the extent my tradition is not literally true, I still follow it because I have a difficult to articulate feeling that it's myths nonetheless prompt me to make an appropriate response to ultimate reality. I have trouble articulating why I even care that my response to reality is appropriate. I can't really tell you where this feeling comes from. I don't really know why I have this affinity for "the knowing" of reality's whys and wherefores. Perhaps some of the "good feeling" is nostalgia for my carefree childhood, a cultural affinity, a "being at home", an experience of belonging. Some of the affinity may come from the way my myth has addressed my deepest fears, has comforted me. Some may come from the manner in which my tradition has promised fulfillment of my most heartfelt aspirations.
I have filtered the truth of these feelings and the authenticity of this affinity through an epistemology which employs historicism, knows intentionaility, applies a sociology of knowledge, and is aware of the limits of language, the power of hermeneutics and the utility of dialogue.
I have asked myself why I ever bothered to listen to other voices. For that matter, in this process of self-examen, I have asked myself why I have ever bothered to affirm my own tradition. I have already discussed, a little, why I think I still cling to it. These questions , I think, shed some light on those human aspirations that it seems I share with almost all others to whom I have listened . Most of us seem to be deeply disturbed by our own suffering and death and we would also like to eliminate their effects from the lives of those whom we call our own in this world. For most of us, our present perception and understanding of reality suggest that our suffering can be mitigated but not eliminated and that death is unavoidable. Such limit experiences point us toward an horizon but what lies beyond? Our myths tend to address this question. If they offer satisfactory answers, then we would do well to listen, seems to me. Still, every myth, apologetic or theodicy remains immersed in mystery, a realm we penetrate but can never get our arms around. What I have found is that most of us are not without faith, if faith is concern about ultimates. Neither are we without hope, our gazes focused as they are on those who have spoken, through myriad religions and ideologies, of absolute fulfillment of our most urgent longings and deepest aspirations. Voices still speak, both of the cessation of suffering and of a life after death.
Where does dialogue come in? Well, I think that its primary purpose is to learn, to change and to grow in the perception and understanding of reality. The reason I, at least partially, defined myself above is that I want to come before you in complete sincerity and honesty, to avoid placing a false front on my position. How else can you help me change?
Where does the global ethic come in? I haven't figured that out yet. Why am I here? It is this particular forum's advocacy of dialogue that suggests you folks might meet my need for change. My need for change is pressing, especially as regards my interpretation of my limit experiences; I don't want to suffer and I don't want death to have the last word. I want to grow in perception and understanding of reality in order to know if my myth is appropriate. By appropriate, I mean that I want to know if its promises are empty or true. Is the universe friendly or unfriendly? These are issues I'd not leave to chance happenings and I can't seem to accept, with blind credulity, the answers given from such happenstance as the place of my birth. Did I just so happen to be born into the "right" myth, the "proper" culture? Why was I so "lucky"? Or, for that matter, why were others so "unfortunate"? Or, why were others so fortunate? So, in advancing my need for change, if per chance you differ from me, even greatly, all the better! This should construe to my fuller grasping of life's meaning. I need to be in dialogue with those who care about the same things as I but who differ greatly. For that matter, if you care about different things, then that's good, too. So, in my desire to dialogue I haven't turned my attention to the object of a global ethic, not just yet, but to the participants. Where else can one find this diversity coupled with this level of commitment to dialogic principles? I come into such a forum *par cum pari*, "equal to equal," to the extent that you share my ultimate concerns.
I'll tell you why I believe in the transformative power of dialogue. I recall my first overnight visits to the homes of friends and neighbors and the eye-openings I experienced on such occasions. They watched different shows on a television that had a color picture tube. They ate different food at a table that was near a window air conditioner and talked about different things. They went to bed and woke up at different times and didn't seem to pray, at least not aloud and, ostensibly, not together. It's not that those overnight trips taught me that much more about my friends per se but that I came home a tad more enlightened. My perspective had been broadened and deepened as my own home life was illuminated by the light of my experience from next door. This is a crude example, from early in life, of a dynamic that has repeatedly rewarded me thus far in life. It is a dynamic that has helped me to realize some of my mistakes and shortcomings and also to recognize some of my strengths. In other words, I have gained understanding and have been transformed in many ways. These transformations have lessened my sufferings. My failures in relationships have decreased and some of my addictions have loosened their strongholds. My personal freedom and peace have increased as a result of dialogic processes and my ego-centered consciousness has changed, even if it hasn't gone away. As I live out my days, knowing the answer to life after death will likely be delivered only in an eschatolgical setting (although I hang on to a slim hope that it might come sooner rather than later), I most often turn my focus to the elimination of my self-imposed mental suffering. I desire a quieting of my mind, islam, salom, shalom, an other-worldy peace. Now I have noted, and remain curious about, the fact that the most peaceful, enlightened-looking folks, quite often, also happen to be the very ones with the most confident assurance in things I hope for (eg. a beatific afterlife) and the deepest conviction about things unseen. There is an opportunity, perhaps, in being transformed by my contact with such folks, to kill two very big existential birds with one very large transcendental stone!
Still, I move into dialogue with caution. Why should I believe anything these seers or mystics might have to say? Aren't they numbed by Marx's opium of the people? Aren't they just projecting their own wants, fears, desires, delusions and angst-relieving wishful thinking? Are Freud, Russell, Feurbach and others not on to these shallow and transparent attempts to fabricate a meaning in life when there is none? And CS Lewis offers a moral proof of God, not much unlike Anselm's ontological proof or Aquinas' cosmological and teleological speculations, claiming he could only have thought the thoughts he had thought due to some extraneous factor. Well, even if one conceded a supernatural and extrinsic factor operating in our realm of reality, who is to say it is not supreme evil rather than absolute goodness. And this is a good departure point for what I have already considered regarding this global ethic idea.
Most ethics, deontological or teleological, appear to be relying on an extrinsic factor for an external validation, for authority. I concede the difficultly and the paradox that seems to result from a totally anthropocentric and humanistic ethic. However, it seems like a logical fallacy to rush to closure armed simply with the argument that a paradox must not stand, a mystery must not perdure. Perhaps I have a nowhere anchored trust in uncertain reality, a reality itself unsupported by primal support, lacking also primal origin, primal ground, primal being, primal destiny. So what if the anxiety that brought me here results from a skepticism ever-threatened by nihilistic nonsuppositions? If the possibility that everything is meaningless, worthless, null, void and that the universe is unfriendly seems unpalatable or inconceivable, then where, like CS Lewis, did I get the idea? There seems to be a misplaced concreteness between the subjective and objective realms here. I think that those who advocate any ethic must be ready to address a remnant of the population that, for whatever reason, relates to reality only immanently, only impersonally, only existentially, and radically apophatically. I say remnant but think they are legion who seek an intrinsic ethic and its internal validation. "Not so! Can't be!" say the deontologists who ask us to take their preambles and presuppositions as a given, setting their metaphysical houses on philosophically shifting sands. What your revelatory processes have assured you of have in no way moved some others. All good theodicies seem to retain mystery. Why can't paradox so perdure? Appeals on behalf of the modern (I won't say post-modern) moral life must be more creative than Pascal's wager. Not all people will be moved by preambles and presuppositions that rely, ultimately, on a priori proofs of a friendly universe. I don't depreciate what my future metaphysical trips next door might accomplish, but I've long ago done those "sleep-overs". I know that theocentrisms may find it positively arrogant when an anthropocentrism, in the process of affirming a global ethic, refuses to make any explicit references to a Deity, but to deny a humanism's discovery of the very ethic one claims is written on all hearts, simply because one thinks its proponents are arrogant, is the most amateurish sort of logical fallacy. Granted, once gifted with a confident assurance in a Divine Revelation, proclamation of such Good News is a natural expression of fidelity to such revealed truth, beauty and goodness. However, once engaged in dialogue, might one's own demand for charity be met by the affirmation of the nonbeliever's own fidelity to intrinsically "revealed" and internally validated truth, beauty and goodness? Any lack of explicit reference to the ultimate source of same would not render either party inauthentic or syncretistic; neither would it apply indifference. I recognize that, for those gifted with revelation, there is a given responsibility to remain true to one's conscience. Can we not humbly acknowledge that others, for manifold and varied reasons, have quite simply experienced uncertain reality much differently? Should the Divine reveal the same to others She has to some, even if using the same pre-existing structures and human modalities, can we not trust them when they tell us we'll be the first to hear about it?
I will continue this ego-centered thrust in working out my own transformative agenda. I am here to inquire and learn and have established that this is the best type of forum to accomplish my particular end. I am attracted here because of the value placed on dialogue. I am here because of the diversity of world views which can accelerate my self-transformation through this dialogic process. Finally, I am here because all of the problems I have encountered in buying into an authoritative deontology have been addressed by the global ethic project which precisely stands ready to address many of us on the only ground of being we have found to stand on, immanent, impersonal and existential as it is. This is where I unload, from this trojan horse of an essay, a major affirmation of the global ethic movement. The major efficacy of the approach of the pluralists is that it can make its appeal to an ego-centered consciousness using the transforming power of the aspirational and letting the obligational result "on its own."
All previous attempts to motivate me through an ontology of fear and a code of proscription have only aggravated my existing angst. Furthermore, those attempts would always strike at the very heart of the dignity and freedom their deontology was supposed to unleash within me. This affirming global ethic, has not at this stage eliminated my angst (for that shall be the by-product of its dialogic process), but it builds on my ontology of confidence and helps me aspire to the values it prescibes.
I think I can extrapolate my initial positive, visceral reaction to others. The global ethic will have an appeal because it does not ask one to abolish the ego. Recognizing and affirming others' self-love, they will surrender some selfishness spontaneously. Suggesting that a longing for fusion and a longing for beatitude can safely coexist along side self-regarding and self-forgetting desires, the global ethic's beckoning forth will be experienced as invitation to what people have already experienced, however dimly, and not as mere sterile abstraction. Affirming others' worthiness of being, they won't be afraid to love. With self-love as a model for loving others, people recognize the starting place. With loving self and others as not an either-or proposition, people will feel that they might truly belong. With egoism left intact, an invitation to altruism is not threatening. People will come to the dialogic process of the global ethic seeking knowledge and transformation in order to draw what is good to themselves. So far, the ego-centered appeal is in tact and we have met people where they are. It is possible that transformation will result. If people discover their authentic humanity is found in loving others while staying true to self, then the greatest act of authentic self love just might be found in following the global ethic, an an insidious codependency might be cured in the process. If in following the ethic they feel they won't be stripped of the very dignity with which the ethic presuppositionally clothed them, they might seek wholeness and holiness in loving others without a scarcity mentality. Present the ethic thus, as aspirational, then leave it for its followers to discover what may be obligational; if the obligational doesn't unfold of its own accord, your morals might accomplish their teleological goals but will fail miserably in their deontological transformation (not to be confused with indoctrination).
With such an appeal to the intrinsic, people may begin to suspect that they can find the ethic in the quiet, the solitude, the stillness, where love for others is inextricably linked to love for self, for if we do not encounter the ethic within we will not recognize it that we may validate its existence in others. This is an appeal to enlightened self-interest, a sales pitch, if you will, for values that will enrich both giver and receiver. It is not that religions don't have these truths within their doctrine, it is just that their marketing departments forgot some of the most attractive inventory on the shelf when designing the evangelical catalogs.
The global ethic can quickly capture others' attention by advocating their inalienable and untouchable dignity. That's an EF Hutton ploy that hasn't been lost on most religions and traditions; what has been lost, creating huge credibility gaps, is the human dignity rubber hitting the ecclesial road. The ethic affirms self-determination and self-realization, another good advertising approach. It disregards race, age, sex, sexual orientation, skin color, language, religion, ideology, political views, national and social origins when making the determination that others are infinitely precious and must be unconditionally protected. Wow! It values inner freedom and nurtures, sustains and affirms what is authentically human. It will not devalue one who is or becomes poor, disabled, differently-abled, handicapped, aged, displaced, sick or lonely. It claims freedom as human essence and proclaims a virtually limitless capability of intellect, imagination and spirit, calling people imago Dei, made in God's image (whoever She is). It goes further and urges all on to infinity (Hello?)!
Now, how can we not appreciate all this attention, this imago Dei stuff, the notion of unconditional dignity? Shouldn't we be bowled over by the esteem with which the ethic holds our inner *and* outer freedoms? Between me and you, just like with some traditions, I find it all too good to be true. Furthermore, everybody seems to be saying this stuff; few people seem to be doing it consistently; and finally, I don't have a clue where they came up with all of it! Return to the presuppositions of the presuppositions and surrender to paradox cause this unconditional affirmation stuff is radical ! kewl even ... at the very least, it resonates with my intuitions and intrinsic self-value.
Maybe some of these global ethic people have experienced some type of personal macro-paradigm shift or are anticipating the next axial period. I say this, not because their affirmations haven't been codified or articulated in every culture in every language on every continent since before pre-history, but because there is something radically different in their collective consciousness. Perhaps it is the both/and pluralistic approach to the absolute/relative, transcendent/immanent, theological/existential, personal/
impersonal, kataphatic/apophatic and the radical optimism with which it beckons its religious partners in dialogue to embrace; It dares to suggest an intrinsic unity between the mediated and unmediated, between the Divine Communication and the Super*Natural* Existential, between the creeds/codes/cults of the pagan and the dogmas/laws/rituals of the theisitic. Again, this doesn't appear to be very different from many traditional orthodoxies but is less often encountered in the great traditions' orthopraxes. Still, the global ethic affirms the great religions which, surprisingly and largely, have not turned into stagnant ponds of dogmatism, ritualism and legalism, or into dry wells where truth, beauty and goodness no longer flow. Not that the traditions haven't remained all too human, even scandalous. Not that they haven't tried to eliminate one another through brute force. The great religions are all too human but what a felix culpa in excelsis for it arouses my curiosity even more as I wonder why, if they are human-made, have they not crumbled. They retain and nurture that part of the collective consciousness which the global ethic has tapped into and they, too, keep coming at us despite terrorism, war, hatred, genocide, ethnic cleansing, holocaust or or the persistent threat of cataclysm through nuclear bang or ecological whimper.
Has what I established thus far been limited to the recognition that there are folks out there ready to tell me what I want to hear? Why should anyone believe any of this stuff? Are we really talking about our unconditional dignity, about the cessation of suffering, about even life after death?
I don't know where the dialogue will lead and that is quite the point. As for the global ethic, we can't confuse it with a few western drafts that go by the same moniker. If I or we already had the answers, we wouldn't be here (in authentic dialogue anyway). What I do have is an intuition about efficacies of the dialogic process, an appreciation for the partners at-the-ready to dialogue, an affinity for the anthropocosmocentric method with which I *feel* an intrinsic unity, a hermeneutic willing to rely on the immanent-intrinsic-impersonal-existential raw data of human experience while looking over its shoulder at the paradoxical absence of external validations. The external validations are always hypothetical at best and affirmed through revelatory processes which are noncoercive. they, too lack conclusive cosmological, ontological, teleological and moral proof for their metaphysics. Their metaphysics provide a heuristic that appeals to our Lonerganesque needs for reasonableness and coherence as we search for meaning but why should uncertain reality meet this felt need when it is otherwise ostensibly hostile to others which are even more deeply felt? Mystery and paradox perdure whether you embrace a nonauthoritative or an authoritative deontology. The metaethical implications are confounding.
Not knowing what will come of this dialogue and how I will change, I hope I have at least partially explicated why I bother at all. Maybe, I have advanced an apologetic that the proponents of the global ethic movement find novel. Maybe I have just incorporated and rearticulated their apologetic. I might arouse some curiosity as regards whether or not there is an audience or a clientele for the ethic. Maybe I have revealed some human motivations that will figure into global ethic *marketing* ploys? Perhaps I have advocated the need to appeal to my ontology of fear and the greed that goes along with it while asking the ethicists to be patient and see if their altruistic contagion transforms me through *mere* dialogue. It's all I've got.
How, then, can I inquire and learn, help to unfold shared meaning, integrate multiple perspectives and uncover and examine my assumptions? How can I pay more attention to my thinking, my feelings, my communications, my assumptions and judgements? Perhaps meaning will unfold right here in this forum? Perhaps a true spirit of inquiry will often say: "Run that by me one more time!" Perhaps it is arrogant to suggest that I've ever really visited my neighboring traditions with an open mind and open heart, pausing to listen and reflect. Have I built relationships with others of different traditions, friendships that might be the natural by-product of an authentic listening process? Was I trying to influence or to be influenced or both? When I discard, out of hand, certain presuppositions or even *mere* modes of communication, have I only given lip service to dialogic principles?
Can I afford to be close-minded, in the least, when meaning in life is the grail being sought?
For obvious (and still very selfish reasons), I must better nurture a gentle openness, a willingness to question and be questioned. More than anything else, if I am going to be changed, I need to cross a wide liminal threshold and will have to be taken there by my interactions with others in an inter-validating process over against either an internal or external one. I can't escape the social nature of our sin or of our grace (and that, friends, is the first time I have introduced those words ... for the sake of having a gratuitous explicit religious reference ... the sex comes later ... please keep reading ... that's the only bait I've got). I have been handicapped by my own incestuous thought patterns and worldviews and I have a metaphysical crick in the neck that I suffer from the protracted navel-gazing done by my self and my tradition.
Can we take this in baby steps? I feel a real reluctance to surrender my freedom (gifted by you, thank you very much) to any externally validated ethic, not having a confident assurance in the reliability and credibility of the authoritative and extrinsic validating *agent* itself. Now look, don't any of you get your dander up; I've already applauded your major traditions for perduring against all odds; but the very fact that there are so many of them, saying the same thing often while claiming different origins, creates a mild credibility problem for even this simpleton-wannabe-theologian. So, if you don't mind, especially with this global ethic thingy, let's stay the intrinsic, internal validation course. Staying, too, on my ego-centered track, appeal to the eros and the "what's in it for me" elements and give it your best shot.
I don't want to transcend death through my genes or even through my ideas, but I can look through this lens of the ontology of confidence you gave me and see, dimly, a possible teleology of confidence. I can borrow some of your credulity and will trade with it as I engage the mystics of your traditions (maybe YOU), for in their (YOUR) authentic humanity, they often claim to know something of our destiny beyond the grave. I will give them a more thorough hearing, I am sure, once having better established the relaiability and credibility of their authentic disciples on such a mundane and earthly matter as an ethic.
Speak to my aspirations and perceived needs and teach me new ones. If my love grows from self to one other, I can accept how, in theory, it could extend, one person at a time, to all. Be wary of trying to influence my behavior with extraneous principles by cultivating a malleability of my mind and heart because, so cultivated, it becomes fertile ground also for the charlatans and the Hitlers.
I am here open to a pluralistic process and looking to drink from the primal life stream and you have told me that it flows within. Now I will accept the invitation to tap into the awakening and transformative power of the dialogical process. The monological process has sought to displace my ego from the center of my experience of human reality. It has kept me alienated from self and others. In the dialogic, I might find myself in you and may yield my ego-centered consciousness to one willing to come and stand with me at the center of my experience of reality; not over me, not below, but beside me. I might rediscover my humanity as profoundly interrelational, interconnected and interactive. I am willing to revise and experiment and self-transform, to listen, to encounter and enter creatively your perspective, to critically question and overcome what I once uncritically assumed and presumed.
Let's meet where we are. Maybe engage nonrationally, too? Let's tell stories and try to experience solidarity in them and through them. I have heard that compassion ensues from experiences of solidarity and I have experienced that, to an extent. If it doesn't, polemic won't do the trick either. While I see beauty and truth in your Myths, shouldn't you be the first to admit that they sometimes seem too good to be true!
Here's to truth, beauty and goodness! Here's to you and me! Maybe we're all the same!
My Christocentric Version of the Hub of Ultimate Incoherence
I think of Paul's affirmation of the monument to the Unknown God, of Rahner's "anonymous Christian" affirmed by Vatican II, of Jeremiah's affirmation of the notion that God's law is written on every heart, and it strikes me as strange that some Christian deontologists would take the position that a global ethic must be derived only by revelatory processes extrinsic to humanity and must be validated only by external authority when, in fact, it should be no surprise to them that their God left clues in the recesses of all psyches which existentially orient all people to the transcendental imperatives, hints which move all people to intrinsically respond to that ethic which has been extrinsically gifted only to some.
Theocentrism may find it positively arrogant when an anthropocentricism, in the process of affirming a global ethic, refuses to make any explicit reference to a Deity. However, to deny a humanism's discovery of this ethic, simply because one thinks its proponents are arrogant, is the most amateurish sort of logical fallacy. I think, rather, we should not be surprised at how a gracious God has chosen to make Herself known both immanently and transcendently, impersonally and personally, existentially and theologically, intrinsically and extrinsically, apophatically and kataphatically, never constrained in His Divine Encounters, never invading human reality as something utterly alien.
Once gifted with a confident assurance in a Divine Revelation, proclamation of such Good News is a natural expression of one's fidelity to such revealed Truth, but once engaged in dialogue with those not similarly gifted, for whatever reason, the demands of charity can be met by an affirmation of the nonbeliever's fidelity to intrinsically "revealed" and internally validated Truth. Any lack of mutuality in defining the ultimate source of that Truth, or any lack of explicit reference to same, does not render either party inauthentic or syncretistic; neither would it imply indifference.
In the middle of our tradition are people like Therese of Lisieux, on the margins, like Simone Weil, and maybe we could follow their lead and "suspend belief" at least as a heuristic and for the purposes of dialogue with nonbelievers in discovering the global ethic. Therese and Simone are living proof that the invitation to love can be extended, unencumbered by dogma, even if their "atheism" was, in the first instance, not methodological, and in both cases, not life-long.
Can a global ethic be affirmed, an authentic deontology be constructed, by non-believers?
As far as the nontheists, atheists, agnostics and secular humanists who might unconditionally affirm a global ethic, the gentle souls I have in mind would little resemble Rousseau, Marx, Sartre or Bertrand Russell but moreso a pre-conversion C. S. Lewis or a dark-night-tripping Carmelite mystic for whom God has gone on vacation.
As compelling as the ontological, teleological, cosmological and moral "proofs" of God's existence are, they are not conclusive in every metaphysics, or theodicy; mystery perdures, for me anyway.
We can not rule out another realm, hierarchically *over* our own, which introduces itself in manifold ways (eg. an ethic), but neither can we prove such. I absolutely agree with Haught and Polyani that it is possible to hold together the fact of physical continuity with the hierarchical conception of ontological discontinuity. Certainly, one could construct a matrix consisting of both epistemological monism and dualism and both metaphysical monism and dualism and then decry the inconsistencies of those who want to have their dualistic cake while eating their monistic ice cream, but still we can't demonstrate that there must be an hierarchical universe just by claiming it would not otherwise be meaningful, purposeful or, for that matter, friendly. Prior to receiving our convictions about things unseen (eg. beatific vision), we are faced with the possibility that everything is meaningless, worthless, null, void and that the universe is, in a word, unfriendly. Even if we could metaphysically *prove* a hierarchical reality ( though I can not fathom how we could get our epistemological arms around it), we would still be confronted with the mystery of whether or not its controlling influence was supreme evil or absolute goodness. Thankfully, the moral argument does fail as conclusive proof, for if it truly worked, it would work "both ways" and C. S. Lewis might have to ask himself: "But where did I get the idea that things should be other than they are? if not from an outside influence hell-bent on frustrating my aspirations? Why should the wholly other be holy? Why should it, of necesssity, have to introduce our aspirations and not rather our desperations?"
Sure, we needn't reject the possibility that nonaesthetic elements of existence can be transformed by a higher realm of existence but neither can we conclude that that higher realm hasn't "broken through" to introduce the chaos and decay we observe. We may have to simply and humbly accept, at least in part, what Freud, Feurbach and Russell had to say about the roles that illusions, projections, wishful thinking and fear might play in our ethical machinations, even as we methodologically reject the certitude with which they and others clung to their inconsistent metaphysics.
Prior to the certitude some are reportedly given through the gift of faith, all of us simply must hope and have got to believe that the "Higher Realm" has broken through and introduced the love we observe, if for no other reason than that the alternative is too unpalatable.
I positively have sneaking suspicions that there are those who have been gifted with a confident assurance in things they hope for and a conviction about things unseen and that in their seeking they have searched with all their hearts and have thus found Him for Whom they were searching. I am curious about the claim that there may be a Dark Night wherein God goes on vacation and I view it as either the highest metaphysics describing our transformation into an image of Unconditional Love or the most brilliant rationalization for the loss of faith ever devised. Even when suspecting it is a rationalization, there is, to contend with, the testimony (of those who have authored this apophatic apologetic) wherein they advance the claim that they came through this Night, after an indeterminate period of time, and then perdured in a unitive state. This arouses my curiosity, even more, as regards both the spiritual and psychological elements that might be involved.
No doubt our needs for security and love, rooted in pure animal instinct and sublimated by the powerful devising of the human mind, engender existential orientations which would cry out for transcendent provision of those needs and which are experienced as deeply-felt imperatives. These imperatives are, as far as a Global Ethic is concerned, a given. That they are transcendental as well as existential, to me, is not a given, even though some of us accept it as an article of faith helping to provide a hub of coherence to any ethic's presuppositions. If this transcendence is known by some, they would seem obliged to share this knowledge; there are those who claim to know it (sometimes me) and those who earnestly share it (sometimes me, too) and I deny no one their experiences or convictions about such matters (except for, you guessed it, sometimes me). Thus some, quite simply can not and perhaps should not abandon their proselytizing if it would violate their conscience; still, during dialogue, they should listen, in charity and with openness, to other perspectives and acknowledge the lack of force their arguments may have for those who have not been *graced* with the same experiences of faith.
For those who don't know transcendence through revelation, no doubt most seem to persist in their hermeneutic of love, consistent with their existential orientations and they, too, will support the Global Ethic and its imperatives, just because ... or if there need be a reason, perhaps they merely wager with Pascal. History shows that some others don't share that hermeneutic at all and, unfortunately, it seems there will always be some who don't.
It seems to me that human dignity and human love, must be radically unconditional if they are to endure at all. To claim external validation or support, such as some perennial philosophers did, does seem to attract more followers because it meets that need for reasonableness that Lonergan well-described, but it doesn't make the support real, neither of Hercules nor of Zeus, and it places the validation always in real jeopardy of being found null and void. Still, we can affirm the reasonableness and the apparent infusion of meaning that the hypothesis of a God-given Ethic offers and it can be a *working* hypothesis in the most superlative sense and there is no method of philosophy that can undercut this meaning even if we simply must admit that, for some, it has to remain just an appearance of meaning.
Perhaps the external validation for an ethic needn't derive from a transcendence of discontinuous ontologies and teleological hierarchies but might come from a *mere* transcendence of self (not to be depreciated just because the sociobiologists might describe our selflessness in terms of gene pool perpetuation, not to be devalued just because the physiological psychologists might discover the biochemical correlates of our altruism).
We might beckon others to join us, not because they share our philosophical presuppositions but only because they share the same concern about human ultimacies and therefore experience a solidarity leading them to join us in compassion for one another. Our solidarity, to me, is self-evident; that we are all in this together is clear. When we offer others opportunities to experience this solidarity and they awaken to it (for it is a fact and not something we create), generally, compassion ensues. If it doesn't, argumentation won't produce. However difficult it may be to articulate this compassion and whatever its genesis, it is global and, it is the ethic.
To seek external validation or support is a natural inclination and without them we fear we will be left awash in a sea of nihilism and an ocean of the worst sort of moral relativism but, not to worry, for some reason, most people seem to swim towards the Shore, albeit confusion reigns because the Shore can be found in all directions!
Thinking of Rahner's anthropological theology, I want to say that, just like with our experience of God, perhaps 1) both the natural and the revealed knowledge of the global ethic are mediated; 2) there is an intrinsic unity in these different ways of knowing the global ethic; 3) that unity is derived from our common experience of Absolute Mystery; 4) this might be the same experience that Rahner calls "original experience".
(Cf. Mark Fisher's paraphrase and notes on Rahner's _Foundations__ at url =
Doesn't the very principle of God's being become constitutive of who we are?
Don't we believe that God created all human beings with the capacity to hear and respond to God? If the capacity is there and, even if we consider it grace, still, while others may be unaware of this unmerited grace, surely they would recognize this "natural" potential which has been added to nature? And they do. And we call it supernatural and they call it natural but both experience it as an orientation to mystery and to horizon and to concerns about human ultimacies and to an ethic.
Rahner claims that God does not choose to communicate to some, and not to others. Rather, God creates in us an emptiness, a hunger for God, in order to fill it. God is love because, instead of remaining alone with the divine self, God creates an emptiness God wants to fill. (These are Mark Fischer's paraphrases of Rahner's concepts from http://www.west.net/~fischer/Rahner000.htm).
Fischer discusses Rahner's theology as regards humanity's "Supernatural Existential" and God's "Divine Communication" and it is this "existential" which, to me, provides the substrate for the global ethic in believers and nonbelievers alike. It could provide the common root system through which we drink of our solidarity, taste of the ethic and find both sustenance and nurturance through our compassion.
Some have criticized the Global Ethic movement for being too anthropocentric and having, therefore, a deontology that lacks authority or external validation. However, even an atheistic or agnostic humanism using a nowhere anchored paradoxical trust in uncertain reality without reference to primal origin, primal ground, primal support or primal destiny to affirm a global ethic is asking me to love unconditionally, and radically so (apologies to Kung for my free-wheeling deployment of his verbiage). To me, this "no-Myth" prompts an appropriate response to Ultimate Reality while, at the same time, perfectly honoring the ineffability of the encounter with the Mystery of human existence.
Encounters with the Mysterium have always resulted in either profound utterances or obnubilated silence. In a sense, the humanist or agnostic has taken the silence route, along with the Buddha ... not to practice syncretism with the non-theisms ... I just see some parallels.
A purely humanistic appeal may be ignorant of the experiences and devoid of the expressions of kataphatic theocentrisms but it resonates in my existential bones and flows through my apophatic marrow. To me, the anthropocentric and theocentric deontologies have been, respectively, radically apophatic and radically kataphatic, but either
way, we're not inventing rain, we're just opening our umbrellas!
What of the origin and meaning of the Global Ethic? What of the origin and meaning of human life? We simply are. We're not formulating a Global Ethic, we are discovering it and its manner of self-revelation will give us epistemological fits and teleological spasms--- oh bother.