Accusations and Consolations

Dear friend,

I am happy to hear that my article caused some stirs among you, theology students. I wish if I could cause more ! Now there is a widespread contempt for speculative thinking. What people needs is just entertainment which will take them away from their worries and will make them not to think. Such kind of life will not be life but mere vegetation. Heidegger called it the ‘forgetting of being’. Our aim is to have a bigger life and bigger death. Those who have more life will have more death. Jesus said: I have come so that you may have life in abundance. Since Jesus had life in abundance his life was very deep, profound  and immeasurable.

“Find a great idea, marry it and bring forth your children”, this is the great advice I received from Unamuno, the author of  ‘The Tragic Sense of Life’.( this book is available in our library, a rare collection.) A concept in a certain sense, always has more sharply defined boundaries than any actuality we may ever meet with in experience. Man needs something to fight for. Those who fight for certain ideas and die for them are called martyrs and those who fight for power and money are called  despotics. Let us fight for some big ideas. This is the promise I made to myself at the presence of that martyr saint Bruno. It was night time when I went to see the square where they burnt him to death, yet there was rare light around his statue. I could not look at his face, under his hooded  head his eyes were blazing, probing my soul. I was overpowered by that ancestral guilt, making powerless not even to ask him a pardon. We killed him because he said something that we all believe now. He never rejected the existence of God but said: He is beyond human comprehension. He was the first man to have conceptualized the universe as a continuum where the stars we see at night are of identical nature as of sun. The killing of Bruno was the saddest episode of our mad history. Napoleon said, “the ignorant priest is the greatest curse of a community”. It is an ignorant clergy which created the ‘dark middle age’.

I would like to know whether God made Paul capable to be his messenger or he found him capable to be his messenger? If you read Paul carefully, you will know that the second way is right. He was quite well versed to deal with all sorts of prevailing philosophical systems. History will tell that no religion would remain without intellectual possibility. The religion which is founded up on emotional possibility alone will die somewhere. The revelation came to Paul not only from God but also from Greek Philosophy. When he said, “it is in Him we move and have our existence,” he was echoing a Greek philosopher.

The first  lesson of pneumatology is this: the spirit does not alter the nature of man but work on his nature.The holy Spirit is not an absurd or arbitrary commandment, it is discernment as it addresses to my intelligence, it invites me in my turn to practice the crisis, the discernment of myths. This discernment calls for a hermeneutic  capable of bringing out the symbolic meaning of the myth. so when someone comes up and begin to interpret the Gospel without any studies and without any formation to do so, I feel a how. Of course they can do that but problem arises when they make an attestation to Holy Spirit. I doubt that Holy Spirit because the Spirit without effort is crude, a lesson I learnt from Thomas mann.

Take, the greatest gospel interpreter of our time, Fr. Bobby Jose. He is uncanny in exposing the relation of one part of gospel to the other. His reading is the most prevailing; nothing escapes from his intuitive gaze.

Wherein lies his strength? It is in the reading his youth: O.V. Vijayan, Khalil Gibran and Osho. It is they who trained him and formed his culture. His bible reading is very much a heir to Berkeley.

In an award ceremony he did not own them up and asked the audience to read these people before they read gospel, instead he said “I am a servant of the word of God”. Are we anyway merited by that pious proclamation? At least I am not. Is it  what we expect from him, a common place sentence?. He disappointed me who looked to him as the modern ‘Thomas Merton’. Instead of becoming a prophet he ended up as an interpreter. He fell in to those ‘shalom trappings’. I am not against him, I am proud to say that I am his true follower who really understood and expressed him in a different way. When others imitated him, I prayed for his intuitive reading. But I am against his interpretations however great they are. Has he not become an idol, an object of veneration and love? He doesn’t liked to be disliked and therein lies his problem.

Only Thomas Merton could say that “I have found much spirituality of Jesus in ‘Brothers Karamazov’ than in gospels”. Hearing this, his superior chided him: “the dog does not go back to its vomit”. by ‘vomit’ he meant the world. it is high time for us to go back to our vomit, because we have vomited out our sensibility.

Now let us go to other problems. I was sure that my comment on shalom T.V would cause some stir.I am not against the piety they seem to perpetuate but I will be sad if this television is going to become the face of Kerala christianity.

I really want to know who is their Christ? It seems to me it is a Christ of the sun, pomp, elegance and success. They forget that the real jesus is a son of the night and brother of the stars. Karl Martini observed it right, “Dogmas imprison him; power stretches him on the cross; definitions nail him down; churches raise him high.”

There is a big difference between John The Baptist and Jesus Christ. John The Baptist could not discover the God anew  so he followed the ethical God of Israel. He was trying to make a new strong ethical temple for Yahweh, allowing no trespassing, passageways and leak outs. Thus he was a mason while Jesus was a carpenter. A mason look for a space to place a brick. But carpenter in turn hopes where he can fit a window and door.  Jesus placed windows and doors for the ethical temple of John The Baptist.

Our Church needs more carpenters than masons. It has now many firm and closed buildings as there are many masons.

We should be suspicious of anything that is exclusive. When Jesus tried to be exclusive, a poor woman came and corrected him and he was God enough to learn form her. Anything which does not allow us to be in touch with our neighbor and makes his distant is dangerous. We need televisions and magazines which allows to be in dialogue with other culture and religions. A dialogue is possible only between equals. Dr. Munir has done more good to Muslim community than these preachers have done to Christianity. He started a publishing house where they publish books which celebrate human warmth. Now Kozhikode has more libraries which create poets and artists. We promote our children to become doctors and engineers while they try to make them poets and artist . We are businessmen . In the long run they will remain.

Now I need to present  an alternative thinking. I heavily depend on Paul Ricoeur  for the following expositions. He has become my fellow soul ever since I read his  ‘Symbolism Of Evil’. Paul Ricoeur powered me to unlock the visions of those ‘masters of suspicion’: Karl Max, Freud and Nietzsche. He also taught me to regard the limit as a gift because the limit is an activity which opens and it is an act which breaks the closure. He is the best christian thinker of the modern era. I had not known him when I proposed  an atheism which can purify the faith. Now I found solid correlating thoughts in Paul Ricoeur .

He speaks about the religious significance of atheism and this atheism helps us to destroy the shelter offered by religion and liberate men from the taboos imposed by religion, atheism clears ground for a faith beyond accusation and consolation.

Now we have to see what is this accusation and consolation.

It is to understand them we expose Nietzsche and Freud. Why we chose them? It is not enough to answer that they are the best exponents of the critique of religion as cycle of prohibition, accusation,punishment and condemnation; more important is the question of why they were able to attack religion in this way. They did not take the approach of disputing the so called proofs for the existence of god; neither did they argue that the concept of God is meaningless. Instead they created  a model of critique in which cultural representation and creeds are considered as symptoms of disguised wishes and fears. Since the faithful are more often projecting their fear and wishes to religion, they called religion an illusion of our consciousness.

The illusions of consciousness can be compared to a palimpsest, a text written over another text. Nietzsche and Freud searched for a tool to read the original text of our consciousness. This resulted in the psychoanalysis of Freud and philology of Nietzsche, it is not Nietzsche who invented nihilism, neither nihilism invented nothingness. Nihilism is a historical phenomenon to which Nietzsche is only a witness: it is only the discovery of nothingness inherent in the illusory origin of religious and ethical values. Nihilism is an expression of the very soul of metaphysics, since the metaphysics postulates an ideal and supernatural origin and thereby exhibits nothing else than a contempt for life, a disparaging of the earth, a hatred of the instincts, and a representation of the powerful by the weak. Don’t attribute the origin of nihilism to Nietzsche, it is given by our great christian metaphysical thinkers.

Now if we wish to ascertain the theological significance of this kind of atheism, we should further distinguish the characteristic of this atheism. Everybody knows the famous saying “God is dead”. But which God is dead? Who killed him? And what kind of authority belongs to the word which proclaims his death? The answer to these three questions qualify the atheism of Nietzsche and f Freud.

Which God is dead? We may answer: the God of  Metaphysics and also of Theology, in as much as theTheology relies on the Metaphysics of a first cause, of a necessary Being, of a Prime Mover which is an absolute Goodness and Origin values.

Let us say that this is the God of Onto-theology, to use the word coined by Heidegger. Thanks to the exegesis and genealogy, the moral God is revealed to be the God of accusation and condemnation- to use the Nietzsche’ terms. Such is the God that is dead.

Most of our preachings are  preachings about a dead God.

Who is his murder? As We have said before, not the atheist, but the very nothingness which dwells in the Ideal, the lack of absoluteness of the super ego. The murder of the moral God is what Nietzsche described as a cultural process, the process of nihilism, and what Freud described in more psychological terms as the work of mourning applied to the father image.

When we turn to the third question- What kind of reliability has the worth which proclaims the death of the moral god? – everything suddenly becomes problematic. We thought we knew the cause of this death: the self destruction of metaphysics through its implied nihilism. But everything becomes dubious as soon as we ask who says that. The ‘madman’ who lit a lenten in the bright morning hours and cried “I seek God”? Zarathustra?

Nietzsche, “the man with hammer,” has the authority only of the message which he proclaims, the sovereignty of the will to power. But this positive aspect of Nietzsche, which alone could give authority to his negative hermeneutics, is itself trapped within the ruins which he pulled down around him. perhaps no one is able to live at the level of Zarathustra. Certainly Nietzsche himself is not the superman he announces: his aggression against Christianity remains too full of resentment. The rebel  cannot and is not worth the Prophet. Nietzsche himself is aware of his failure that is why he cries “I need a jesus christ with the heart of Caesar”

We must acknowledge that the critique of ethics and religion by the ‘school of suspicion’  has been asset. From it We have learned to question the authority of a week ego too easily identified with the will of God and to recognize that the commandment which gives death but not life is merely a projection of our own weakness.

But this atheism is not limited to its destruction of “ moral God”  and its refutation of the archaic, fear inspired form of religion. Atheism opens a new path of faith, though a path full of uncertainties and dangers .

Now we reach the conclusion of our accusation level: the atheism  is a tool we use to get rid of false religious readings and it opens a new path to faith but this path is full of dangers and uncertainties.

Our time needs a prophetic preacher who would actualize  this message of the exodus, which is prior to any law: “I am the  lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt  out of house of bondage”. And no word of prohibition and condemnation. He would preach to us the Cross and Resurrection of Christ as the beginning of a creative life and would define for our time all the consequences of the Pauline anatomy: sin itself would be seen not as the transgression of prohibition but as the antithesis of life under grace- that is as life under law, the mode of human existence trapped in the infernal circle of law, transgression, guilt and rebellion.

Now you may ask who can be this prophetic preacher? A philosopher cannot be,  at best he can be as Kirkegaard called himself “the poet of the religious”. I know  a man who could really be so, who was blessed with such an acute sensibility, vision and all the more who had the great amour, the hearkening language, a language that doesn’t speak but listens.. It is none other than Fr. Bobby jose. he belongs to the great tradition of story tellers led by Jesus and Buddha. Unfortunately he plunged in to mysticism . Instead of using the mysticism he became a target of it. Mysticism is good and needed but one must be aware of its danger ;the sentimentality. Certain sentimentals are not signs of heart but heartlessness. I know why someone one is afraid to be a prophet: A prophet is someone who inherits a misfortune.

So this my conclusion : the religion and faith realms are contaminated and polluted. Thus now only way to think ethically is to think non ethically and the only way faith is through atheism. Then we will throw away this atheism, this tool because  it must be cured of its own illusion, the illusion which puts man at the centre and makes him absolute. we have used it and now leave it knowing its illusion. Thus we go to “consolation”.

The connection between accusation and consolation perhaps the most striking feature of religion. God threatens and protects . He is the ultimate danger and ultimate shield. As providence, the moral God is the ruler of the world which obeys the law of retribution. That law characterize perhaps the most archaic and most widespread of all religious world views. But it does not exhaust all the possible relations of man to God, and there has always been men of faith who discarded it as wholly impious.

Atheism must mean the destruction of the moral God not only as the ultimate source of accusation but as the ultimate source of protection, as Providence. But if the atheism is to have any religious significance, the death of the providential God should point toward a new faith, a tragic faith which is the faith Job.

What kind of faith deserves to survive the critique of Freud and Nietzsche?

We spoke of a kind of prophetic preaching which would return to the origins of judeo -Christian faith and yet be an appropriate beginning of our time.

In relation to the problem of accusation that preaching would pronounce only a word of liberation. in relation to the problem of consolation, that preaching would be heir to the tragic faith of Job.

it would be a faith that wanders in the darkness, in a new “night of the understanding” to use the language of the mystics-before a God who has not the attributes of the providence, this God does not protect me but delivers me to the dangers of a life worthy of being called human. we have a best example of this tragic faith, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Her letters reveal the night she was shrouded in.

Is not this God Crucified, the dying God, the God whose weakness alone may help me?

The new night of the understanding is a night for our desire as much as for our fear, a night for our longing for a protective father. Beyond this night, and only beyond it, will be recovered the true meaning of the God of consolation, the God of the Resurrection, the Pantocrator who still shines on the uppermost wall of a Byzantine church which now Turkish Muslims have converted to a Mosque.

Atheism which we propose teachs to renounce a protective father image, because it has become an idol and excuse at the same time a violence to those people who die mercilessly and never tastes the fortune of that father. Overcome as an idol the father image may be recovered as a symbol, however. As a symbol it would be the counterpart, in a a theology of love, of the progression which led us from a mere resignation to Fate to a Poetic life.

Such is the religious significance of atheism. An idol must die, in order that a symbol of  Being may speak.

Ricoeur warned us never to involve in a stupid theodicy of defending God. that is what friends of Job did and many of the modern preacher are doing. God will condemn them as he had condemned the friends of  the Job.

We will take the position of Job and will begin to ask questions. So that we  will hearken Him . Thus we shall be the Jobs who have heard God however fearsome it is.

I finish thanking you for hearing me and thanking paul Ricoeur for teaching me some great lessons.


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