Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 99

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE Augustine had fallen for Iamblichus instead of Plotinus? Iamblichus, for example, rejects Plotinus’s innovative teaching of an undescended soul, which puts him closer, in my estimation, to the incarnational theology of Christianity.5 Still, I have some reservations about modern proponents of the so-called occult. So many seem to be more like the friends of the forms than the children of matter. The theosophical search for a hidden dimension of Christianity too often denigrates Christianity’s sacramental imagination and risks reiterating all of the old dualistic quandaries of a spiritual realm separate from the material. Repeated too is the gnostic dream of a spiritual elite who are able to see through matter’s transparency by the power of an obscure and complex symbology. And while I personally enjoy reading Rudolf Steiner, there is more than a touch of Nietzsche’s madness in him, with his emphasis on free individuals battling against conventional pieties in order to rigorously construct a brand-new worldview.6 A rapprochement between the occult and traditional Christianity will have to involve criticisms and adjustments from both sides! The last two reviews are opposites, one praising and the other condemning. I am grateful to Charles Randall Paul for the effort he put into understanding and rephrasing my work. Although I would not always use the exact some kind of physical connection between the spiritual and material worlds (he was a metallurgist, after all). Can we not say that his quest was a symptom of Christianity’s silence on nature’s own desires for the divine? 5. John Milbank recognizes the importance of the doctrine of the full descent of the soul in shaping a more accurate model of the human mind’s inherent receptivity to truth and even credits that doctrine, mediated to Aquinas by Proclus, for shaping Aquinas’s theory of mind: It “almost as much as his Aristotelianism, encouraged Aquinas’s ‘materialist’ emphasis, and allowed him much more to stress a humility of the human mind before the material creation, despite the truth that it is the noblest thing within that creation.” Milbank, Beyond Secular Order: The Representation of Being and the Representation of the People (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2013), 33. Milbank and I are both attempting to overcome spirit-matter dualism, but we are heading in opposite directions. For all of his sensitive attention to embodied ways of knowing, Milbank still says that the “body is always darkly traced by that shadow of intellectual light which is matter” (p. 72). Milbank tries to read theurgic impulses back into Plato (I agree!) without recognizing that the scholastic appropriation of prime matter needs to be completely rethought. He thinks the only alternative to hylomorphism is an empty materialism (p. 265). 6. See, for example, Gary Lachman, Rudolf Steiner: An Introduction to His Life and Thought (New York: Penguin, 2007), 132. 98