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My motto here is John Henry Newman’s declaration: ―Orthodoxy stands or falls with the
mystical interpretation― of Scripture, namely. The basis for that assertion, I want further to
claim, can only be that orthodoxy is itself a or even the mystical apprehension of reality and further,
that this is precisely what is meant when, within orthodoxy, this apprehension is called faith. The
form, of life or, better, of spirit, often termed spirituality, finds especial or normative expression
in those scriptures gathered together, first by Jews, and later, on a similar principle, by the Christian
or new faith-community, reckoned by them, however, as one with the old, through the mediation
of just one man. The expression of faith as the mystical finds especially concentrated expression
among those new documents in the long eleventh chapter of The Epistle to the Hebrews, long
attributed to the Apostle Paul and certainly Pauline, which begins: “Faith is the substance of
things hoped for―, the conviction of what is not immediately apparent or seen.
   The “things which are seen― are temporal, are as grass, those same Scriptures
declare, meaning that they do not abide, are as phantoms, phantasmata, to use Aristotle’s term,
apparentia indeed, phenomena, that, in general, which merely appears, although this philosophical
term does not appear(!) in the Greek text here. Texts are indeed themselves phenomenal, they pass
away (“are temporal―). To these thoughts correspond exactly the first two chapters, on sensecertainty and perception, in Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Mind.    Â
   Therefore the mystical interpretation of them in a sense annihilates them or annihilates
what is in itself or from inception annihilated, vanity itself being made vain. The same thought can
be expressed, by this faith-principle, which is also the philosophical, as a subsumption, a taking
up (Aufhebung) of text into thought, what we call reading it. Reading thus viewed is in itself
interpretation and, it is here claimed, mystical interpretation. Faith, thus viewed is the acme of
thought, thought’s final issue, and nothing else, just as thought itself is nothing other than this,
than faith in its beginnings. That is what alone can be legitimately meant by those who like to say,
to claim, that “the Church is the home of reason―, understanding here by “the Church―
the community bound together by the one faith, God’s “own community― where,
according to Hegel (Enc. 554[1]), God is alone or uniquely known.
    It can be shown that Hegel, the philosopher who merits the title of theologian, could not
there mean simply this phenomenal community on earth at some or other given moment. All such
moments in his system are indeed just moments, having no reality except as known to Absolute
Spirit or, that is to say, in relation to everything else, to the universal, namely, which is eternal,
necessary and without change or shadow of turning, as the phrase goes. They are like the means
which in Hegel’s system are absorbed into the “realised end―. God, as faith has it, is at
once alpha and omega, beginning and end, thereby superseding both these finite notions. The
model, therefore, the original, for Hegel’s or our use of “community― here is the divine
Trinity itself, a perfect unity identical but without composition with certain relations “of
love―, as Hegel expresses it, meaning that no real composition of parts is implied, whatever
some may “intend―, by this concrete plurality in unity, these two themselves also, the one
and the many, being equally identical, as is shown in the first part of Hegel’s logic in either
version of it.
   It is clear then that for this thinker, as for the Biblical tradition, love plays a crowning or
omni-determinative role, without which the whole edifice of faith falls. This will be our key for an
investigation of what should be finally meant by method, whether in philosophy, in theology or,
in an ultimate analysis, in so-called catechetics. Method, we will find, is finally prayer or liturgy,
Gottesdienst, of which the final or perfect form is wisdom or philosophia, literally the “love of
wisdom―, where “of― may be taken in all its multiple meanings, whether we take it as
love for wisdom, namely, or love which is wisdom, as form even of the Aristotelian intellectual
virtues as of the three “theological― virtues and not only of the moral virtues. These, namely,
are the same. Only so could Socrates, qua philosopher, or perhaps qua Plato, have expressed his
resounding contempt for the non-lover as thinker (in Phaedrus).
   Here we introduce a certain development, even Aufhebung, of Hegel’s at least partial
stasis by the divide of exoteric religion (for all) and esoteric philosophy (for the few), immediately
apparent though this be. The phenomenon of an, in intention at least, universal democracy, of
“free thought―, impels to this in some way prophetic vision, corresponding to Jeremiah’s
or Joel’s visions of a “time to come― when all shall “know the Lord― and not,
therefore, presume to dictate to or teach one another in these matters. This development is anyhow
implicit in the Aristotelian or Hegelian eschewal of talk of individual mind when discussing the
latter, mind or reason, operating as a whole in each person in what Hegel calls[2] “the true
reason-world―, at the same time as he concretely identifies it with “the mystical―, rightly
understood, which it, speculative reason, “means very much the same as―.
At the time of the so-called Thomist revival, promoted prior to Leo XIII’s Encyclical letter of
1879 by and through the Jesuits’ journal at Rome, Civiltà cattolica, where it was claimed that
the scholastic method perfected by Saint Thomas Aquinas was the right one for philosophy as
such, at least in the sense that it should receive preferential promotion in whichever teaching or,
in general, intellectual institutes claimed to stand in the service of the Church or faith-community.
It was claimed, e.g. by Cardinal Kleutgen, that Catholics, the faithful, “need― no other
philosophy. A certain barbarism, a nakedly political Procrusteanism, was plainly at work here,
however favourably we evaluate the fruits of this neo-scholastic or even neo-Thomist movement,
as it came to be called. Our only interest in it here turns precisely upon this question of method
viewed in relation to mysticism and how it came to be used, especially by the post-Lutheran Roman
Church, at least up to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1964), in a political manner, by the
immediate servants of the teaching authority (magisterium), thus marginalizing that mysticism
essential to faith and seriously compromising, if indeed this had been or ever could be possible,
the Christian movement as a whole.
   Clearly “the Church― has frequently at other times, whenever possible even, called
upon the “political arm― for help, acquiescing in a view of heresy as a civil crime punishable
by torture and death. It has itself promoted the founding of military religious orders. What was
new here, however, was an attack upon the free essence of philosophy itself in presuming to
identify it with a finite, once historically instanced and therefore extrinsic method. This was a
simple perversion or corrupt use of the notion of method as introduced by Descartes or,
conceivably, by Aristotle in and as the very foundation or discovery of formal logic. Yet Aristotle
paid little heed to this discovery in pursuing his metaphysical enquiries. Nor, maybe, did Descartes.
For philosophy, however, Hegel was to show, the method of thinking is indistinguishable from the
goal of thought itself, which goal is, indeed and precisely, thought, thinking, itself, as is expressed
in the citation from Aristotle which ends the Encyclopaedia. Method, indeed (meta-hodos), or the
way (hodos) to go, means, as “speculative―, standing still as being, all the same, in perpetual
re-volution. in a return upon self, once pictured as a dance “in the round― by Dante (The
Divine Comedy III). This method is in fact “the specific consciousness― of the value of the
logical “moments― of “the system of logic―. It is, that is to say, itself the Good or
Mind, nous, infinite as free, inasmuch as it is necessity itself, identified by Aristotle with God (Gk.
ho theos). This then, and not the material details of a historical moment in thought’s continual
self-exposition or “revelation―, is the method of philosophy, is philosophy as method, the
Way. Of truth and life of the spirit. Death or the transcending of life, says Hegel, is the entry into
spirit (Geist), as Aristotle had said that the apprehension of mind, as study or contemplation, a
little of which is worth more than “all the rest―, demands a practice of death, athanatizein,
since, Augustine was to add, “this alone is desirable for itself―, is, therefore the Good and
one with the Good, no longer therefore abstractly object but the redemption of our own
subjectivity, as being subjectivity itself. The finite individual is thus “ruined―, swallowed
up, as something it or we never was or were, a shadow or reflection as upon the wall of a cave.
Plato, Aristotle and Hegel here join up as philosophy, as sophia which is itself love, philia (unto
death, greatest as for the best, we have seen). Thus we can understand Hegel’s saying that the
concern of philosophy is “religion and nothing but religion―, itself however de-particularised
in apotheosis.
[1] See also our “Faith as Thinking with Assent―, New Blackfriars, January 2005, pp. 101-113.
[2] Cf. Hegel, Enc. 82 and the addition. He also says there that the result of Dialectic, which is the Speculative, is
“a unity of distinct propositions―. This corresponds to his intention of orthodoxy as against the relatively
formless religiosity of Jacobi or Schleiermacher or, equally, the coinciding irreligion of Schopenhauer.
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