Walker Percy Wednesday 153

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Because I believe that God exists and that he created the Cosmos (the Big Bang, as you vulgarly call it, embarrasses you, Aristarchus, doesn’t it?), that he created man through evolution, in the latest moment of which, perhaps the last Ice Age, man became ensouled and came to himself as man, body and spirit; that God thus created man as a person who had gifts of knowledge and love but most of all of freedom, that he somehow encountered a catastrophe, God alone knows what, used his freedom badly, and chose badly—perhaps chose himSELF, the one thing he can never know of itself, rather than God—and has been in trouble ever since. That, as a consequence, God himself intervened in the history of this insignificant planet, through a covenant with an even more obscure tribe, the Jews, through his son, a Jew who actually lived as a man on this earth, him and no other, through founding a church, the Catholic Church based on a very mediocre, intemperate Catholic, Peter, also a Jew; that he, God, is somehow inextricably and permanently, even hopelessly, involved with the two, the Jews and the Catholic Church, until the end of earth time.

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But the two, Jew and Catholic, are inextricably attached to each other, like Siamese twins at the umbilicus, whether they like it or not, and they both detest it, until the end of earth time.

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As Pope, my first act will be to revive the University of Notre Dame around a nucleus of Jewish scientists whom I shall lure from Israel. The Catholic Church is responsible for the birth of science in the West, but it got too rich, got distracted by family quarrels, and dropped the ball, which the Jews picked up.

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Thought Experiment: An experiment in shifting one’s perspective toward the end of determining the relative preposterousness of modern Cartesian consciousness vis-à-vis the preposterousness of Judaeo-Christianity—that is, whether they are two unrelated preposterousnesses or whether one preposterousness is a function of another, i.e., whether Judaeo-Christianity is preposterous from the point of view of the modern scientific consciousness precisely to the degree that the latter has elevated itself from a method of knowing secondary causes to an all-construing quasi-religious view of the world—whether, in fact, the preposterousness of Judaeo-Christianity is not in fact an index of the preposterousness of the age.
Play the following game. Adopt the following perspective: the point of view of Aristarchus Jones (little or no effort is required of you if you are a creature of the age, that is, a rational, intelligent, well-educated, objective-minded denizen of the twentieth century, reasonably well versed in the sciences and the arts; we are all Aristarchus Jones):
Judaeo-Christianity is indeed a preposterous religion, far less compatible with the modern scientific temper than, say, Buddhism or Brahmanism.

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Protestant Christianity is even more preposterous than Judaism. It proposes not only all of the above but further, that God himself, the God of the entire Cosmos, appeared as a man, one man and no other, at a certain time and a certain place in history, that he came to save us from our sins, that he was killed, lay in a tomb for three days, and was raised from the dead, and that the salvation of man depends on his hearing the news of this event and believing it!
Catholic Christianity is the most preposterous of the three. It proposes, not only all of the above, but also that the man-god founded a church, appointed as its first head a likable but pusillanimous person, like himself a Jew, the most fallible of his friends, gave him and his successors the power to loose and to bind, required of his followers that they eat his body and drink his blood in order to have life in them, empowered his priests to change bread and wine into his body and blood, and vowed to protect this institution until the end of time. At which time he promised to return.

Second Perspective: Now the game requires that you make a 180-degree shift of point of view from the standard objective view of the Cosmos to a point of view from which you can see the self viewing the Cosmos.
From this new perspective, it can be seen at once that the objective consciousness of the present age is also preposterous.
The earth-self observing the Cosmos and trying to understand the Cosmos by scientific principles from which its self is excluded is, beyond doubt, the strangest phenomenon in all of the Cosmos, far stranger than the Ring Nebula in Lyra.
It, the self, is in fact the only alien in the entire Cosmos.
The modern objective consciousness will go to any length to prove that it is not unique in the Cosmos, and by this very effort establishes its own uniqueness. Name another entity in the Cosmos which tries to prove it is not unique.
The earth-self seeks to understand the Cosmos overtly according to scientific principles while covertly exempting itself from the same understanding. The end of this enterprise is that the self understands the mechanism of the Cosmos but by the same motion places itself outside the Cosmos, an alien, a ghost, outside a vast machinery to which it is denied entry.

Are these two preposterousnesses commensurate or incommensurate, related in direct proportion or unrelated?
That is to say, which of these two propositions is correct?
(1) As time goes on and our science and technology advance and our knowledge of the Cosmos expands, the Judaeo-Christian claim becomes ever more preposterous, anachronistic, and, not to mince words, simply unbelievable.
(2) As time goes on and our science and technology advance and our knowledge of the Cosmos expands, the gap between our knowledge of the Cosmos and our knowledge of ourselves widens and we become ever more alien to the very Cosmos we understand, and our predicament ever more extreme, so that in the end it is precisely this preposterous remedy, it and no other, which is specified by the preposterous predicament of the human self as its sole remedy.

(CHECK ONE)

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Here is Aristarchus Jones’s famous speech as he surveyed his new home: “A new world! Now I know how the Pilgrim Fathers felt, but unlike the Pilgrims, we left the old world and the old beliefs behind. Free at last! Free at last! No thanks to God, free at last! No irate God, no irate Jews, no irate Christians, no irate Moslems, only liberated loving selves. Now we shall show the Cosmos how to live in peace and freedom. My friends, let us begin by learning to know ourselves, for only by knowing our interior gods and demons can we exorcise them. Our first group session in self-knowledge will be held tomorrow morning. Now let’s get to work.”

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The Captain has formed the habit of sitting on the hillside above the cave, a warm place fragrant with rabbit tobacco and scuppemong and the pine-winey light. It is a favorite meeting place on Sunday mornings of the unbelievers—non-churchgoers and dissidents of one sort and another—while the tiny congregations of Catholics and Protestants hold services. There is even talk of a temple, but the five Jews, one orthodox, one reformed, one conservative, one humanist, and one Yemenite Israeli, cannot get together.

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What is the character of your consciousness? Are you conscious? Do you have a self? Do you know who you are? Do you know what you are doing? Do you love? Do you know how to love? Are you loved? Do you hate? Do you read me? Come back. Repeat. Come back. Come back. Come back.

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