The Distortion of Man in the Post-Schism West


Ever since the West made Augustinianism its theological foundation, with its roots in Plotinus’s conception of God as an absolutely simple, impersonal Monad from which all of reality emanates, there has been an ongoing destruction of the human person, his dissolving into a formless, faceless, nameless mass.  While there are times when individualism rises up strongly, this is only a temporary stage in the dialectic that ends once again in the reemergence of the impersonal essence from which everything is supposed to have begun.

Two events illustrate these truths about the West.  The first is very recent, from Las Vegas, Nevada, where a proposal allowing business corporations to form and govern towns is being discussed.  Dr Joseph Farrell explains the significance of this vis-à-vis the West and its conception of man:

 . . .

Nevada bill would allow tech companies to create governments

Note this:

Planned legislation to establish new business areas in Nevada would allow technology companies to effectively form separate local governments.

Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak announced a plan to launch so-called Innovation Zones in Nevada to jumpstart the state’s economy by attracting technology firms, Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Wednesday.

The zones would permit companies with large areas of land to form governments carrying the same authority as counties, including the ability to impose taxes, form school districts and courts and provide government services. (Boldface emphasis added)

Needless to say, this prompts all sorts of ideas to swirl around in my head, none of them too good. Note firstly that there is a certain ineluctable logic here, one that, surprisingly, has taken a rather long time to arrive at, but which - if examined from the standpoint of elucidating the basic steps along the development of that logic - should come as no surprise. It would go something like this. Step one: in our system of government, individual persons are sovereign, and possess by nature certain rights that are not granted and therefore cannot be circumscribed by governments. Step two: as such, persons have the right to ban together and form, reform, or dissolve, governments, as laid out in this country's Declaration of Independence. Step three: somewhere along the way, corporations became persons in law. This step was actually first undertaken in the middle ages for reasons we needn't get into here. So step four - elaborated in Nevada's recent attempt to woo corporations to that state - should come as no surprise, for if corporations are persons in law, then they have the same rights to form, reform, or dissolve governments as any other group of persons.

 . . . Whether or not the measure succeeds in Nevada is, at this stage, a moot point. The important point is that at long last we have arrived at the fourth step in that logic that has been under way for centuries in the West. It is the ultimate fruit of a step taken long long ago, i.e., to view an individual person as part of a great collective called the corporate person, in this case, the corporate, "federal" person called Adam, and his inheritance as being one of moral culpability by dint the inheritance of a fallen, "sinful nature" or "sin nature." (And for those inclined to throw bible verses at me, don't waste your time. There's a great deal of difference between "eph ho pantes hemarton" and Jerome's mistranslation "en quo omnes peccaverunt." And if you don't know what I'm talking about, go do some homework.)

And that recalls a statement of St. Photios the Great, famous Patriarch of Constantinople in the 9th century, whom I paraphrase: to say that there is a sin of nature is a heresy. . . .

This is the stage of man losing his unique individual characteristics - i.e., a number of men being merged into a single faceless bureaucratic corporate ‘person’ - and being collapsed back into the formless essence from whence he sprang.

Another instance of the same process may be seen in the Roman Catholic devotion to what they call the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a novel form of worship that developed in the 17th century.  The Orthodox Church rejects this devotion.  Fr Michael Pomazansky writes,

To the Lord Jesus Christ as to one person, as the God-man it is fitting to give a single inseparable worship, both according to Divinity and according to Humanity, precisely because both natures are inseparably united in Him. The decree of the Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical Council (the Ninth Canon against Heretics) reads: “If anyone shall take the expression, Christ ought to be worshipped in His two natures, in the sense that he wishes to introduce thus two adorations, the one in special relation to God the Word and the other as pertaining to the Man… and does not venerate, by one adoration, God the Word made man, together with His flesh, as the Holy Church has taught from the beginning: let him be anathema” Eerdmans, Seven Ecumenical Councils, p. 314).

On the Latin cult of the “Heart of Jesus.”

In connection with this decree of the Council it may be seen how out of harmony with the spirit and practice of the Church is the cult of the “sacred heart of Jesus” which has been introduced into the Roman Catholic Church. Although the above-cited decree of the Fifth Ecumenical Council touches only on the separate worship of the Divinity and the Humanity of the Saviour, it still indirectly tells us that in general the veneration and worship of Christ should be directed to Him as a whole and not to parts of His Being; it must be one. Even if by “heart” we should understand the Saviour’s love itself, still neither in the Old Testament nor in the New was there ever a custom to worship separately the love of God, or His wisdom, His creative or providential power, or His sanctity. All the more must one say this concerning the parts of His bodily nature. There is something unnatural in the separation of the heart from the general bodily nature of the Lord for the purpose of prayer, contrition and worship before Him. Even in the ordinary relationships of life, no matter how much a man might be attached to another — for example, a mother to a child — he would never refer his attachment to the heart of the beloved person, but will refer it to the given person as a whole.

--Orthodox Dogmatic Theology

Fr Aidan Keller, an Orthodox priest-monk, adds, ‘The historian Father Rene Francois Guettee, in his polemic work “The Heretical Papacy,” remarks that by singling out for worship not only Christ’s human body as opposed to His whole Person, but the heart as opposed to the rest of His body, an error even worse than that of Nestorius has been devised.’

And Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky also says:

"Several times at the outset of his activity in the See of Volyn", Vladika Anthony exchanged correspondence with the …Metropolitam of Lvov (Lviv), Count Andrei Sheptytsky. In one of his letters, the …Metropolitan wrote that he was then occupied with the introduction of veneration to the "Sacred Heart of Jesus" among the Galicians…When Vladika took exception to this Catholic devotion, the …metropolitan asked: "Really, how can one possibly object to the veneration of the Sacred Heart, when our Lord Jesus Christ suffered for us with His heart, and when His heart suffered most of all, throbbing with pain?" To this Vladika replied that during Christ's sufferings, as is well known, He experienced much pain, not only in his heart, but in other internal organs of His body, as for example, the liver, the kidneys, etc. It would then follow that one could venerate these other internal organs as well …To this remark there was no response.

Orthodox Life, No. 4, 1979. P. 26.

What is so remarkable about this Roman Catholic obsession with an organ of the Lord Jesus Christ is that it mirrors the decline of man in his Modern guise (the atomistic individual - already a distortion of man in his fulness, who always exists in an inseparable communion of love with other men and women, a union that enhances, not weakens, their unique personalities) to man in his Post-Modern guise:  which is to say, his decay from an individual into simply the parts that make up that individual, which is a key characteristic of Post-Modernism:

At this stage we are able to single out completely new symptoms of the type of man constituted by the politics of postmodernity:  depoliticisation, autonomisation, microscopisation, and sub- and transhumanisation.  That is, today man is not regarded as a whole — his parts are considered to be independent.  It is his desires, emotions, moods and inclinations that matter.  At the same time, while on the one hand attention is transferred from the individual to the sub-individual level, on the other hand, the sub-individual level merges with other sub-individualities, that is, it enters the domain of the trans-individual (Alexander Dugin, The Fourth Political Theory, Arktos, London, 2012, p. 170).

The convergence of all the sub-individuals into an indistinct trans-individual returns us once again to Plotinus’s impersonal Monad.

What we have, then, in the Sacred Heart devotion is the forerunner of today’s Post-Modern man, a being who is not even a united whole but a gruesome menagerie of parts that are given various levels of attention and adoration.

For all this, there are still many adherents of the belief that the ‘West is best’.  There is only one ‘society’, however, that is ‘best’:  the Orthodox Church.  And the West has been drifting farther and farther away from her since the days of Charlemagne and Pope Nicholas I in the 9th century.  Nevertheless, despite the excruciating death-spasms this is causing her, she still stubbornly continues to worship the self-deified image of herself, like Narcissus captivated by his own reflection in the pool.  But without the Orthodox understanding that the being of creation is rooted in God as Person and not God as impersonal essence, the understanding of the West regarding man will continue to reside in fantasies and delusions that will, as it did with Narcissus, bring about her doom.