Stoicism and Paul: Making a Cosmology-Anthropology-Ethics for Today

flashgordonv

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Many thanks AI. You have the gift of taking difficult and sometimes dense material and explaining it simply. I am in debted to your clear and concise explanation. Much appreciated,
 

Aeneas

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Approaching Infinity said:
Laura said:
Hopefully we'll be able to find some corresponding terms and descriptions in Collingwood and possibly elsewhere. Perhaps Gurdjieff's idea of bankruptcy can serve temporarily for the "struck" part?
I think that's a part of it. Collingwood describes how each mode of thought - e.g., art, religion, science - has an error built into it that is transcended by the next level of thought. I think bankruptcy can apply to each of those modes - the experience of the limits of your mode of thought/way of life, as the illusion comes crashing down. I'd just say at this point that the bankruptcy seems to me to be the state that allows or facilitates the "strike". It's the opening, but something else has to "come in". So maybe we can also think of it in terms of B and C influences. The "influence from above" can take the form of insight/inspiration/channeling/a book/a teacher. But the ground has to be prepared, as in bankruptcy. And maybe what comes into us can be thought of in terms of a "higher truth", a higher level of information that re-organizes us and our thinking/feeling/acting.
Thank you for this thread and the distilling of essential concepts. Also in the light that what we are doing here is preparing a seed for the future. For that seed to take off and flower and not become a barren talking club a couple of generations/millenia down the road, then a finepolishing of the cosmology is important. And the gems you are gleaning from Paul seem very appropriate and inspiring.
 

Approaching Infinity

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Laura said:
Hopefully AI will find that bit about how the Stoics saw Truth/Knowledge etc being the "attractor" and that which could "strike" those who were actively seeking it.
Haven't found that passage yet. Hopefully I'll come across it as I review the book for the summaries. (The index is no help, and I don't have a pdf to search keywords.)

The thing is, the Stoics and others would actively "advertise" their system, their model of reality or explanation of the cosmos or what have you. In the same way, Paul and early Christians were advertising their interpretation. This evangelizing was a human figure acting as proxy for X in the X-> movement. Supposedly, upon hearing the Truth, something inside the person would be moved to yearn or reach or decide for that, the I->X movement. Then, theoretically, the person would "move into a new reality", a new cosmic family, and various other descriptions.
Yep, and for Paul, that initial encounter with X was hearing Paul preach about "the gospel"/"Christ". He must have been quite the persuasive guy. Once his "pupils" accepted the things he said as true, the next step was to put them in practice - which is what Paul was trying to evoke in his letters. Jumping ahead a bit here: in the initial encounter, Paul passed on a bit of God's spirit through his "true words". And with work on their part, that spirit would transform them.
 

Approaching Infinity

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Paul and the Stoics: Philippians

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one of his last letters, written while he was in prison. It’s short, but it contains a full picture of the “Christ-believing way of life” and the “I->X->S” dynamic. The letter itself is peppered with references to joy, suffering, partnership/sharing, progression toward a future goal, yearning for the heavenly homeland of the politeuma (“citizen body”), and the idea of “imitating” Christ. All these little motifs are tied together in the “I->X->S” picture. As TEP writes: “they can all be brought together under the idea of Paul - the ‘sage’ and ‘teacher’, the one who KNOWS - ‘bending down’ to the Philippians - to be understood as his ‘quasi-pupils’, who know less, but ARE progressing in knowledge - in order to make them ‘move up’ by their own means to his own level of insight.”

In terms of the Model, the letter can be divided roughly into two parts. Chapters 1 and 2 deal with “X->I” - how to handle the suffering of everyday life in the light of Christ (“X”), and with the awareness that even if we really ‘belong’ elsewhere, we find ourselves in THIS world. Chapters 3 and 4 deal with “I->X” - pressing on toward the ultimate goal, answering the “upward call” of the heavenly citizen body. This is followed by some practical advice. You can read the letter starting here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Philippians+1&version=NRSV (It will probably help to check out the passages referenced below while reading this post, then read the whole letter with the ideas from the post in mind.)

Paul, as a sage or a Stoic-like wise man, sees the world and himself from above. This is one way of looking at the “X->I” dynamic: we look down at “I” from the perspective of “X”. One of the ways Paul demonstrates this is through his references to joy and suffering. He goes so far as to say that even if he is “being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice”, he is still glad and rejoices. He would welcome death if that was his fate. This is Paul in “full sage mode”.

For Paul, joy in suffering is the proper response, because it comes from the understanding that the self suffering is not the REAL self. From the new, objective perspective, the suffering of the old perspective (the individual, bodily “I”) is relatively nothing. The “I” still suffers, but it is totally “relativized” when seen from the perspective of “X”. It’s similar to how growing up “relativizes” the things that made us happy or scared when we were kids, to the point that those same things have no hold on us now, things like being afraid of the dark, or getting super excited to watch Saturday morning cartoons. The suffering of “I” becomes NOTHING to us from the perspective of “X”.

So what is joy for Paul, then? It is an expression of the influx from the heavenly world into this one, and it comes from doing the only thing in life that matters. In 2:1-2, Paul tells the Philippians what would make his joy COMPLETE: that they all have the same mind, the same love as he does, and as Christ does. So there’s a hint there that for Paul, complete joy requires mutuality: it is a social emotion only effected by a group of like-minded people completing each other in some way - i.e. becoming part of something larger than themselves as individual bodies.

On his own, Paul is wholly the Stoic sage, free from all earthly suffering, but he also expresses pain and suffering. This may seem like a contradiction, since this sort of thing is “beneath” a sage. But Paul has a purpose in this: it’s rhetorical. As we’ll see, it’s part of his method of ‘bending down’ to his pupils’ level - where suffering is still real and stings - in order to lift them up out of it, to show them “the way out”. He does this by instructing them, and by being a living example of that instruction. Paul himself, in his role as sage, embodies the “X->I” dynamic by ‘reaching down’ to the Philippians as TEP described above.

Along with his Stoic joy, Paul also demonstrates Stoic self-sufficiency. In 4:10-20, Paul acknowledges a gift of money the Philippians sent him. But he constantly qualifies his thanks. It’s not that he’s thankless, however. Here too he is demonstrating the “view from above”. Yes, he rejoices that they could show their concern for him, he’s thankful for their kindness given his dire situation, but even then he is not “in need”:

“…for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
There’s the full-sage mode again. Nothing else matters; Paul has been “initiated into” riches and poverty so that his personal situation a matter of complete indifference to him - because of the inner strength of living in Christ. He genuinely draws in the Philippians with praise and thanks, but firmly places himself above them, modeling the attitude of being one with God. He doesn’t seek their gifts, he only seeks that it may serve THEM (4:17).

Paul gives the example of his own change in self-understanding (“I->X”) in 3:4-14. He basically describes all the things he had to brag about - his lineage, his blamelessness according to Jewish law (basically, biological and social categories). But this was only “confidence in the flesh”. Now, these old values have been left behind as belonging to “the flesh”, replaced with new ones. “Whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as losses.” Not only that, all these things are now “garbage, rubbish” (as G would say, “merde”) - he has “suffered the loss of all things” at the “I” level. The only thing that matters is the righteousness of God that comes through the faith of Christ (the full conviction of knowledge of “X”). TEP: “Paul’s body, his whole individual being has been (normatively) taken over by Christ. No property that belongs to him as a bodily individual being has any value to him when it does not serve the cause of Christ.” As Paul puts it in 1:20: “Christ will be exalted now as always in my body.” He means that literally.

They way in which this change comes about is through knowledge: of Christ (“X”), of the self in relation to Christ (“X->I”), which leads to change in self-understanding (“I->X”). It’s a cognitive act. Paul uses his own case as a model for universal application; his goal is to get the Philippians to follow the same course that Paul himself has taken and is striving for.

What exactly is this knowledge? It’s not just accepting certain statements as true. It is that, but it’s also coming to know those statements as true through personal experience, and by putting them into practice. The way TEP puts it, “X” gives a new form of propositional knowledge, expressed in the “Christ hymn” (2:5-11). Understanding “Jesus Christ as Lord” encompasses knowing what Christ did, what happened to him, and what it all really means, as expressed in Christ’s own self-understanding - his mindset. All this leads to what TEP calls Paul’s “maxim”, found at 2:5: “do not consider your own interest, but that of others.” You could call it the distillation of the whole Christ story/myth.

The maxim is the meaning behind it all: it exemplifies Christ’s mindset and his actions. As such, it is also a model to be followed. Just as Christ acted not for his own interests (as a divine being) but for others (lowly humanity), Paul does the same thing, and so should we - if we are truly “X” people. So Paul actively ‘bends down’ to peeps on their own level with the hope of stretching them up - a recapitulation of Christ’s saving act, and specifically, Christ’s “grasp” of Paul himself. Paul needs to make them see what he sees, what they SHOULD see; not just to follow orders, but to truly understand themselves to be “in Christ” in the way he is “in Christ”. He’s not looking for mindless ritual or convention, but a self-aware practice based on true knowledge.

Paul is writing to people who have experienced and learned enough to identify themselves as Christ-believers. But they haven’t quite learned to put it all into practice. This is where the “progression” motif comes into play. Their growth in understanding comes through application of what they already know. Paul brings this out of them in two ways: he appeals to their existing partnership with him, and he presents himself as a model through his actions. He does something (based on his own knowledge), and they gain knowledge by doing the same - “meeting” Paul where HE’S at, and stretching up.

We can see this in 1:6-11 and 2:1-4. First he appeals to their mutual relationship: they “hold” Paul in their heart, and share with him in God’s grace, his suffering and in the gospel. What does Paul want from them? “That your LOVE may overflow more and more with KNOWLEDGE [discernment] and full insight to help you determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness”. A bit later he puts it in these terms (1:27): “live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel”, “stand firm in one spirit”, “with one mind”. This is the level to which Paul wants to bring them, which is the “S” pole of the Model. He lays it all out in 2:3-4, with the maxim: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

How exactly are they to understand this? 2:5: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Identify with “X”, not “I”. What is the content of that mind? In other words, what “X”-based knowledge will assist in “reforming” their minds? 2:6-11: though he was divine, Christ took human form, obedient to God even unto death. He doesn’t spell it out here, but by doing this, Christ made possible that humans could be “saved” by participating in his “death” and “resurrection”, i.e. death of “I” and birth of “X”. By participating in this redemptive act, Christ believers will achieve the heavenly goal. On the “ethical” side of the equation, this means “thinking the same” as Paul and Christ, among themselves - being “co-imitators” with Paul of Christ. Paul himself practices this insight, as TEP writes: “Paul has come to KNOW Christ Jesus AS one who bent down towards humankind and it FOLLOWS from this that he will next himself do the same.” TEP again:

“In coming to see himself as a ‘Christ person’ (I->X) Paul has also acquired a certain normative knowledge (at X) that he states in his maxim. He then applies this knowledge in bending down again (X->I) to the level of the Philippians trying to make THEM progress and move up to his own level (I->X).”
He has Christ’s mindset. (1:8: “how I long for you with Christ Jesus’ compassion.”) He bends down to the Philippians, pointing out that they share in their suffering, then presents his own attitude in order to lead them up and out. Similarly, he presents himself too as striving for the goal (3:12-17) of “resurrection”. And leads them to “press on” as he does. It is by full knowledge of Christ that they will live in “S”, in the “Christ mindset” and practice, “blameless on the day of Christ, righteous”, to “shine like stars in the world”.

This leads to the “eschatalogical/cosmological” side of the equation. Paul talks about the future resurrection in terms of the “citizenship in heaven”, where they will be with Christ. Paul says: Christ “will transform the body of our [lowliness] that it may be conformed to the body of his glory”. TEP calls it a pneumatic transformation in the heavenly polity, “a total physical change from an earthly body to a heavenly body that is isomorphic with Christ’s own body of glory”. (More on what this means once we get into more cosmology.) But this shouldn’t be seen as a utilitarian “reward for good behavior”. It is just the physical half of a whole spiritual/physical transformation. It is the physical manifestation of the Christ mindset/practice - the two go hand in hand for Paul.

And this is achieved by God, through Paul and through us (2:12-13): “work out YOUR OWN salvation with fear and trembling; for IT IS GOD who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” It is God (“X”) who (re)forms our minds, so that we wish what God wishes. His will becomes our will, his wishes our wishes. In other words, we don’t just do “what we’re supposed to”, like little kids following a schoolmaster's rules. Rather, we do what we’re supposed to because we understand what we’re supposed to do, and will ourselves to do it. The means to do so are ends in themselves: mutual love (“S->S”) and self-abasement (“X->I”). The result of leaving behind “I” is “S” - the formation of a Christ community where Paul’s maxim is put into practice. That’s Paul’s goal: to state things in such a way as to “make the Philippians UNDERSTAND the ‘theory’ implied in it and USE or APPLY the model in his dealings with them so as to make them FEEL it.”

Coming next: Galatians
 

Laura

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What is most fascinating about the work of Paul was that it was all about building communities, networks, and establishing what we would call Service to Others as the guiding principle. These are the main features of what the Cs have expounded as the keys to moving to the next "density."

It seems to me that Gurdjieff had a good idea that a "group" or "school" was necessary, and that no one could do anything alone, but it also seems that he didn't fully understand the principles of STO or networking.

There are problems with some aspects of the Pauline writings but, when deep studies are undertaken, it is usually found to be added after the fact by editors or Patristic theologians.
 

Gaby

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Approaching Infinity said:
The means to do so are ends in themselves: mutual love (“S->S”) and self-abasement (“X->I”). The result of leaving behind “I” is “S” - the formation of a Christ community where Paul’s maxim is put into practice.
Just what I needed to read today. Fresh hope!
 

Alejo

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I may be late to the conversation of "Being struck by X"

It made me think of the concept of "receivership capacity" and in this sense it is related to knowledge one gathers via life experiences and studying. Perhaps like Ra says, some souls are predisposed for truth and this leads them to study and gather certain knowledge and this knowledge enhances their receivership capacity in terms of understanding certain events as this being struck by X. Some people can go through certain experiences and not make much of them, but for some people the same experiences can be life changing.

To give an example, in what AI was initially describing as the way some people, by having children, grow to care about them almost by nature and expand their self centered focus to something other than themselves, there are the exceptions. For some people this experience of having children does not change who they are or what their focus is. And I think that this depends on the person and not the experience.

So it occurs to me that Being Struck by X also has to be met by the capacity within the individual to receive the information and be affected by it in order to turn it into a life changing experience. And this is related to how prepared the receiver is and not so much to the experience itself.

The discussion of religious imagery being valuable made me think of Jordan Peterson and his lectures on the Bible. Particularly the discussion he has about the Flood of Noah. Perhaps Noah is a good example of someone who experienced something (a crisis),that with an adequate receivership capacity, was able to turn it into a transformative event, while for others it was a planetary destruction a mere tragedy that made them think of how unfair existence was.

I hope the above makes sense.

This has been a fascinating thread to read :)
 

Approaching Infinity

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Paul and the Stoics: Galatians

(You can read the letter here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians+1&version=NRSV - that's the translation I used below, but with some modifications suggested by TEP)

Galatians 5:1 sums up Paul’s main point: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” This is true in general, but it’s written in the context of a particular issue raised by the Christ-believers in Galatia. A large part of the letter is devoted to the issue of circumcision and the Jewish Law - it seems some Jewish Christians were trying to convince the Galatians than in order to be truly God’s people, they had to become real Jews. Paul rejects all that, leading to these statements: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith active through love” (5:6). “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!” (6:15).

So Paul contrasts slavery and freedom. Hopefully everyone can see the Stoic element here already: circumcision, like any biological or social status marker, is nothing. It’s an “indifferent” - it makes no difference when what really matters is whether one is in “I” or “X/S”. Jews who think salvation is blocked to those who haven’t been circumcised are living “under the law”, “in the flesh”, in slavery, in prison. To really become a “son of God”, one must live “in spirit”/“in Christ” - whether Jew or not. That’s true freedom: freedom from the Law (the Jewish rulebook), which amounts to freedom from sin and freedom actually to FULFILL the Law. How that works will become clear as we go.

In the letter’s opening (1:4-5), Paul writes: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for [the sake of] our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever.” The letter goes on to show HOW God’s plan to wrench humans out of the evil world is achieved - by being “crucified to the cosmos”, i.e. through Christ-believing life and practice (“I->X->S”).

God sprung us out of prison (“I”) into an otherwordly state (“X”), via the Christ event (“X->I”). Because of our sins (“I”), Christ helped humanity by dying so that we could participate in this saving event by dying ourselves (i.e., dying to “I” and being born again in “X”). Because of this, we are changed on a fundamental level so that we no longer sin - we’re enabled to respond to the event in practice by replicating Christ’s example in becoming free. TEP writes:

“When Christ, the mediator, bent down in love and gave himself up ‘for MY sake’ (2:20), that is, by HIS suffering (vicariously) in order to bring ‘ME’ help in a situation which was negative for ‘ME’ (compare 1:4 and 3:13), then ‘I’ RESPONDED IN KIND and through that response came to live for God and so ‘live’.”
Humans aren’t just the passive recipients of God’s salvation. The act was engineered by God in order to evoke a human response, the life of practice: “it is precisely BY having the crucified Christ revealed to them that Christ-believers ARE brought out” of the sinful “I” state under the “Law”, to “X” in Christ. Christ was faithful (true to) God in his love and self-giving nature. We too can come to live for God by living in that faithfulness and sharing in it.

What are some of the effects of this “Christ event”? For Paul personally, “[God] was pleased to reveal his Son in me” (1:16). God via Christ literally lives in Paul now.

2:19-20:

“For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Jewish Law in itself holds no value. Only God has value. The way in which Paul lives “for God” is through the “I->X” relationship. Ego is dead, he is no longer that individual person - it has no value - he’s now a Christ person. He reciprocates God’s faithfulness by being faithful himself - it’s a mutual relationship - and he now identifies with all others of the same kind, sharing an identity with them (see Phil. 3:7-9).

3:26-29:

“Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for you are all children of God through [the] faith [so as to be] in Christ Jesus. Because as many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring [seed], heirs according to the promise.”
There are those “indifferents” again: social/biological categories that only apply to the “I” level. In contrast, the effect of the Christ event is this: through faith, we become “sons” (3:26, “I->X”). And because of our faithfulness/sonship, we are baptized “in spirit/in Christ” (3:2,5,14, 4:6: “because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts”; “X->S” and “S->S”). In other words, we become like Christ, living in spirit, transformed in such a way that those “I”-level categories don’t matter.

More Christ event effects:

4:14-15: “…though my condition put you to the test, you did not scorn or despise me, but welcomed me as an angel [messenger] of God, as Christ Jesus. What has become of the goodwill you felt? For I testify that, had it been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.” This shows the effect on the Galatians: they came to identify with “X”/Christ completely, through Paul, to the point that they saw him as an angel of God, and would give up their most previous belongings. The acted the way they should.

5:24: “…those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Refresher: the flesh is “I” - “ANY feature - bodily OR non-bodily - that belongs to THE INDIVIDUAL (who is also a bodily being)” - again, individual/biological/social features. “Acts of the flesh” include vices of body (adultery, uncleanness, wantonness) and vices of egoism (enmity, strife, emulation, anger, intrigue).

6:13-14: “Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Boasting is self-aggrandizement, giving normative force to “I” features. It is trust in something valued in terms of the self. (This puts identity politics in perspective: just think of “black pride”, “white pride”, “gay pride”, “American exceptionalism”, Jewish and Muslim exclusivism, etc.) So Paul’s boasting isn’t really boasting at all. It is rejoicing in a situation of earthly affliction, in Christ, in the new world.

Faith is the “I->X” relationship; it’s the basic cognitive grasp and conviction in the “call”, the initial point of entry into the Christ community. It’s a stable state that will constantly issue in acts of love (5:6 - faith active through love). On top of that, the presence of “pneuma/spirit” is a sign of being IN the community. The shared spirit is what is responsible for the shared “S->S” relationship and other-directed attitudes (see 5:22, on the “fruits of spirit”, below). These attitudes are the virtues - the states of mind that produce right behavior. Recall also the maxim from Phil. 2:4, putting others interest ahead of your own. The same idea is expressed in Gal. 5:13-5:

“For you were called to freedom, brothers; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence [the flesh], but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”
Just as used a “flesh” term in order to hint at something higher (“boasting”), Paul does the same thing with slavery. Instead of being slaves to the bodily passions and desires, be “slaves” to one another, out of LOVE - guided by, and ‘incarnating’ the spirit, which results in loving, virtuous acts. This is the basic Stoic idea that “being in the proper moral state or having a moral virtue meant that one will also always and everywhere act in the proper way.”

Here’s the central argument where it all comes together (5:16-26):

“16 What I mean is this: Live by the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

“22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peacefulness, magnanimity, kindness, goodness, loyalty [faithfulness], 23 mildness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.”
And here’s TEP’s paraphrase which brings out the form of the argument (slightly adapted):

“(16) Headline: Actualize the spirit (walk by it); then you may be certain not to fulfil the desire of the flesh. (17) For: The flesh desires against the spirit and vice versa. Being directly opposed to one another, they seek - by attempting to generate internal dividedness - to prevent people from doing what they wish to do. (18) But if YOU let yourselves be led by the spirit, then you are not (any longer) - under the LAW. (19-21) Here belongs the FLESH, i.e. the ‘works’ or ACTS (type) of the flesh. (22-23a) Contrast this with the fruit of the SPIRIT, which consists in ATTITUDES. (23b) Such things the LAW is not concerned with. (24) Those who belong to Christ (as opposed to those under the law) have ‘crucified’, that is, done completely away with, the flesh with its passions and desires. (25) Therefore: IF we live by the spirit (compare 22-24), then let us also actualize it in practice (compare 16a).”
The way TEP expands on this is really interesting:

“Generally, the two ‘mythical’ forces of spirit and flesh aim to prevent human beings from putting wishes based on the other force into practice. They aim to prevent the one thing with which Paul is really concerned here: wishing AND DOING, not just wishing, but wishing of the complete kind that invariably leads to doing. The two forces are at loggerheads. They try, as Paul suggests, to insinuate themselves in individual souls that are in principle taken up by the OTHER force in order to prevent the complete success of their opponent. However, they will only manage to does this *if the individual person lets them do it*. As Paul had already said in 5:15: if the Galatians practice unloving acts towards one another, they *risk being consumed altogether* by that unloving relationship.”
So there is a battle of forces within each of us. Paul ascribes agency to both of them: spirit (which is God’s spirit and Christ’s spirit), and sin (satan). If one lets oneself by led by spirit, the flesh loses the inner battle. The Law cannot ever win the battle, because the Law operates on the same level as sin. It was designed to counter the flesh - but that’s it. For Paul, the Law only existed to keep down moral transgressions until the Christ event, like teaching a kid “this is wrong” before he can really understand it and know for himself that it’s wrong. Like any legal system, it will discourage some acts, but cannot actually change a person. The Law merely imprisoned the person who was still ‘under sin’ in order to prevent sin, but not to get rid of desire completely, which is what the Christ even was designed for: to will for ourselves what before we were merely obliged to do. Instead of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”, it is “I will”.

For a Jew who isn’t yet infused with the spirit, the Law is there to issue commands against acts of the flesh. But it won’t always work, because the flesh will win at least sometimes. It’s a constant battle between flesh and Law. Only spirit can renew the mind so that sinlessness is possible. In such a state, one is no longer under the Law, because there is simply no need for such a Law. No works of flesh are possible when in spirit - there’s nothing for the Law to operate on.

TEP: “Dying with Christ … is dying TO the sin and sinning that reflects staying at the I-pole - and hence also to the law, whose purpose it precisely is to REGULATE sin in a person who does stay there.”

The Law only deals with types of actions (do this, don’t do this). It doesn’t deal with the ATTITUDES which BRING ABOUT actions. The Christ event (crucifixion of “I”) generates the attitudes as “fruits of the spirit”.

The reason people need exhortations from Paul is that even if they have changed their self-understanding to some degree (identifying with “X”, being in “S”, having the spirit, etc.), they still need to ALLOW themselves to be guided by the spirit. They need to keep up their end of the deal. And the way to do this is by acting properly, i.e., by possessing the right mental-attitude “fruits”. Once they see that their Christ faith entails real sinfulness, and allow themselves to be led by spirit, no exhortations will be necessary. Paul tries to get them there through a kind of forced resonance and “fake it till you make it” attitude.

In sum, the Christ event brings about what God intended: allowing humans to transform in such a way that they no longer sin - not via a rulebook, but through a change in their most basic identity, self-understanding, and inner attitudes - faith active through love.

The last thing TEP points out about this letter is Paul’s contrast between the present evil age (1:4) and the new creation (6:15). What is the new creation? At different times, Paul stresses a different aspect: a future heavenly polity (as in Philippians), a mental state (5:5: “we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness”), and a group state (3:28: “for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”). We don’t hope for a future “heaven” as a reward; hope is a product of the faith that is active through love. The future, transformed heavenly bodies of the “resurrection” are simply a reflection of that present state of faith.

Next up: Romans
 

BHelmet

Jedi Master
Approaching Infinity said:
Paul and the Stoics: Galatians
What are some of the effects of this “Christ event”? For Paul personally, “[God] was pleased to reveal his Son in me” (1:16). God via Christ literally lives in Paul now.

2:19-20:

“For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
I find it fascinating how this exact statement, while at the very core of Christianity, is so very problematic for all the "Christian" religions.

You just can't have people running around actually achieving the professed end game of Christianity and manifesting Christness because it obviates the need for Christian religious hierarchical structures; the church loses it's control and must step down from it's cat-bird seat between man and God.

Kind of like why they persecuted the gnostics. (Treasure of the Sierra Madre paraphrase: "Bishops?! We don't need to stinkin' Bishops!" ...you just can't have people saying and thinking that if you want to maintain power and control) So, in bizarre ironic twist, the churches have to set themselves against Christ lest they be swept away if they fulfilled their mission.

Ah, but going after the leaven of the Pharisees is always like shooting fish in a barrel... the horse is dead.
 

Approaching Infinity

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BHelmet said:
Approaching Infinity said:
Paul and the Stoics: Galatians
What are some of the effects of this “Christ event”? For Paul personally, “[God] was pleased to reveal his Son in me” (1:16). God via Christ literally lives in Paul now.

2:19-20:

“For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
I find it fascinating how this exact statement, while at the very core of Christianity, is so very problematic for all the "Christian" religions.

You just can't have people running around actually achieving the professed end game of Christianity and manifesting Christness because it obviates the need for Christian religious hierarchical structures; the church loses it's control and must step down from it's cat-bird seat between man and God.
Yep. And that's essentially what Collingwood says about Christianity and Paul in particular: he "solved the religious error", which essentially destroyed religion as religion. Paul was basically battling against low-level religion (Judaism in his case). Unfortunately his solutions just ended up creating another religion. Thankfully there are people like TEP there to get to the bottom of what Paul was actually doing. That's not to say that TEP doesn't make his own errors - or that Paul is the be-all-end-all. But there's definitely material there for the creation of something better than the alternatives.
 

Laura

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Maybe it would be helpful to describe here exactly what Collingwood said about Paul's solution to the religion problem... the god outside a split system?
 

Corvus

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BHelmet,
I do not think Pauls end game has much similarities with mainstream Christianity, only in writing, because mainstream is all about Law and even more about obedience to religion until heaven comes by itself, and Christ living in human person is seen as blasphemy because we are seen as unworthy and seperate from divine, distinct, unimportant and unrelated in anyway.
 

Laura

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Corvinus said:
BHelmet,
I do not think Pauls end game has much similarities with mainstream Christianity, only in writing, because mainstream is all about Law and even more about obedience to religion until heaven comes by itself, and Christ living in human person is seen as blasphemy because we are seen as unworthy and seperate from divine, distinct, unimportant and unrelated in anyway.
True. It seems clear from careful reading of the texts even without TEP's analysis and interpretation, that Paul was definitely going for abolishing the Judaic "law" especially regarding sin and purity etc.
 

Approaching Infinity

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I was planning on doing a post on a couple bits of Collingwood, so yeah, now is as good a time as any!

First, Collingwood identifies the biggest problem of religion as this: it "mistakes imagining for thinking, and asserts the reality of what is really only symbol." This leads to truth being only known intuitively, not explicitly - thus the actual truth is concealed as "through a glass darkly". Religious imagery on its own (cut off from its implicit meaning) is art. Its explicit meaning (cut off from the imagery) is philosophy. Because the symbol is taken as reality, it leads to merely conventional behavior: certain actions are seen as holy in and of themselves, not based on the principles behind the actions. (This is what Paul criticized about the Jewish Law - it was mere convention seen as holiness - "act-types" and not mental attitudes leading necessarily to "holy" actions.)

Some quotes from Collingwood's chapter on religion, for context:

The development of religion, when it proceeds healthily according to the law of its own dialectic, results in the ideal of a single supreme God worshipped by a single universal church. {I.e., the Absolute Mind, and the "S" community}
The secret of the universe, which to art only appears in the equivocal form of beauty, is revealed to religion in the definite and clear-cut form of God.
... the enemy of religion is idolatry, or the attempt to worship an object which, however exquisite to the artist's eye, cannot claim to be the ultimate reality. The sin of the idolater is to worship his own works of art known to be such. {Same could be said about sciences and dumb philosophies, not to mention dumb religions.}
The imaginative picture of God is a symbol, whose value lies not in what it is but in what it means. ... The truth grows up in a scaffolding of fiction within the child's mind; deprive it of the scaffolding and it will never grow, or at best, like an apple-tree that has not been properly supported by a dead stake in its youth, will grow crooked and misshapen, and fail to strike its roots firmly home. {This highlights the importance of archetypes and narratives for development, and sustenance, IMO.}
The higher religions always fight against conventionality; but the enemy against which they are fighting is their own conventionality.
Collingwood points out something paradoxical: on the one hand, a person who tries to "glorify God by weeding [his] garden or playing tennis instead of going to church" is lazy, prideful, and irreligious. By attempting to sanctify the whole of life, none of it is sacred. But on the other hand, in its highest manifestations, God really is everywhere and in everything, and the whole of life is infused with religion:

For in grasping the inmost meaning of ritual and worship it deprives these special activities of their special sanctity and of their very reason for existing; the whole body of religion is destroyed by the awakening of its soul. ... Mysticism is the crown of religion and its deadliest enemy; the great mystics are at once saints and heresiarchs. ... Very religious people always shock slightly religious people by their blasphemous attitude to religion.
Everyday religious "faith" (i.e. blind belief, not the faithfulness that Paul describes) is like the "cutting edge" of imagination: it's the reaching and stretching towards the unknown, beyond the limits of what is known, but only in a vague and reaching sort of way. It grasps that unknown and unarticulated "something" in the form of a religious symbol (e.g. the body and blood of Christ, the virgin Mary, God the father, the Parousia/second coming, etc.). The logical end of this act is one of self-transcendence: getting to the goal!

Collingwood thinks that the "great writers of the early Church recognized the self-transcending character of religion". In a footnote he cites these passages as getting across this idea:

1 Corinthians 13:12: "For now we see in a mirror, dimly [i.e. "in a riddle"], but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known."
Romans 8:18-25: "18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

"22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."
Revelation 21:22: "I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb."
And all references to the "second coming", which he interprets as "at any rate in part, a symbolic presentation of the same thought. In St. Paul the thought breaks the bonds of the Parousia symbolism and becomes explicit." In other words, at the height of religion, the vagueness and implicitness is replaced by clarity and explicitness: knowledge. The "reaching" results in a "grasp". Collingwood writes:

The positive characteristics of religion are its illumination, its freedom, its power of saving the soul; in a word, its priceless gift of ultimate truth. Its negative characteristics are that it lives only by faith and not by sight, that God is not known but only worshipped, 'reached' but not 'grasped' by the mind, that it cannot justify itself to reason or rise wholly above the level of superstition, and that therefore in the long run and in spite of all its best efforts it falls back into feeling, emotion - love, awe, and so forth - and therefore, like art, is in intermittent and unstable experience.
Because, in religion, God is the wholly transcendent, in opposition to Man: to be worshipped as something separate, far away, wholly different in nature (holy, not sinful). (Science inherits this abstraction of separateness.) All this leads up to Collingwood's description of "The Task of Religion": "the synthesis of opposites, the breaking-down of the mid-wall of partition between man and God, the subject and the object of the religious consciousness."

This reconciliation of God and man is what Paul achieved. Collingwood calls it "the high-water mark of religious development", namely the Incarnation and the Atonement: "God made himself man that he might make us God". In TEP terms: God becoming human (X->I) for the sake of humanity's sinful nature, allowing them to participate in God's nature (I->X). Man's sinful nature (I) is redeemed; God and man are no longer alienated from one another.

Collingwood sees "sin" as "the symbol under which moral problems are attacked by the religious consciousness". We saw that in Galatians: the sins Paul describes are selfish attitudes and actions, tied to an almost sentient entity variously called "the flesh", "sin" and "satan". Contrast with the spirit of Christ/God - STO attitudes and actions. But low-level religion, because it separates God and man (God is the only REAL reality), places humanity only in a state of sin - the difference is not reconcilable as long as the separation is maintained. There's a truth to this, because just jumping the gun and identifying God and man is like saying "I" is "X". The difference is necessary in order that the difference between the two - sinfulness and holiness - is unbearable. The only solutions are to ignore the problem (e.g. atheism), to get caught up in impossible legalistic ritual (e.g. Talmudic Judaism), or to find a solution. And that solution must come from God, because humans are obviously flawed:

It must, that is, be an act of unmerited grace. God must give himself to us. Now the gift is to consist precisely of the abolition of the gulf which separates man from God: God and man, once separate, are to be fused in a new unity, God becoming incarnate as man, and man becoming by redemption and adoption the child of God.
X->I. This "Christ event" becomes the template for a sinless state, to be re-created in human sinners (I->X).

A couple more quotes:

The Christian gospel announced the ending of that opposition once for all, not by the repetition of acts of worship, by the blood of bulls and goats, but by the very act of God which was at the same time the death of God. The one atoning sacrifice of Christ swept away temple and priests, ritual and oblation and prayer and praise, and left nothing but a sense that the end of all things was at hand and a new world about to appear in which the first things should have passed away. In the death-grapple between religion as a specific form of experience and the Christian gospel which by solving its insoluble problem annihilated it, it was necessary that the representatives of the Christian gospel should be put down by force; but it was equally necessary that their message should prevail, just because it was the truth, in a world which at bottom desired the truth.
The reason the Christian religion is still around, even though it solved the religious problem and thus negated religion completely, is that the solution was only reached implicitly: "in the imaginative form of an enacted drama or sacred story." Christianity solved the problem, "but without knowing what it [was] doing."

Thus Christianity, which is implicitly the death of religion, is explicitly the one true and perfect religion, the only religion which gives the soul peace and satisfaction by solving the specifically religious problem.
The truth that religion reveals is "substantially the highest and final truth", but the form it takes isn't the highest of final form. You need philosophy to make that meaning explicit.

There's more later in the book, but that's what stuck out for me in the religion chapter on my initial reading.
 
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