- 探求ー〈ほんものの時代〉における霊性（by ジェームズ・K・A・スミス、カルヴァン大学）
- 〔参考資料〕チャールズ・テイラー著『世俗の時代』の書評論文（by ジョン・ミルバンク、ノッティンガム大学）【英文】
James K.A. Smith, How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor, chapter. 4. Contesting the Secularization 2 Thesis （抄訳）
ほんものの時代（Age of Authenticity: 略称 AA）において、「宗教」はどのような外観を帯びているのでしょうか。これに関し、チャールズ・テイラーは、「表現主義的革命から表出してきた類の霊的生活とはどのようなものなのだろうか？」と問いかけています。*1
こうして私たちは皮肉な現実に直面することになります。－－私たちは、個人的選択という優先事項を破棄する選択をし、そうした上で、自分たちの探求が私たちをアンシャン・レジームに回帰させるのです。これが、第三番目の定義でいうところの「世俗 3 の時代」に生きるという意味です。（訳注：世俗１、世俗２、世俗３のそれぞれの定義についてはこの項を参照してください。）
John Milbank, Review Article: A Closer Walk on the Wild Side: Some Comments on Charles Taylor's A Secular Age, Studies in Christian Ethics 22.1 (2009) 89–104.
It is never easy to write interestingly about a book with which one is mostly in profound agreement. A list of endorsements would be tedious, yet I must begin by saying that I think this is a magnificent, epochmaking work, the scope of whose significance has been badly grasped by the reviews that I have so far seen.
Perhaps the casual pace, almost slangy tone and lush detail deceive the half-attentive reader, but what we have here is nothing less than a new diagnosis of both Western triumphs and a Western malaise. We are provided indeed with almost a full-scale political, cultural, intellectual as well as religious history of modern times, replete with extraordinarily balanced and yet acute judgments.
Most miraculously of all, Taylor contrives to remain serenely eirenic while still putting forward a radical and even daring thesis. The confidingly indulgent tone may for some disguise the steely conceptual substance – yet the two features in the end belong conceptually together.
For if the thesis is that secularization is finally attributable to the self-undoing of Latin Christendom through over-obsession with ‘reform’, then this is also a thesis whose very succinctness paradoxically allows for no very clear identification of heroes and villains.
Reforming efforts that were in many ways admirable and excellent have had dire unintended consequences;secular reactions against over-zealous reform are in certain ways correct; counter-reactions against the preservation of the reforming impulse by secularity itself are also in certain ways correct.
Any attempt to renew and deepen a Christian vision and practice must take all this into account and can only grope imaginatively towards a new sort of renewal which would not repeat the negative dialectic of the long-term reforming process.
And yet the thesis remains clear and provocative: secularization is not whiggishly on the agenda of history, but is fundamentally the result of a self-distortion of Christianity – primarily in the West, but not exclusively so; linked with certain fatal historical turns and yet perhaps traceable even to the beginnings of Church practice.
In some ways this is a cool detached verdict – Taylor looks at the personalist essence of Christianity as a religious practice going ‘beyond the law’ and argues thatit has in serious ways denied this essence. Yet this is also a theological diagnosis, and towards the end of the book Taylor appears to speak with a specifically theological voice.
This voice does not in any way contest credal orthodoxy – far from it – yet it contends that much Church practice and teaching has betrayed this very orthodoxy. In many ways one could attach the label ‘radically orthodox’ to Taylor with still more justification than to those, including myself, who have traded intellectually under this logo.
So one way to characterize this book is to say that it answers the ‘secularization debate’ with a diagnosis of Western Christendom – a diagnosis that is at once historical and theological. What we are offered then is a kind of large fragment of theologized ecclesiastical history – almost a modern equivalent of Augustine or Bede’s efforts in this direction. How does this arise?
Taylor’s stance on secularization in short is that it is not inevitable but that it has occurred. I think that this is the correct verdict and it clearly means that he refuses any ‘sociological’ account of this phenomenon in favour of a ‘total history’ of a specific contingency. Comtian or Spencerian scientific ideas replacing the function of religious overall explanation are refused.
Durkheimian ideas of religion as for a time fulfilling the function of expressing social solidarity are also refused – even though a Durkheimian relationship of religion to social ecstasy is rightly retained. Equally refused is any Weberian notion of the infinitesimal vanishing of the religious impulse in the face of the dominance of instrumental rationality, formal civility and law.
And likewise rejected is any revisionary Weberian perspective which denies the fact of secularization altogether, by arguing that religion has simply mutated to a more private and expressivist form and that in so doing it has now found its ‘proper’ place. No: Taylor is clear that, even though these processes are not inevitable, religion in the West has gradually been excluded from the public sphere, has attracted gradually fewer avowed believers and practitioners of any kind, and has become reflexively questionable for almost all modern persons.
He does indeed acknowledge that there are specifically new modern mutations of the religious impulse – yet he stresses that these mostly concern minorities or peripheral phenomena and thatthey are linked with ambivalent countersecularizing trends which arose in a series of stages from the very onset of the secularizing process.
He achieves a novel balance by pointing this out: not only does one have a deist and humanist critique of Christianity, one also has – starting even as far back as the seventeenth century – a proto-romantic reaction (the sublime, the unfathomable deep ruined past) against this in the name of mystery, emotion and profounder meaning.
This reaction can involve either a new style of recovery of Christian themes or else a rejection of enlightenment rationality and discipline as being all too much a bastard offspring of Christianity itself.
Here one has dark, neo-pagan romanticism, what Taylor calls the ‘immanent counterenlightenment’. But then, he says, one gets the ‘nova effect’ amongst an élite and then a ‘super-nova effect’ amongst all – enlightenment and light and dark romanticisms engendering a vast number of strange new combinations.
So all this allows Taylor to take subtle account of mutating religion and the way that religion is not going to go away, without going to the extreme of some sociologists in denying the reality of secularization altogether. Secularization is a reality, then, but not an inexorable human destiny.
This means that we cannot think of it ‘subtractively’ as if secular belief and practice were a natural default position. To the contrary, secular ideas and cultural imaginings had to be strenuously invented. In particular, one has to work out how an immanent social order can be distilled from purely natural givens as regarding humanity. And this requires always some sort of new fiction about the most fundamental human essence – as freedom of choice, happiness-seeking, sympathetic, devoted to the dignity of freedom as such, heroically altruistic and so forth.
Though these are in a sense supposed to be derived from ‘human life’ as such, they are inevitably, as Taylor says, ‘metabiological’ principles, scarcely susceptible to demonstration and certainly not to proof. They represent decisions as to what constitutes an immanent human transcendence – all within a further decision that only such a mode of transcendence is real or at least socially relevant.
Here though, one should note a slight complication in Taylor’s mode of presentation. By denying the automatic natural negativity of the secular humanist position he specifically exalts its remarkable character as a positive imaginative and practical achievement.
In this he is not wrong, since modernity has not only rightly insisted beyond the Middle Ages that material welfare and free assent are important fundamental goods (although one needs to question the mode of this insistence), but has also been able to distil a new and apparently very stable sort of order on this minimum basis, even if the fundamental lack of justice in this order renders it more unstable than is usually imagined.
However, what Taylor does not specifically say is that this ascription of positivity is a back-handed compliment, because the very logic of liberalism is bound to disguise this positivity in claiming to base itself upon a natural, neutral foundation.
Once the positivity is acknowledged, within a secular perspective, then one really has to go post-humanist – either liberal rights are a pure illusion and an offence against life, or they are ‘absurd gestures’ in the face of the void.
And even Foucault and Derrida’s versions of the nihilist-existentialist hybrid tend to claim dubious neo-Kantian universalist foundations. More credible is Badiou’s version of this combination, in which it is conceded that both affirmation of an underlying void and commitment to ideal human projects rest on pure decision. Here one has something closer to an insider admission of Taylor’s crucial point that atheist positions are not usually entertained merely with sad resignation but positively embraced as attractive and heroic life-stances.
In denying that secularization is a ‘subtraction’ Taylor extends much further a view entertained already by other writers, such as myself or Pierre Manent. However, there is perhaps a slight lack of clarity in his presentation. And this focuses above all around the issue of ‘enchantment’.
Right at the outset of the book Taylor says that, despite his going against the subtraction approach, one has to concede that there are three ways in which older circumstances favouring religious belief were simply ‘removed’.
In a way these all involve ‘enchantment’, but more specifically they are: (1) popular experience of meteorological and other natural variations as ‘acts of God’; (2) the assumption that political and religious order were inseparable; and (3) the belief that the world was full of spiritual and magical forces – the enchanted universe, specifically.
Now Taylor rightly says that the rise of a scientific and historically critical outlook undermined the credibility of these three beliefs. But beyond that point he is perhaps unclear in three specific ways. First of all, if this was only a shift in popular experience as a result of élite imposition, then we are referred back to what is here the more crucial higher level of shifts in learned outlook.
Yet at this level it is by no means clear that Taylor places ‘disenchantment’ within subtraction. In fact, by the end of the book this would appear to be not the case at all. He cites Rémi Brague, and Brague indeed does, very disappointingly, argue that disenchantment followed inevitably from the collapse of the Medieval World picture – a view which totally ignores Renaissance and Baroque attempts from Cusa through to Bérulle to re-enchant a heliocentric and infinite universe.
Yet Taylor does at one point acknowledge this, and furthermore is highly alert to the fact that disenchantment perhaps primarily came about because a certain style of theology favoured this – a style wishing to monopolize all mystery in the one God, somewhat in the way that the modern State now monopolized all coercive power at the sovereign centre.
One could add here that the triumph of mechanical philosophy in both Catholic and Protestant countries seems to have been more to do with a wish to eradicate any supposed ‘neo-pagan’ sense of vital forces in the cosmos than with the objective natural evidence.
Indeed, in the later seventeenth century, it was largely the evidence itself which forced a new recognition of occult physical forces and biological vitalism against the mechanical purity of the physics of Mersenne, Gassendi and Descartes. One could certainly concede here that certain fixed ‘codes’ of medieval enchantment could not have really survived scientific discovery.
Even though we still cover meat with spicy sauces, we can no longer honestly consider that this is out of a need to balance the ‘wetness’ of meat with the ‘fireiness’ of the spice in order to encourage a balance of our humours and so of our mental state, as did the Middle Ages.
Yet it does not at all follow from this that we are obliged to abandon all notions of esoteric links between physical states and mental ones – indeed if one believes that the latter truly exist and yet are not dualistically separated from the body one actually requires some subtle mode of the pathetic fallacy: a point which the romantics often realized.
Taylor also at the end of his book implies that the medial status of the body between subjectivity and objectivity (as already recognized by Maine de Biran) opens towards some kind of more subtle, fluid, undogmatic re-enchantment of the cosmos.
And in Christian terms this new subtler mode could be readily seen as a gain: the Church Fathers were against fixed superstitions but still thought that the world was a cosmic temple. These two things came together in remarks spattered throughout the Greek Fathers about how there is an apophatic mystery of the creation as well as of the creator. My point here is that in the bulk of the book Taylor seems to radicalize even his own initial position – implying that there may not be these three exceptions to ‘anti-subtraction’ after all.
And one could further specify: the Middle Ages did know of speculation regarding immanent secondary causes even of exceptional natural events, while the further establishment of these in early modernity of course does not deny final divine causality except within those modes of semi-occasionalism which Amos Funkenstein has shown often accompanied the scientific revolution.
Again the Middle Ages often, as with Aquinas, did realize that political authority was artificially constructed and yet it still assumed that it could not attract any legitimacy save by referral to God and by acknowledging participation in divine providential governance. Inversely, Carl Schmitt plausibly argued that outside this reference political legitimacy becomes problematic in any era.
Finally, the surprising evidence suggests that where modern pressures are weak or called into question again, belief in fairies, demons, ghosts and magical sympathy remains today very strong even in areas of Western Europe. Indeed Taylor omits to mention how important an aspect of ‘New Age’ sensibility this is.
Thus disenchantment is no more natural and inevitable than the decline of religion – and essentially Taylor himself affirms this. In the second place, however, Taylor sometimes seems over-anxious to insist that disappearance of enchantment does not equate with decline of religion. Of course this is correct, because one has phenomena like Calvinism, Bible Belt fundamentalists who live in a secularized space and time far more extreme than anything found in Europe, and Wahabism that has removed all sacramental and imagistic elements from Islamic practice.
However, it is central to Taylor’s most crucial thesis that such phenomena in the end encourage secularization. Monotheism that allows no sacramental mediation, that renders the divine will remote and inscrutable, that sharply divides nature from supernature, itself engenders an impermeable, drained, meaningless immanence that can readily be cut off from any transcendent relation whatsoever.
And again and again Taylor rightly says that the over-concentration of Latin Christendom on behavioural reform tended to dampen down a popularly festive and ecstatic spirit, intimately linked to enchantment. So can he have it both ways? Is disenchantment closely linked to secularization or not? Fundamentally he argues that it is.
With the liberal secularization of politics, first the Baroque version of Christendom and then what Taylor calls the ‘neo-Durkheimian’ linking of religion to nation and restricted social movements decline, to leave behind the religion of ‘authenticity’ that is to do with inner depth and personal quest for unique expression. However, this also involves a direct, nonsocially mediated relationship to the cosmos, and that, as I have already said, is generally linked to re-enchantment.
Moreover, Taylor himself points out that practices of pilgrimage and devotion to miracle-working saints returned by popular demand in the nineteenth century.
Today they are reviving again, and often a new religious individualism gets combined with private visits to cathedrals to light candles by people who are by no means church-attending Christians. So one could argue that the details of Taylor’s book show that he does not really believe that the fate of enchantment and the fate of religion are independent of each other.
Rather, he thinks that a certain mode of monotheism has tended to disenchant and that this is, in the long term, fatal for religiosity. And as I have just argued, newer, post-secular modes of religion tend to re-enchant.
The third point regarding enchantment relates to the long-term effect of the axial religions, which Taylor frequently invokes during the course of his book.
If, as I have argued, and as he concurs, the main thesis of his book is that reform engendered secularization in the Latin West – what he calls the ‘Reform Master Narrative’ (RMN) – then behind this lurks in the shadows a larger thesis about religion as such, which is indeed profound and attractive, and one which I find rather convincing.
What is intuitively attractive about it is that it appeals to every contemporary person’s vague notion of a religious person. This is of someone who curiously ‘walks on the wild side’ in terms of her beliefs, experiences and practices, is generally a bit odd and extreme, and yet who is also in daily life moral and disciplined, pursuing a ‘closer walk’ with God, through the example of Christ or holy people who went about doing good.
Now it seems to me that the whole of A Secular Age addresses this bizarre combination: religion draws on wild Dionysiac energies, it goes ecstatically beyond the constituted norms and therefore is often linked with sex and violence. And yet it is also most often regarded as the unique and final source of social and moral order.
Here the exception does not merely prove the rule; it alone makes it – as, for example, with exceptional practices of bloody sacrifice or ritual sex. One sees this clearly with pre-axial religion, but the strange combination remains, one could argue, in all religion. Ethical practice can remain immanent, even if it does so at the contradictory price of grounding the ethical in the pre-ethical – ‘natural’ happiness, freedom and sympathy.
But where the ethical is grounded in the ethical, then one has some sort of transcendent goodness which belongs to an entire ontological reality that necessarily possesses other attributes – unity, beauty, truth, differentiation, individuation, relationality and so forth. One’s ‘ecstatic’ relationship to this reality grounds the ethical and yet exceeds the ethical. It may even be that the ultimate circumstances of one’s relationship to this reality contradict the practices enjoined upon one in everyday human reality.
One can cite the phenomenon of human sacrifice. And for Kierkegaard, the sacrifice of Isaac suggested that death in relation to God the source of all life does not mean what death means between fragile human beings.
There is always a religious beyond the ethical which nonetheless grounds every ethic not reducible to the naturalistically pre-ethical. To be horrendously summary, one could say that ethics, like politics for Péguy, begins in the mystical and is exceeded by that which must nonetheless engender some sort of ethical practice in order to be authentic.
Throughout the book, Taylor repeatedly suggests that religion will collapse into the merely ethical when it ignores this mystical, ecstatic Dionysiac root – however much monotheism must qualify a pre-axial sacralization of sex and violence.
And once one has the merely ethical, one has the instability (as he does not sufficiently say) of trying to ground ‘mutual benefit’ upon basically individualistic presuppositions which can always disturb this orderthrough a resurgence of supposedly (and so really projected) ‘natural’ egoistic violence or else the latent anarchy of sovereign political power and formal economic capital.
Sooner or later, a lurking nihilism within ‘purely ethical ethics’ will emerge, conjoined with hankerings after the pre-axial which are actually far more pagan than paganism itself, since they now directly worship an indifferent, impersonal fate and discount all lesser deities. Thus one has the logical paradox that, by ignoring the more-thanethical one eventually gets the less-than-ethical.
It is such a paradox which, I think, Taylor is most fundamentally exploring. It is for this reason that he thinks that we need a version of Christianity which incorporates certain pre-axial elements. Energy must not be suppressed in favour of a false, sickly version of asceticism, even though true asceticism is itself a mode of ecstatic energy which Protestantism falsely questioned.
Yet truly expressed energy can be integrated with the peaceful purposes of body and soul and so is no longer a violence to be merely ‘contained’. (Taylor is authentically Pauline and Augustinian at this point.)
The danger with the latter notion is that it naturalizes violence and assumes that it is an abnormality which can only be treated therapeutically.
This, as Taylor argues, fails to see the corrupted but real seed of true aspiration within violence and tends to give rise to the view that violence as natural can never be overcome – which engenders in turn either misanthropy or a nihilistic version of the Dionysiac. Similarly, we need to search for a true Christian erotics – the lack of which alone perhaps kept (the finally anti-Nietzschean) D. H. Lawrence from Christian belief.
Yet once more a full integration of sexuality and gender-difference into the Christian life ensures that the sexual is no longer (at least in ideal essence) an ambivalent reality to be alternately tamed and pandered to in its unbridled wildness.
If we need the carnivalesque then this is perhaps (to gloss and modify Taylor) not because we are offering a sop to dark forces, but rather because we need a comic acknowledgment of the limits of even the best-conceived sacral ritual order – and moreover because a more ‘general’ and public sexual expression and a more intense physical engagement with each other (playfully violent, the violence of play) may be in due season an aspect of order itself.
As Taylor stresses, Christianity is not less but more pro-body than preaxial notions, because the Incarnation suggests that our entire body and sensuality can be taken up into the spiritual, so putting an end to bodily rending, which paganism rather encouraged. However, in saying this, he surely should not be also suggesting, as he does, that we need a kind of ‘balance’ between the pre-axial and the axial.
Of itself Christianity is an incarnational religion and therefore implies reciprocal festivity as well as ascetic sacrifice. Here, it seems to me, Taylor incorporates too much from Marcel Gauchet and Rémi Brague, respectively.
From Gauchet he imbibes something of the view that the axial religions implicitly tend to disenchantment. From Brague he seems to take the view that the Bible and Judaism encourage this phenomenon. But Brague misreads Philo here and ignores in a very old-fashioned, strangely Germanic, way the Hebrew Bible’s interest in a sacral cosmos.
As to Gauchet’s claim, this is surely exactly the kind of intellectual whiggery that Taylor is supposed to be contesting. When one looks at the axial faiths then they all have ‘enchanted’ and ‘disenchanted’ variants: one has Mahayana and Theravada, Shi’ism and Sunnism, Rabbinism and Kabbalism, Catholicism and Protestantism. (This division is grotesque caricature of course, but serves to make a point.)
The idea that the ‘enchanted’ versions less grasp the axial essence, are less radical or more contaminated with the pre-axial, is simply not defensible. If they do indeed incorporate pre-axial dimensions then this is still for integrally postaxial reasons. ‘Magical’ powers may be now less automatic in character, less linked to notions of an inexorable fate, yet in a cosmos created by, or somehow related to, a personal or personally concerned power, there may be all kinds of spiritual realities.
Moreover, if ‘magic’ becomes flexible and less ‘according to rule’ it is no less magic, because Mauss long ago destroyed the ‘magic is automatic process’ mistake.
Gauchet’s thesis is in short questionable because, in the case of the monotheistic faiths, the idea of a personal god at the top may tend to depersonalize all within the creation – as, arguably, in the Koran, for which human beings are not said to be in the image of God (but this is massively qualified within Shi’ism and Sufism) – or, equally, it may tend to a semi-vitalistic near-personifying of all that a personal god has created, or encourage belief in thousands of hidden angelic and spiritual forces. (And all of Islam allows the latter.)
Moreover, if anything, it is the ‘enchanted’ version which seems truer to the logic of monotheism, and it is for this reason that monotheistic ‘mystics’ very often subscribe to an enchanted cosmos and to ‘quasi-magical’ notions such as the Jesus Prayer within Eastern Orthodoxy. Their correlation here with popular piety is not a lack of sophistication but the result of a sophistication greater than that of positivisitic dogmaticians.
Two points are relevant here. First, God is One in a sense beyond the one and the many – he is not in the category ‘individual’ any more than he is in the category ‘general’, as Aquinas puts it. Hence the absolute transcendent is in no sort of rivalry with other lesser spiritual powers.
By contrast, the ‘disenchanting’ version tends to reduce God to an ontic idol who is a supreme individual and thus tends to come into competition with his subordinates.
This ‘monopolization of mystery’ does not really redound to God’s glory, because, as Aquinas also says, that is more evidenced in the degree that God can communicate his own power. The ‘monopolizing’ God is likely to be conceived as a tyrant who usurps our proper powers because he operates on the same univocal plane of being as ourselves.
Hence, as Régis Debray argues, there is a demonstrable link between incidences of monotheistic religious violence, and the less sacramental variants of monotheisms. The desert delivers the crazed religious enthusiast who has heard directly the literal voice of God demanding to be represented by literal words and deeds that tolerate no rivals and little glossing.
Secondly, the naïve interpersonal account of prayer supposes that we can alter the mind of God since he is just another, if very big, individual on the same ontological plane. But this is not compatible with monotheistic rigour, for which God’s mind is eternal and unchanging. Is prayer then just consoling therapy? Here the sophisticated mid-path is in some broad sense ‘magical’, or more satisfactorily, ‘theurgic’.
By uttering certain words, adopting certain bodily postures, achieving a state of mental concentration, we ‘attune’ ourselves to God’s eternal good purposes, and thereby a divine influence really does flow into us and we can take it that this is God’s eternally appointed providential means of action.
So once more the ‘hypersophisticated’ mystically monotheistic position (whether in Judaism, Islam or Christianity) turns out to be more in keeping with popular piety than a more woodenly abstract approach to theology which tends to fall into a conceptual literalism.
Such an approach is, I think, often allied with an overly juridical mind-set and so linked to an attempt to prune back popular involvements in enchantment. But surely, in the case of Christianity, the more authentically ‘Catholic’ reality is the blend of the very sophisticated with the very popular – omitting the half-baked ‘bourgeois’ mode of positivistic piety.
My case then is thatTaylor’s own main thesis is confirmedandradicalized once one has dumped Gauchet’s (lingering) whiggery. But in another way also, I think that the axial moment needs to be considered a little differently, in order to give Taylor’s thesis rather more of a comparativist dimension.
Importantly, one needs to bring out more the difference between the Judaic and Socratic ruptures and the oriental ones. The latter are in a way actually more like Greek naturalism and sophism – Confucius is certainly more like a sophist than he is like Socrates. His wisdom is strictly pragmatic and located within a cosmos of impersonal law which is not concerned with the ‘Good’ in a Platonic sense.
Hence in the case of China, India, preSocratic Greece and even earlier in Babylon, one can speak of a mutation in ‘paganism’ whereby the personal forces in the cosmos get more and more naturalized and the ultimately obscure ‘absolute’ in reality which had always been vaguely invoked is more specifically identified as animpersonal power or an ultimate impersonal void.
Taoism and Mahayana then tend to bring back some of the mythological magical or personal powers within this scope. But still one could speak of a kind of ‘disenchantment’ or even ‘secularization’ here which is nonetheless still universally religious, unlike modern secularization which is specifically post-Christian.
Now, the point is that whereas the other axial religions accentuate the ‘mythical’ notion that local personal powers are subordinate to impersonal fate, Platonism and Judaism do something much more surprising. They go beyond the local only by inventing the universal itself as a ‘supreme locality’.
This is why their account of the absolute is more personal – the Bible more so than Plato of course. But in this way they do not abandon the personal and direct aspect of the primitive – including its oral and giftexchangist, pre-contractual and pre-legal character – so much as generalize and universalize it.
And the New Testament, by subordinating the law to the inter-personal, in a sense ‘re-primitivizes’ all the more. As Ivan Illich pointed out, the New Testament does not say ‘love strangers’ but ‘render all as kin’. So the very personalism of Christianity, on which Taylor frequently insists, also exhibits a special mode of continuity with the pre-axial that the oriental axial religions do not have.
Of course there is also a huge shift: primitive persons were in ‘masked’ roles as Mauss taught, but once the inter-personal has become universal it is relatively freed from local fetishes, even if these can act as local conduits for general spiritual power.
Yet all the same, Ivan Illich’s crucial insight, invoked by Taylor towards the end of his book, that Christian agape operates through a network of direct relations and not through conceptual or legal imposition, is precisely equivalent to the idea that the Church, instead of founding universality on abstract right and contract, tries to found it on a kind of ‘universalizing’ of pre-legal tacit bonds of trust and gift-exchange.
But remarkably, Seneca in his De Beneficiis already conceived the ‘cosmopolis’ on this model – for while one exchanges gifts with friends and makes contracts with everyday strangers, with even more remote strangers who share no common currency or cultural idiom, one must once more exchange gifts.
And the Pauline epistles show how Paul actually tries to put this sort of ‘personalist’ international network into practice. So this comparativist perspective once more only reinforces Taylor’s claims. Christianity uniquely mediates a personal – or rather interpersonal God – through interpersonal practice and not through the law.
The bulk of Taylor’s book turns out retrospectively to have been about how this gets perverted through the institutionalization of charity. At the end of the book he generously acknowledges that there is a symmetry between this thesis and that of several theologians, including myself, according to which we can blame atheism and immanentism in the end on a justified reaction against bad theology.
Taylor suggests that the most farreaching version of this thesis may be that of ‘Radical Orthodoxy’ (RO) who trace this ‘bad theology’ back to Scotus and his inauguration of a univocal ontology – combined,I should add, with an already ‘epistemological’ theory of knowledge as representation.
Now part of the point here is that it is the very exigencies of Franciscan piety, especially concern for the sovereignty of God and the gratuity of revelation, which encourage a departure from a ‘participatory’ framework seen implicitly as too pagan and Platonic. The price though for this, was, I think, in the long term ironically a lapse into a kind of conceptual idolatry, abandoning notions of the via negativa and of human deification in favour of extrinsic obedient response to revealed propositional truths.
It turned out that the Christian reality precisely as Christian actually needed the pagan, since this has always been part of the mix anyway. Now there is indeed an exact parallel between what Taylor says and what RO says.
We are saying that over-piety paradoxically undermines theology; he is saying that hyper-reform of the laity paradoxically undermines belief. Taylor then asks how these two metanarratives – ‘the Intellectual Deviation Story’ (ID) and his own RMN relate to each other. As explanations of secularization he declares that RMN is more fundamental than RO’s ID.
To which I would respond that he is absolutely right – of course this is the case, because the most determining processes are fusions of ideas and practices, not ideas in isolation. But actually, for this very reason, RO has never claimed that ID is the most fundamental account of secularization, only that it relates one intellectual thread of this tale. I would add, however, certain riders.
First of all and less importantly, RO writers have already tried to say some things about the wider practical setting of ID – and much of this concurs with RMN. The end of my own Theology and Social Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 2nd edn, 2005) indicates this, as does much more extensively Catherine Pickstock’s After Writing (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), which tries to link univocity to the rise of discipline through the mediating notion of mathesis and also, like Taylor, points out that the displacement of ritual by civility was a crucial aspect of the secularizing process.
I have also in certain places indicated that I think the Hildebrandine reform was highly ambivalent – too much removing the laity from Church affairs, too much imposing on them a quasi-monastic and clerical discipline.
I only say this to reinforce a fundamental agreement between RO and Taylor. He has taken the ‘ambivalence of reform’ thesis far further by linking it up with the wild/taming paradox of religion and also by connecting it with disenchantment.
The more that discipline involves self-discipline which forgets the surprisingness of grace, then the more it gets Stoicized, as Taylor argues, and the more it links with the idea of a ‘buffered self’ impervious to the impact of spiritual forces.
Finally, one gets the self which cannot be ecstatically connected to other people and that Cartesian ‘coldness’ which palpably afflicts aspects of French culture to this day.
This was best summed up in Lacan’s deduction in Seminar XX that in a disenchanted universe where there are no occult links between body and body and mind and body, ‘sexual intercourse’ is impossible.
With total Cartesian rigour he reasons: if knowledge is not metaphorical sexuality, then there can be no knowledge in actual sexuality. One suspects that Taylor would add that surely Lacan preferred it that way – it is not that in the face of loss of enchantment we must accept loss of even human relationship; it is rather that we prefer the citadel of the solipsistic and secure self against the disturbances of both alien hatred and alien love.
The second rider is much more important. It is actually not the case that RMN concerns popular processes while ID concerns élite ones. RMN concerns indeed much more mass processes, but these processes were all imposed from above by élites – on Taylor’s own account.
So one could argue that a still more adequate account of secularization would have to bring together RMN and ID in terms of exactly how scholastic theology related to disciplinary, pastoral and legal practice. And perhaps rather uncomfortable questions might have to be asked here about the contrast between different procedures in different aspects and movements of the Church.
Is it, for example, an accident that it was the Dominican Eckhart who tried to offer to the laity not clerical behaviour but rather mystical participation in Christ as something they could know without any ‘way’ in the midst of their secular practice?
Is it an accident that it was the layperson Dante who tried to impart doctrine in the lay poetic vernacular? By contrast, for all the glory of St Francis, is there not something ambivalent about an attempt to be a too literal alter Christus?
Is this connected with the representational realism of Franciscan-inspired painting like that of Giotto, whereas the Dominican or Dominican-influenced painters (Fra Angelico, etc.) tended to use perspective rather to reinforce the traditionally iconic as a participating passage between our world and the beyond? Is there, as David Aers has argued in writing about Piers Plowman, a danger recognized in that text of a Franciscan focus on the discipline of poverty rather than the fulfilment of agape?
And doesn’t that line up with the way in which Franciscan writers tended, as Pierre Rousselot long ago showed, to stress love as a one-way disinterested ecstasy where Aquinas rather saw it as reciprocal friendship? And that in turn connects with a Franciscan tendency to separate will from intellect – rendering the former more force than bond and the latter more a conceptuality taken apart from true desiring.
This circumstance is then finally linked to a tendency only to accept the univocally graspable or the representable. This is not supposed to demonize a whole religious order. There were counter-currents and lots of other positive aspects to Franciscan tradition – while many ‘culprits’ operated elsewhere and included many Dominicans.
I am not even at all sure how far one can take some of the above paragraph. But what I want to venture is a sketch of how one might begin to link up theological belief with disciplinary and pastoral procedure – and so I with RMN. (Actually Taylor does this more with philosophy beginning in the seventeenth century than he does with earlier theology.)
But this would only be to take further an enterprise which Charles Taylor has inaugurated. It must be said that Taylor has, with this book, consummated his invention of a new intellectual genre – a kind of historicized existentialism, in which the philosopher seeks to disinter the assumed ‘mood’ or Wittgensteinian ‘picture’ that causes people often unconsciously to take up the positions which they do, far more fundamentally than any mere conceptualreasoning.
Thereby, he engages in a kind of historical metaphilosophy, somewhat reminiscent of Collingwood. But he does not stop at any mere historicism: rather he seeks to adjudicate between our inherited options by pointing out the observed or likely practical consequences of different positions – as, for example, with his handling of the implications ofreligious and non-religious attitudes to violence, as described above.
This is a subtle sort of apologetic – again exampled when he argues that only a religious outlook can hope for an unlimited human and cosmic reciprocity and that such a hope is likely to achieve at least some real extension of reciprocity, as opposed to the cultivation of lone absurdist gestures towards a social good that we know can never arrive – à la Derrida.
But to be able to espouse such an outlook requires, as Taylor says, a leap of faith – even if humanisms and nihilisms involve also their own leaps. And so finally he offers us a reading of Latin Christian history in terms of this faith – a theological reading, as I said at the beginning.
According to this reading, with which I largely concur, the Church has failed in practice to be orthodox enough because it has failed to be really true to the incarnation – and in the end has perversely produced excarnation and an impersonal order where we can negotiate ‘safely’ (for a while) with strangers and we all face a sovereign centre in a fantasized simultaneous space rather than seeking to relate to each other.
Almost from the outset Christianity has excarnated by failing (with insufficient fidelity to Jewish roots) to allow that the way of marriage is of at least equal dignity with that of celibacy and by failing to integrate sexual joy into the path of deification.
This failure has often connected with a belief in eternal damnation – refusing the (perfectly orthodox) universalist option of Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and (arguably) St Paul. The later course of history saw in the late Middle Ages a newly accentuated focus on sexual and bodily sins at the expense of interpersonal ones (as John Bossy has shown) and this again went along with accentuated attention to the horrors of death in fearful anticipation of the perils of hell.
Without question this doctrine allows us once again to link up RMN with ID, because the idea that God has arbitrarily predestined some to damnation (found sadly even in Aquinas) undoubtedly encouraged the gradual obsession with God’s reserved ‘absolute power’ and the slide towards voluntarism.
This then surely shares a root in non-universalism with the tendency to rule the laity through fear rather than through love. And the converse of this would be that the anticipation of universal cosmic redemption would far more encourage the notion that we begin to attain to salvation through festive practices of conviviality (to echo the language of Illich) that anticipate in some measure eschatological joy.
This indeed sustains methexis, just as belief in methexis sustains social ‘participation’. But belief in the ultimacy of hell works to destroy participation in both the social and the metaphysical sense. Lonely in the face of arbitrary terror we imbibe the prescribed private remedies and undertake and internalize the disciplines which the central powers ordain for our benefit – eternal for now, but soon in the course of time to become purely temporal.
Perhaps the really big question which remains is this: How do we acknowledge the truth of Illich’s insights while still saluting the uniquely practical bent of Latin Christianity? How do we allow that some procedure and institutionalization is required, without destroying the interpersonal?
This is an especially relevant question today because arguably, as Taylor fails to mention, the age of religious ‘authenticity’ is mutating into a further era of newly imagined and constructed religious global networks which once again are playing a major social and political role in the face of the evident bankruptcy of quasi-religious secular ideologies – including neoliberalism.
Perhaps we need here to say that despite the over-clericalization of the Church, despite the over-focus on hell, despite the denigration of sexuality (all of which helped to foment secular enlightenment, as Taylor says) it still remains the case that, before the late-medieval corruption, the early to high Middle Ages witnessed a certain proliferation of the ‘voluntary association’ which to some degree managed to fuse the personal with the constitutional – as for example in the emergence of the notion of ‘personal’ political representation itself, which was not as yet conceived on the model of epistemological or pictorialrepresentation and so left the ‘representative’ figure answerable to God and justice as well as to the people he represented.
Given the wider medieval distribution of political power and the lack as yet of an absolute sovereign centre, hierarchical rule was more of a personal handing-on of the power to rule, and different bodies had to negotiate with each other as ‘corporate personalities’.
Along these sorts of lines one can qualify Illich and start to render his intuitions more practicable. But one must, with Taylor, not lose sight of his sense that there is no past golden age to go back to and that the history of Christianity is unsurprisingly the history of the failure to live up to the radicalism of ‘incarnation’ from the very outset.
This is just why, as Taylor stresses, we stillremain correctly in a ‘Romantic’ moment – in the moment of a romantic re-imagination of Christianity. This re-imagining itself newly stresses the imagination, and for two reasons. First of all, we now see that even Patristic and Medieval thought was overrational.
The end of the line of trying to rely on reason alone is nominalism, which makes us see clearly how the theological participatory cosmos is not in any way ‘obvious’. Hence we now return reflexively to the older tradition, knowing indeed that we mustre-invent it with ‘subtlerlanguages’ (to use Taylor’s term) and that the deeper, more erotic power of reason is itself a creative power which continues the blind creative thrust of nature herself, already intimated in the Augustinian doctrine of seminal reasons.
Hence, as Taylor says, it is literary geniuses like Péguy who have virtually re-invented a vibrant Christian belief and practice in modern times.
But the second and deeper reason is that we now see, with Kierkegaard, that we can only respond to the ungraspable mystery of incarnation ‘indirectly’ – through our own bodily, imagined performances which seek, however faintly, non-identically to repeat this mystery.
These new imaginings have to be interpersonal and political as well as artistic. Charles Taylor has massively helped and encouraged us in bringing these to birth.