Chaos; Child and the Creator-Creature Relationship

Theological questions are rather muted in Chaos; Child until the depths of Onoe and Takuru’s relationship is revealed at the end of the series.  The odd and poorly Englished subtitle to Chaos; Child reads: “If you are God, and the delusion becomes reality.  About what kind of noids you get?  Is it the sensual world?  The despotic society?  The destructive sanctions?  Or…”  Or, will your lust to solve a convoluted and macabre mystery materialize?  By the end, I realized that Takuru is essentially a God character and Onoe is his creature, created by his psychic powers during his hour of need in the Shibuya earthquake set off by the events of Chaos; Head.  For this reason, Takuru holds himself responsible for Onoe’s murders: they were committed to fulfill Takuru’s subconscious desire for solving a complex mystery and being a hero.

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The first thing to notice about Takuru’s Haruhi Suzumiya-esque existence is his intrinsically flawed godhood.  The real God does not need His creatures (Psalm 50:6 – 13) and His care of them is for the sake of their happiness, even if God delights in the happiness of His creatures.  Conversely, Takuru needs Onoe, and she exists for him to be happy and rejoices in Takuru’s happiness.  This reversal must happen whenever one incomplete being takes another incomplete being for its god.

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Concrete Revolutio & Moral Relativism

Well, I haven’t posted for over a week now.  Most of my writing time and energy has gone to a novel I’m writing and the rest to answering Jubilare’s excellent arguments prompted by my article concerning the inequality of the sexes.  How often on the internet does one see people arguing intelligently about something and both profiting from the discussion?  It helps that Jubilare and I come from a similar theological background, but one should not absolutely need a common background in order to profit from an argument.  The only thing absolutely needed is a belief in absolutes.  Most modern argumentation, especially in the political arena, falls to the level of a shouting match where each person vies for more time to air their viewpoints, because confidence counts more than truth to the masses.  That modern man relies more on rhetorical tricks and sophistry shows the lack of logical and philosophical training in people’s education and the atmosphere of moral relativism in which we live.  Political correctness and ideological purity have taken the place of philosophy.

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Yesterday, I almost watched two episodes of Concrete Revolutio in my quest to finalize my watch list for this season.  I’ll admit that I was in a black mood, which caused me to see the bad points of the show more than the good.  Though, the episode at first excited me with it’s allusion to Black Cat.

Tell me that no one else is reminded of Sven Vollfied in the cafe during episode one of Black Cat.

Tell me that no one else is reminded of Sven Vollfied in the cafe during episode one of Black Cat.

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The Low Down on Peter Kreeft’s Practical Theology

Having read through one hundred and twelve of the topics in Peter Kreeft’s Practical Theology: Spiritual Direction from St. Thomas Aquinas, an accurate enough opinion of it has formed in my mind.  The book–as anything written on St. Thomas’s theology–is quite dense, so I abandoned my hope of reading through its 366 pages in a month.  I cannot help but admire how Kreeft either draws passages from the Summa Theologica easily applicable to everyday life or shows the relevance of more esoteric theology to living a good life.  The prose and philosophy are both clear and direct, as may be expected from a Thomist.  Besides St. Thomas, Kreeft quotes a wide variety of other Christian thinkers on these topics, especially C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, and George MacDonald.  He also seems most at home with the ancient philosophers Plato and Aristotle.

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Though, in regard to Plato, Kreeft often harps on a fallacy in Platonic philosophy: the idea that sin is only caused by ignorance.  Plato believed that if ignorance were removed from a human being completely, he would not sin.  We even see this idea a little in medieval philosophy when St. Bonaventure writes that Christ was like us in everything “except sin and ignorance” (See St. Bonaventure’s Tree of Life).  However, Kreeft remarks that people sin despite knowing that it will make them miserable.  Ignorance of goodness is not the only cause of sin.  As Kreeft points out, we are all a little insane in cleaving to those things which cause us misery.  Eliminating ignorance by doing things like reading philosophy and theology only goes so far: we need grace and the practice of virtue.

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The Fundamental Difference between the Catholic and the Pagan Mind

I have become fascinated by a YouTube channel run by a user called Skallagrim.  (His name is drawn from the father of the eponymous hero of Egil’s Saga, which fans of fantasy novels would surely enjoy reading.)  In addition to the cool weapons and topics he presents, his honesty and cheerful personality make his videos enjoyable to watch.  Recently, I stumbled across this video on how monotheism appears to non-believers.  Christians do well to watch it because it very accurately describes the worldview of agnostics—or agnostic pagans as Skallagrim has described himself, though perhaps only semi-seriously.

After watching that, I found that I disagreed with so many things that I did not know where to start.  My original thought was to write about why his impression of God is distorted from the way He really is.  But then, the obvious question he might ask is why my view is any better than a Lutheran’s, Calvinist’s, Muslim’s, Jew’s, etc.  In meditating before the tabernacle (and no, I did not go to the tabernacle in order to ask God how I should write this article, but the article kept surfacing in my mind), the understanding came to me that the essence of agnosticism, which inflicts the entire modern world, is the belief that one cannot know objective metaphysical truth.  I italicize those words because agnostics obviously can believe in objective reality–and Skallagrim certainly does.  However, trying to discern an objective order to the universe beyond what science can tell one is deemed a fool’s errand.

David Hume

David Hume, the philosopher whose work led to the development of Analytical Philosophy.

The pagans of ancient Mediterranean world believed the same thing.  Relativism was as rampant in the ancient world as it is today.  Disparate peoples compared their pagan religions to one another and found commonalities.  They tolerated other pagan religions.  The idea of fighting about religion was absurd to them.  But, the progress of time caused pagans to be less religious, starting with the upper, educated classes.  This culminated in religion being outward show for the majority by the first century before Christ.

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What destroyed the credence pagan had in their religion?  Obviously, it was not Christianity, which had not yet appeared.  The cause lies in the advent of philosophy, particularly the Socratic philosophers.  Socrates changed the world by seeking definitions of things in order to find out universal truths.  No longer would mere dogma be satisfactory!  Statements cannot be accepted on mere authority!  Plato banned poets from his ideal city-state because he thought they perpetuated the lies found in mythology.  Though Plato believed in a plurality of gods, he believed that the divine must be good and harmonious, not evil and discordant as we often see the Greek gods and goddesses act.  Emphasizing this unity, Plato often refers only to one god.  Aristotle further investigates the ideas found in Plato and posited a single “unmoved mover,” who must be God.

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Basically, good philosophy–exemplified by Plato and Aristotle rather than the confusing mess offered by modern philosophies–renders the idea of a plurality of gods as untenable.  Platonism and Aristotelianism point to a harmonious metaphysical realm which includes an unmoved mover who set everything else in motion and uncaused cause from whom all other causes derive.  Isn’t it amazing that philosophy contains the similar truths found in the Catholic faith?  So much so that Christianity has been called “Platonism for the masses”?  St. Augustine describes a Platonic philosopher named Victorinus who believed in Christianity upon reading the Scriptures because of the way they connected with his philosophy.  Yet, he hesitated to be baptized.  When he told the Bishop Simplicianus of Milan that he was a Christian, Simplicianus said that he would not believe him until he had entered Church and received the sacraments.  Victorinus’ succinct comeback “do walls make Christians?” is still remembered today.  However, he did decide to get baptized and become a full member of the Catholic Church.

Augustine

Why is this melding of philosophy and Christianity possible?  It is well known that St. Augustine uses Platonism well to make sense of Christian doctrine, while St. Thomas does the same in his Summa Theologica with Aristotle.  The fact of the matter is that Truth is one and objective.  Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle–no doubt with God’s Will–discovered parts of the truth and created systems which facilitated the understanding of Christians.  They also share one commonality with early Christians: their fellow citizens persecuted them.  Socrates was executed, Plato was charged in the same way as his master but fined instead, and Aristotle needed to flee Athens lest, as he put it, Athens commit a second crime against philosophy.

Bust of Aristotle

Bust of Aristotle

So, I would wish modern pagans and agnostics to give objective metaphysical truth a chance–to thoroughly test the metaphysical skepticism preached by analytical philosophy and Logical Posivitism by starting at the beginning of that non-authoritarian school known as philosophy.  Read Plato and Aristotle.  If Aristotle is too dry, read his most eloquent disciple, Cicero.  See whether you’re convinced of their faith in objective metaphysical truth.  (I might also add that one should read St. Thomas Aquinas, as he is more Aristotelian than Aristotle and the Churchmen of his time accused him of relying too much on philosophy.)  See how modern philosophers challenge the Socratic Schools.  Read modern defenders of older philosophical traditions like Peter Kreeft, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Mortimer Jerome Adler.

Despite being a Jew for most of his life, he was one of America's most popular Thomists.

Despite being a Jew for most of his life, Mortimer J. Adler was one of America’s most popular Thomists.

The reason I recommend philosophy so much is because it arms one with the tools to discern good theology from bad.  It is difficult to determine which religious truths don’t hold water, but having the tool of philosophy makes it much easier.  So, do not seek religion for religion’s sake, but examine religions for the sake of the Truth.  As I believe Jesus Christ is the Truth itself, seeing you seek Him will only draw Him faster to you: for all our striving, we do not find the Truth, but the Truth finds us–if only we care.

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and the Problem of Pride

One of the things which I admire about anime is that when one feels like one has seen the same plot a million times over, the same characters ten million times, and the same school classrooms a hundred million times over, a show will surface to blow one’s expectations and remind one why anime was so appealing in the first place.  This little one season show, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, stands head and shoulders above most anime for the profundity of its message.  I feel an eternal debt of gratitude toward Marlin-sama of Ashita no Anime for intriguing me enough to pick it up.  Among its themes, the refusal of its heroine to acknowledge her dark past and believing that she should be loved less if the hero discovered it reminds me of the folly of pride which believers can enmesh themselves in relation to God.

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Dusk Maiden of Amnesia has an interesting portrayal of pride in the mind of Yuuko, the ghost for whom Niiya, the protagonist, falls in love.  She has a light side which has expunged all the memories of suffering, bitterness, and hatred which she suffered in her past, and a dark side which remembers only these painful moments and can only feel these negative emotions.  This split is so complete that they appear as different persons.  We, dear readers, similarly have darkness and light within us; but most of us, however much we may minimize this darkness, never fall into that greatest temptation of pride: to cast off this dark side from our consciousness and to distort reality to the extent that we consider ourselves angels.

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But, Yuuko does have more of an excuse than most of us.  After all, she was sacrificed by superstitious pagans so that an epidemic might cease. (Perhaps superstitious is an unneeded modifier.  Can one truly be a pagan without being superstitious?  Oh, well.  That’s a question for another blogger.)  Nor was this a quick death: she was left to die alone of suffocation or of starvation in pitch blackness while suffering the agony of a broken leg at around 15 or 16 years of age.  All of this while thoughts of envy toward her best friend and hatred toward those who abandoned her there swirled in her mind.  That’s a memory I’m sure most of us would desire effaced!

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Yet, we are not walking according to the truth if we disown our suffering, evil thoughts, and dark deeds.  And do we not own our dark side more truly than than our good side?  After all, we cannot maintain the least virtue, perform a single good deed, or have one good thought apart from God, who aids us by His own divine life.  On the other hand, we can do all sorts of sins on our own and would even plummet into utter vileness if not prevented by His grace.  St. Philip Neri once remarked as he saw a condemned man passing him on the road: “There goes Philip Neri but for the grace of God.”  Nor is this arrangement unfair: how many sins have I myself committed despite receiving the grace to will otherwise?  How many times have I consented to sin without lifting up a single prayer so that I might will good instead of evil?  Or did pray, but never wanted to form the wholehearted will to shun what might be more delightful to the senses or sweeter to my ego?

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At any rate, Yuuko further compounds her darkness by believing that Niiya won’t love her if she has any darkness or suffering in her.  This is not true: we are all loved by the people in our lives in spite of our defects.  How much more ought we trust that God loves us in spite of our wickedness?  As believers love to repeat, God’s love is unconditional.  Even in the midst of mortal sin by which we deserve to be sent straight to hell, God does not cease loving us and strives to turn us to repentance.  Yet, I believe people growing in goodness are more susceptible to this form of pride than outright sinners.  Somehow, the delusion intrudes that God loves us because of our good deeds rather than simply because He made us and thought it delightful that we should be with Him in paradise forever.  Then, we start forgetting our wicked deeds or minimizing them under the delusion that God somehow loves us more infinitely for being good!

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Yuuko’s desire to forget her painful past becomes so extreme that she further effaces her memories of Niiya.  You see, Niiya had absorbed the dark side’s, Shadow Yuuko’s, terrible memories and Yuuko cannot help reliving them when she touches Niiya.  Therefore, she blocks Niiya’s presence from her vision.  Even though she strongly desires to see him again and stays in the same vicinity as him, she cannot see him.  At last, the only way that they can communicate is by writing notes to each other in a notebook.

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Is this not rather like a Christian who in his mad drive to forget the memory of his sins even avoids the sight of a crucifix?  I think it no accident that in one episode we see two images of a cross: one made by Niiya and Kanoe’s shadows crossing and the other one of light.  For, the cross is painful because we see our sins in the wounds of Christ, but these very wounds bring us in the light of Christ’s presence.  And Niiya and Yuuko exchanging notes is rather like how a Christian soul, when frustrated at not feeling God’s presence, will turn to the Scriptures–all the while yearning for the embrace of the One who loves her.

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Then, that beautiful scene occurs in their club’s room, the Paranormal Investigation Club.  Niiya takes a bat and begins shattering everything in the room in order to get Yuuko’s attention.  Furthermore, his actions bring Shadow Yuuko into focus for Yuuko at the same time.  This is reminiscent of St. Augustine’s Confessions:

You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.

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In this scene, we find that Niiya wishes especially to speak to Shadow Yuuko and embraces her, saying that he loves Shadow Yuuko too, because Yuuko and Shadow Yuuko are the same person.  In the same way, though Jesus hates the least speck of sin in our souls, He loves us entire.  He wishes to love us in pain as well as in joy, which is so plainly figured in the cross as Jesus endures all the pain caused by pain and suffering in our lives out of pure love for us.  The confession of love by Niiya allows for both halves of Yuuko to come together, forming Yuuko into a complete person.

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Since God loves us as a complete person, there is no need to attempt hiding our sinful selves from Him.  Rather, let us contemplate the Crucifix in which we clearly see our sins in the holes in Christ’s hands and feet, the pierced side, the crowning of thorns, and the anguished expression on His countenance, knowing that it is through means of these wounds that we are bound to Him forever.

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Speaking of forever (Big spoiler coming!  If you’re the kind of person who absolutely cant’s endure them, don’t read on!), I expected Yuuko to disappear in the last episode–the natural end for ghost stories like this.  And indeed, with her regrets being solved and the integrity of her person, she does disappear for a while, leaving Niiya in great sorrow.  Does this not remind us of how we desire heaven, where we shall be reunited with our loved ones and love shall endure in perfection forever?  It seems, however, that Niiya’s last kiss produced a new regret in Yuuko: she now desires many more kisses.  Truly, love is never exhausted!  Since this is a love story first and foremost, Catullus 5 powerfully comes to mind:

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,
and let us judge all the rumors of the old men
to be worth just one penny!
The suns are able to fall and rise:
When that brief light has fallen for us,
we must sleep a never ending night.
Give me a thousand kisses, then another hundred,
then another thousand, then a second hundred,
then yet another thousand more, then another hundred.
Then, when we have made many thousands,
we will mix them all up so that we don’t know,
and so that no one can be jealous of us when he finds out
how many kisses we have shared.

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