[percy-l] In and About the world

Parlin, Steven PARLINS at culver.org
Sun Aug 17 15:28:33 EDT 2003

I think you're on to something with Percy's conclusions about the ability to
"symbolize" as evidence of God's presence. Moreover...I think there is a
very strong connection to the Incarnation --which is one reason why
Gnosticism is so offensive. 
The Incarnation is God's embodied pronouncement of the eternal Word, Jesus.
In some way...God "spoke", he uttered THE WORD (see Genesis and John's
Gospel), and through this the world was created. And then later in a more
precise way, Jesus was made...The word made flesh.  
I haven't seen Percy describe it just this way, but if he has please let me
know...  A theory that I have been trying to work out (hardly unique since
John has mostly outlined it in his Gospel) is that somehow, concepts (and
our words for them) are "conceived" in our thoughts in much the same way
that Jesus (THE WORD) was conceived in Mary...which is also why she was a
virgin. The creation of the world is a mystery to us, and so it is with the
creation of Jesus in Mary's womb (I like to think also that Mary had made
her particularly receptive to God's inpregnation in her prayers...which is
what prayer is, making ones self available). 
More than just real human persons who figure importantly in our history,
Mary and Jesus are also manifestations of much larger cosmic truths; and
they show the way God works in our very language. In love, especially when
we make ourselves available in prayer, silence, and contemplation, we are
somehow "impregnated" by our creator, and we "conceive" of ideas,
intuitions, feelings, perceptions, etc, ...and we then give birth to words.
(This is one reason why I am holding to our Creator's masculine nature, at
least in so far as it demonstrates our relationship to him...Of course God
is not a man, nor a woman. God is both and neither. Nothing sexist about
viewing it this way...It's merely fitting). 
This is also, I believe, why humans are so unique among the beasts -- our
ability to use language in this particular way. 

-----Original Message-----
From: James Piat [mailto:piat1 at bellsouth.net]
Sent: Sunday, August 17, 2003 1:57 PM
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Subject: [percy-l] In and About the world

Dear Folks,
I think Percy talks a bit about the notion of having a world  and the
distinction between an event occuring "in" the world vs talking "about" or
symbolizing such an event.  Granted symbolizing occurs in part as an event
"in" the world but symbolizing is also a way of stepping back from the world
and talking "about" events that are merely "in" (and not one step back so to
speak) from the world.  The question is:  How does this seeming ability to
partially transcend the world arise and what are its theological,
philosophical and psychological implications. 
Fundamental to this discussion is of course the distinction between the
nature of an event which is merely "in" the world vs an event such as
symbolizing which is "about" events in the world.  That these are in
principle two fundamentally different kinds of events is (it seems to me)
one of the first and main points Percy attempts to get across and is a theme
he repeatedly returns to in both his essays and novels. 
Unless I misunderstand him he concludes or strongly hints that the ability
to symbolize is at least for him a powerfully persausive  sign of God's
presense in the world.  Something of this specific  point is I think is also
coveryed in the Biblical parable of the Garden of Eden.  When man eats of
the apple he becomes in some ways god like in the sense of being able to
step back from events in the world and evaluate them against a moral
criteria.  Without the ability to step back from the world of which he was a
part man could not have discerned the "aboutness" of moral judgments and was
thus previously unaware of their existence. 
One more elaboration and I'll stop  -- seems to me Percy was also very keen
on exploring how the insights of the existentialist helped reveal the nature
of symbolization.  I agree and one of the reasons I do is because I believe
that symbolization is a kind of meta knowledge or knowledge about knowledge.
Specifically I believe that the ability to symbolize itself ultimately gave
rise to the knowledge of existence (as a generalization from specific
experiences of objects being present and absent in time and space) and that
this is the key to the riddle of consciousness.  Consciousness is knowledge
of the "existence" of objects not mere aquaintance with the the objects
Hope all this hasn't been two circular or otherwise inchoherent. Just trying
to stir up and join the discussion of symbolization which is also a favorite
topic of mine. 
Jim Piat

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