Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Ivory Cubicle | Bodies Without Souls

Well, I ran into an article over at the Imaginative Conservative regarding the hookup culture that seems to be plaguing campuses across the country. A New York Times article (which I shall not link to on account of its repulsiveness) recently trumpeted the death of conventional dating relationships, which have, allegedly, been replaced by a culture of hooking up “without the emotional entanglement of a relationship.”

Other than being absolutely disgusting and reductionistic, the folks over at the Imaginative Conservative pointed out the most lethal problem with the hookup culture – the hollowing out of the soul. If true intimacy is a unity of body and soul, then uniting bodies without soul results in the degradation of the human person to little more than a biological process. But then again, what else should we expect, given the Darwinian, naturalistic impulse of our times?

The Hollow Men

We’ve been building a case over the past two weeks against so-called “gay marriage” based largely on the gap between essentialism and existentialism. Thus far, we’ve noted that a wide gap exists between believers in transcendent essence, with all the moral requirements that come with it, and those who believe in an essence crafted only by raw existence, and then we've noted that modernity seems to lean more towards the existentialist mode of thinking, which causes complications when we try to discuss the subject. But we haven’t really explored what initially makes a person reject a concept of essence and move towards the hollowness of existential philosophy.

There exists in the world an Order of Being – a vast intersection of material and immaterial which governs the affairs of both, tells us who we are, where we’re going, and what role we are to play in this grand cosmic dance. “All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare tells us, and we are merely players, with our exits and entrances and roles to play. Our being, that essence which constitutes not just humanity, but each and every particular one of us, is entirely indebted to the Ground of Being, God himself, the ἀρχή (arche), or origin, without which meaning itself is undone.

But when the full weight of a world under sin hits us, when we sense that there is some disorder or misalignment in the Order of Being, there are two reactions we can have. The first is a turning of the soul towards the source of being, and a trust in Him to make reparations and draw our souls back into alignment with that which is good. The second might be called gnostic in nature, it desires some secret or hidden wisdom whereby man can escape the cruelty of this world and fashion himself a utopia.

Here’s where the essentialist and existentialist paths begin to diverge. One seeks to submit to a greater Order of Being, the other seeks to revolt against that order and create his own.

The problem goes deeper than sexuality. Arguably, it goes back to the Garden of Eden, where, instead of trusting in God’s provision, the lust for knowledge led to Adam to partake of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It has birthed scores of utopian schemes, from the mythic Prometheus, who defied the gods and brought fire to humanity, to Marx’s bloody march towards a classless society. At its core, it requires casting a glance upon a broken world, looking God in the face and saying “I can do better.”

The initial impulse is good – that discomfort with absurdity and insatiable desire for meaning. The realization of the need for salvation is good, and ought to always points us back to the author of salvation. But when man tries to accomplish salvation on his own, it always results in a grim defacing of the Order of Being and the resultant hollowing of the soul. “Shape without form, shade without colour, paralysed force, gesture without motion,” in the words of T.S. Eliot.

The hookup culture and the same-sex movement are born of the same impulse, an attempt to will one’s self to a place of sexual satisfaction without submitting to the Order of Being. The hook-up culture strips sexuality of all intimacy, insisting that the strong can bend sexuality to their will and detach themselves from its normal “emotional entanglements.” The same-sex movement, on the other hand, seeks to ground sexuality in emotion, seeking emotional fulfillment in a desire to love and be loved. One turns the soul to stone, the other finds it unfulfilled.

Leave a comment, share, and all that jazz. This post is actually horribly unoriginal and I’d encourage you all to read Eric Voegelin’s Science, Politics and Gnosticism if you want to study the subject more.

Posted by Nick Barden
Picture: Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss by Antonio Canova (c. 1790).

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