Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bonaventure on the Mind's Journey into God (Notes: 75)


Bonaventure or “Good Fortune” was not this Theological Master’s real name, rather, it was something given to him when he joined the Franscian Order. (Due to not being able to spell his real name, though, I will simply go this pen name.) He held his order’s chair as the university of Paris from 1254-57. Though, he later left his position to become Minister-General, his order’s highest post in 1257 and held it until his death in 1274. Because Bonaventure did so much to guide the order onto its later path, many Franscians thought of Bonaventure as a “second founder” after St. Franscian himself.

Bonaventure’s treatise The Mind’s Journey into God, dates early in his career as Minister-General and contains content which one would not write as a university professor. However, as professor Williams remarks, it is an excellent text from which to grasp Bonaventure’s thought process. Intellectually, the book concerns itself primarily with Augustinian Neo-Platonism but occasionally uses Aristotelian ideas when it suits the structure.

First and foremost, it is a mystical and contemplative text designed for use by the order. On its surface, it seems to be systematized but such a super-structure vanishes upon closer inspection; Bonaventure’s method of organizing changes page to page and so the alleged consistency is shown to be inconsistent. Ultimately, Bonaventure’s drive is to compel the reader to behold the awesomeness of God through a contemplation of the images and text. But, if there is anything which is consistent throughout the work, it is the importance of the number six.

From the Book of Isiah, Bonaventure takes the image of the six-winged seraph. He uses it to stand for six progressive illuminations by which human beings can come to know God (six is significant for mathematical reasons as well, since three is the Trinity and two times three is six). But, six is also the number of Man (humans were created on the six day of creation).

So, let’s look more closely from the passage from Isiah:

“In the year that King Isaiah died, I saw the lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said, ‘holy, holy, holy is the lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory.’”

As one may have noticed, the six wings are in three pairs. All in the service of glorifying God. Each pair of wings corresponds to a different level in the hierarchy of being. The pair facing down indicates the traces of god’s activity which can be found in the sub-rational world. Here is where we contemplate God outside of us or below us. The second pair represents the image of God born by the human intellect. This is where we contemplate God within us. The third pair, meanwhile, represents God himself and is where we contemplate God above us. In this conceptualization, the aim of thinking is always God-oriented.

The first steps to obtaining knowledge of God involves knowledge of the Sensible world; this is the bottom pair of wings directed downward. Here, Bonaventure distinguishes these wings by saying they are vestiges of God. To Bonaventure, the sensible world is un-explaining and so requires super-sensible ways of being explained. Hence, he is keen on finding ways to explain this super-sensible by examining sensible things and reasoning upward to what God must be like. Bonaventure realizes the ancient philosophers had a focus on the sensible but believes they got it wrong in that they had a focus on the sensible to explain the ordering of the world instead of the origination of the world (to the ancient thinkers, God was merely that who formed things based on the perfect designs of the Forms; he wasn’t really a creating entity on to himself).

One of the controversies with Aristotle, one will remember, was that he thought the Earth lacked a beginning in time, whereas Christian doctrine taught that it had a beginning set in motion by God. Bonaventure, though, believed that he could prove philosophically that the Earth had a beginning.

His argument is characterized by professor Williams like this: “supposed I asked you to walk a really long way and to let me know when you’re done. When will I hear back from you? In a really long time. But then supposed I ask you to walk an infinitely long way and then to let me know when you’re done. When will I hear from you? Never. However long you keep walking, you will never manage to traverse an infinite distance. So, as Bonaventure says, with Aristotle saying that the world is infinitely old he is saying that the world has managed to traverse an infinite distance of time. Ergo, it is impossible.”

The second wing on the first pair of wings represent the vestiges or footprint of God as evidence for providing God’s presence in sensible things. God is not merely the originator of sensible things but is actively at work within them. We take into us the likeness of sensible things; the things themselves don’t come into our consciousness but representations of them come into our consciousness. Because there is nothing which human beings can’t take up into their being, then, the likeness of the whole world is available to us through sensation. In this way, sensation detaches the sensible thing from its specific place and time and allows the universal elements to be represented into human consciousness. Therefore, it is the sense who take that first step to understanding sensible things by universalizing what can be universalized.

None of this would be upsetting to an Aristotelian though it is what Bonaventure does next with it that creates some fuss.

Bonaventure invites us to see the generation of a sensible likeness in the sense organ as a generation of the eternal generation of the word, that is, the second person of the Trinity, in God. Because God is light and the sense organ which perceives light generates a likeness, divine light begets light.

How does this follow logically? It does not. Provided, this is a hint not an argument, so it does not follow any stern logic. Generation provides you with a semblance of an idea not the idea itself. The force behind Bonaventure’s book is to try and get you to take the journey yourself not to explicitly argue for the journey.

On to the second pair of wings, of contemplating God inside of us. This is the stage where we obtain knowledge of god by considering god as born by the human intellect. The first wing of this pair stands for God understood as imprinted on our natural powers. The second wing stands for a God as formed by supernatural grace.

Of the first wing, Bonaventure provides an account which seeks to integrate Augustine with Aristotle.

He begins by describing the activity of the intellect in Aristotelian terms. The first such activity is the learning of concepts; the human mind builds concepts and then everything else builds on that. The second act of the intellect is putting those concepts together to build statements or propositions. Things which can be true or false. The third activity of the intellect involves the formation of arguments or inferences; this involves putting statements or propositions together in a way which is logically connected. So far, all of this has been Aristotle and Bonaventure has been fine to take these things from Aristotle, though believes that Aristotle did not tell the whole tale and that none of this has a purpose if it is not illuminated by Truth. For Bonaventure, this comes in at the second level of the activity of the intellect or the making of judgements which involve truth or falsity. So, in a sense, Bonaventure argues that there is no “truth” with a small “t” that does not comes from “truth” with a big “T”, God.

This is Bonaventure’s first Augustinian move, that our natural activity cannot come without a supernatural light. Though, as a second move he also takes the idea of memory constituting a kind of manifestation of God’s light in the sense that it exists as that semblance of something greater.

The second wing of the second pair involves the image of god formed in our intellectual powers as formed by grace. Our natural powers, to Bonaventure, must be restored from their fallen and broken condition by the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. To note, these are things which are not acquired by our own efforts, these are not gained by practice. These theological virtues must be given to us by God. These are infused virtues. God must “pour them in” as the lingo went. Part of the acquisition, then, of these virtues can come only through a divine refurbishing of the human mind, something which comes through a study of the Bible.

On to the final pair of wings: God as in himself.

In the first wing of this pair, Bonaventure considers what he calls the essential attributes of God. This means thinking about God as being. Such is the Old Testament way of looking at God. This method focuses on unity and is heavily focused on ontological matters (something which only the Augustinians takes seriously at this point as the Aristotelians view it as misguided). To Bonaventure, the unity of God is so great that it must be onto itself and wholly one.

On the second wing of this final pair, Bonaventure considers what he calls the Proper Attributes of god.

As opposed to the essential attributes which thought of God as being, the Proper Attributes think of God as goodness. This is the New Testament way of looking at God, as espoused in Luke 18:19 (“No one is good but God alone”). Thinking about God as goodness emphasizes God as a plurality of persons. It is a sort of “supreme sharing”, then, as articulated by Pseudo-Dionysius, enacted by God which allows for divine reason to propagate and be communicated by the Trinity.

Ultimately it is difficult to characterize Bonaventure’s approach as either theological or philosophical. Why is because of his lack of recognizing of a clear division of labor between the two. Bonaventure, for instance, prefers to think of philosophy as encompassing all aspects of God. Philosophy, then, simply provides us with a springboard for thinking about God.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Let's Read: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Ch.2)

(For Part 1 of this Let's Read, see here)

And we’re back!

Previously, we left off with the giant green doofus wrecking Arthur and company’s lovely banquet. I’m not sure how long it took to cook that meal, but if I was the chefs, I would be pissed. Regardless, the mean, lean, green killing-machine challenged the knights to a ridiculous bet involving blows to the head (and no, not that kind of blow or head) and the only one incompetent enough to fall for the trolling was Gawain. So, here we are, about a year later and Gawain must head off on his quest to receive his blow (DON’T SNICKER!).
Any who…

“Our endings rarely square with our beginnings” (20).

So, this is actually sweet and prepares the reader a bit for the surprise ending. It seems to me a bit of a meta commentary on the nature of story-telling itself. Yet, in another sense it is conventional; if the ending was “squared” with our beginnings, after all, then it would be complete absurdity like when the Green Knight came, so this unexpected affair reinforces the expected when looked at from the point of story-telling. Weird, eh?

“Till All Hollows’ Eve Day he stays with Arthur” (21)

This page is filled with evocative environmental descriptions and reminds one that before Tolkein, Martin, or any other such modern pen took up fantasy with lush description, the Gawain-Poet was doing it first and much better. The sense of time passing and emotion is very well handled and should be studied by every poet who also considers themselves an amateur historian.
But, of the line quoted above, it is almost wicked that Gawain leaves on what we would call “Halloween”. It raises the mystical quality without it becoming overbearing. It adds a literary chill to the reader. It is dramatic but just so. A subtle touch to an incredible poem.

“Next dawn he dresses,” (22)

The dressing scene is interesting. His knightly uniform is brought in and he is robed in clothing and armor made from the best exotic, high-quality material. The Arthurian legend is European in orientation; it was crafted in unique social-materialistic periods by people responding to certain conditions and events. But, this tale, written by an anonymous British writer, makes one wonder at his life since he seems to have been privy to a wide-range of cultures in that the pieces of his suit are worked in unique ways.

“Clothed in this manner, he goes to hear mass” (23)

Of course. Being a good Christian knight, one must pray to God, especially if the quest one embarks upon has a high chance of his head being sliced off. Spiritual insurance is important, after all.
So, then he jumps on his horse, Gringolet, and heads out—hee-haw!


“It’s hard to tell a tenth part of them all. / Sometimes he wars with dragons, or with wolves;” (27)

Whoa, horsie, whoa… dragons and wolves he fights with—badass! Even more badass, though, is how the author saves us the displeasure of reciting this struggle.
It was pretty common for Arthurian tales to feature dragons. So, obviously, it was pretty common for knights to fight dragons; how else are you going to earn renown for your king? Why it’s different here, though, is that the normal foes are mentioned only for the author to just push them to the wayside. It would be like today if a young adult author writing a Teen Dystopia series include some kind of system of social division but then said, “nope, this system is actually good and the one morally upright thing the [EVIL GOVERMNET] did” instead of it being part of the driving force behind the conflict. It is a genre subversion and a clever one at that.

“And signed himself, and said: / ‘May Christ’s cross lend me speed!’ / Hardly he had made the sign three times / When, in the midst of the wood, he saw a moated castle” (29).

This is how you know it is fantasy—when God actually helps his followers achieve their goals (bazinga!). Actually, though, even for an Arthurian tale, this is pretty brazen for God and at least to my knowledge isn’t something which usually happens in this kind of narratological sense (aside from stories involving Perceval, of course). I guess that God truly is the ultimate “Ghost in the Machine”.
Regardless, Gawain enters the sizable and luxurious castle where the king greets him. Being a knight of Arthur has its perks, it seems: who needs a Bed and Breakfast when you got this?
In any case, what follows is a lengthy description of the castle (again) as well as the King. He is described as a rich and imposing fellow. Bring both bros Gawain and the King hit it off well; the king’s Queen is described as possibly even more beautiful than Arthur’s own (heresy!) and Gawain and company pray in the chapel.

“Let the whereabout of this Green Chapel worry you no longer” (39)

This should always raise eye-brows but because Gawain has been partying his nose off, he doesn’t seem to notice. Provide, he was feasting and drinking after a long travel so who can really blame him? Still, whenever a mysterious castle appears in the middle of the woods stocked with great supplies and a gracious king appears to slate your every need before saying that your destination is simply a short jot away… my sensey-sense would be tingling. Just a bit.
Before the chapter ends, though, the king makes a bargain with Gawain: whatever he catches while hunting will be Gawain’s while whatever Gawain finds in the castle will be given to the king. This includes not merely physical objects but emotional and sensual ones as well.
So, weird, right?
Being a doofus, though, Gawain uncritically accepts this bargain once and for all showing just how gullible people were before Facebook.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Enchanted Assemblages Re-booted


I've been teasing for some time what this newly rebooted Enchanted Assemblages project is all about; so let me explain in detail.

Enchanted Assemblages is a medieval multimedia narrative. It tells the story of Bede Darthur, an undergraduate studying medievalism at a fictional university. A participant in a VR-MMORPG (Virtual-Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), a world renown educational video game which fully immerses the player in historically accurate gameplay, Bede faces his greatest challenge yet in his young life-- beat the game's academic mode, earn a high mark from his demanding professor, one of the game's strictest Admin's, all while fulfilling his college ambition of finding himself.

As I said, this story is told through several media platforms, each one offering a different kind of immersion for the reader (or "wreader" as you will eventually be called). With each platform offering a different kind of educational quality-- yes, you should be able to learn something from each piece, dear reader-- I will now go through and explain each platform.

Platform #1: traditional literary chapters.
Platform #2: "Image Videos" and "Stop-Motion" videos.
Platform #3: Inform-7 Interactive Fiction novellas.

Platform one should be familiar enough. You will read short to medium length chapters which form the bulk of the narrative. Because our protagonist is a participant in this primer educational video game, the genre of these chapters will be that of a "Lit-RPG"; or, for those of you not up to date with the Indie writer lingo, a Lit-RPG is a "literary role-playing game", something which locates storytelling through a lot usually revolving around protagonists becoming trapped in video games, or playing them, and navigating themselves to freedom. Think, a video game but told in literary form.

The second platform requires some explaining.

What I mean by "Image Videos" is this: simple YouTube videos where I do a funny voice in the form of the protagonist-- you are supposed to think that it is the protagonist-- and explain some minutia about the middle ages. Essentially, these are Bede's academic journals; as he learns about the middle ages in his coursework, he will ponder or ruminate on select aspects of his study which cannot otherwise be fit into a normal chapter.

The second kind of YouTube video is "Stop-Motion". These videos were originally part of a larger, more ambitious, but limited, project. Essentially, these videos are done in one-point perspective utilizing collage (magazine cut outs, materials printed from the internet, whatever). I would animate the contents of the video using a stop-motion camera and that would be the video (I will do whatever editing and special effects I can do later). These videos show the player important game challenges which Bede must overcome; in a sense, they tell the player clues as to how to complete the third platform: players watch and try to absorb what Bede does while integrating that knowledge with information from the first platform. Such videos will last anywhere from seven to nine minutes and will pop up about once a season.

The third platform, meanwhile, utilizes interactive fiction using Inform-7 software. Simply said, interactive fiction is fiction where you, the reader, can interact with and explore the literary work. It is part literature and part video game. So, this third platform, consisting of interactive novellas, is your chance to actually participate in this fictional world and apply what you've learned to an education game. I am looking forward to creating these novellas and I hope you will enjoy them too!

So, that is all: this grand story of Bede is planned for at least four seasons but, as I said, will likely carry over for far longer. Please, check out the first entry when it is up and help spread the word.

A basic content schedule has been written. Though this is liable to change as my priorities during the academic year shift, the basic idea is this: (1) Three chapters, Image Video, Three chapters, Stop-Motion video, One to two chapters, Interactive novella. I hope to get a couple chapters out a week, an image video in the following week, while the stop-motion video will likely take two or three weeks (depending on my obligations). An interactive novella will probably take a week or two to write and program. With this schedule I hope to get a regular stream of content uploaded.

An epic tale, this newly reformed Enchanted Assemblages is something I hope to continue working on years in the future. Please check out the first entry when it is up later this coming week. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing some feedback when the project gets underway.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Rediscovery of Aristotle (Note:74)


The changes in philosophy from the 12th to 13th century was marked. No one could have predicted them.

In a large way, the 13th century emphasis on philosophy was how one responded to, debated, and interacted with, the new and previously unavailable works of Aristotle. Up until the middle of the 12th century, after all, very few philosophical texts had made their way to the Latin West.

As little? Plato, just a small part of one dialog; the Platonism which had previously been used had been secondhand Platonism. Aristotle has it a bit better; thinkers had his categories, or his theory of terms and words along with his theory of proposition and statements. Then we have Boethius who, alongside his own Logic texts, translated many of Plato’s works into Latin, though these did not circulate very well. Taken together, these texts amount to what would become known as “the old logic”.

So, what is then this “new logic”? It is the collected corpus of Aristotle’s logical works (including the ‘Categories’ and ‘Theory of terms’): this is known as the Organon (Greek for “instrument”). Why it is named so it because according to Aristotle, logic was the tool in which one used in carrying out philosophical reasoning. But, there is some additional texts which make up the New Logic, these are: “Prior Analytics” where he explains the theory of the syllogism. In any case, this text did not make much of a fuss since the Latin West already had secondhand sources on the syllogism. Then we have the “Posterior Analytics”, where Aristotle presents his theory of scientific demonstration; this, though, is better described as what is described in the modern sense of epistemology, or, what makes a thing justified or true. This text as well did not make waves since it was so new that people had no clue what to do with it. It would never gain traction, though, except with the hardcore Aristotelian types. Finally, we have “The Sophistical Refutations”, the work in which Abelard had seen in his lifetime. Here in this text was a hodgepodge of logical mistakes one could make in arguing; the medieval Latin West loved it since it gave them something to systematize.

From this love of systematizing spawned a whole “cottage industry” concerning Aristotle. The study of language and logic thus informed much of the middle ages in terms of critical thinking. Plato is interested in what is important whereas Aristotle was interested in everything; Plato is dramatic and mildly mystical whereas Aristotle is earthly and realistic. To the medieval mind excited by encyclopedic knowledge, Aristotle’s everything-oriented logic was enthralling.

Three of these texts were translated in Abelard’s lifetime by a man named James of Venice (who lived in Constantinople). This was the first wave. The next wave brings the remainder of Aristotle’s works: scientific, ethical, political, and metaphysical. Along with this second wave came extensive commentary by Muslim thinkers; since these Muslim philosophers were divided into Platonists and Aristotelian, the Platonists had their say first in the West.

At the same time as this recovery of Aristotle, the first universities were beginning in the West. The specific shape/function of these universities would determine how Aristotle gets assimilated.

At this time, the monastic schools were waning but the cathedral schools remained strong. Because of the strength of the cathedral schools, some of which even invited international students to study, eventually developed into the first universities. What distinguished the universities from other kind of schools was that a university had a charter, an official document from the church or the king which granted it this status along with some basic statutes or instructions by which it was governed.

The most prestigious university in the 13th century was the University of Paris, which got its charter in 1215 (though the statutes were in existence years before). Universities were divided into “Faculties” or today what we would call “departments” or “colleges”. Initially, students would enter as participants in the Arts faculty. Entering at 14 or 15, students would spend about six years training here before they became a bachelor, hence, the Bachelor of Arts degree today. This was essentially a low-level teaching assistant. After one put their time into this occupation, one could be a Master, a teacher in their own right, rather than merely an assistant to one. One had to teach as Master in the faculty of Art for at least two years. Why one had to wait two years was because the Arts faculty was a preparatory faculty for the higher faculty. Naturally, many wanted to move up to the higher faculty as fast as possible. These higher faculty were Law, Medicine, and Theology. Just as today, different universities were known for its different strengths, and Paris was known for its theology. Once a student was in Paris’s faculty of theology (if that was their goal), then they would have about eight more years of study before they became a “doctor” in that subject.

Aristotle’s works first made their appearance at the University of Paris in the Arts faculty. This made for a dynamic comparison because, at this time, Platonist in the theology faculty became upstanded by the exciting new theory being talked about in the Arts faculty, that lesser faculty which trained people. Naturally, a rivalry between the faculties emerges; many theologians scorn the Aristotelian texts while the Arts masters lecture on the new material and became empowered by students growing interest.

In 1210, this rivalry escalates to the point where a ban is placed on reading (publicly lecturing on them) Aristotle’s works. They were considered theologically dangerous though people tended to ignore the condemnations since the bans very existence needed to be widely and continuously brought up. But, the Arts masters, in true professor fashion, disobeyed and kept on teaching. By the 1250s, people were lecturing on whatever bits of Aristotle was available. The prohibitions were a hopeless cause.

So, the question becomes this: why does Aristotle make such a splash?

Several. One, Aristotle’s works are extremely wide ranging and appeals to the systematic medieval mind. Second, his works are systematic; Aristotle offers a small but strong set of arguments which can be deployed across a wide-range of material, this means that once one absorbs Aristotle’s arguments, one can tame, in turn, a great deal of other material within Aristotle’s own method. Three, Aristotle is analytically rigorous. Whereas previously, neo-platonic works relied on the grandeur of the overarching vision to move people, Aristotelian thinkers relied on argument, so seeing passion, argument, and logic together moved many medieval people. An additional thing which appealed to the medieval mind was Aristotle’s “hierarchy of the sciences”. This was his belief in which some sciences or disciplines were subordinate to other sciences or disciplines; so, one can use an axiom in one discipline whereas in others it needs to be proved. All of this is then tuned to the first principal, metaphysics (what Aristotle called “theology”).

Despite all this popularity, though, there was deep problems with Aristotle’s theory. Mainly, that it contrasted with Christianity; one such example was in that where Aristotle believed in an infinite, timeless universe, Christians believed in a created universe; Aristotle believed that a God-figure didn’t care about us whereas Christians believed that God did care for us. Love, knowledge, the human itself… many things between Christianity and Aristotle clashed.

Among the reactions to Aristotle were three types of people: Those who ignore the anti-Christian sentiment and saw only the attraction (largely confined to the Arts faculty), those who didn’t feel any attraction but were very alert to the anti-Christian sentiment (largely in the theology faculty), and a third centrist view (exemplified by Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas). It would be Aquinas who would bridge the gap between Aristotelian and Christian thinking.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What to Expect this Academic Year

Hello, everyone,

I hope you became excited over my previous post outlining my plans for YouTube. This post, however, will fully explain those plans and moderate some ideas which I rashly expressed (please note that due to my scheduling routine, this post is something I have gone back and scheduled weeks after the YouTube post was scheduled to be published; so, I have had plenty of time to meditate on the direction of the channel).

Essentially, the YouTube channel is going to be an auxiliary to this website. I have no plans to become a full-time YouTuber or try to gain a following on that platform. Why is because I simply don't have the time. Accordingly, then, YouTube is going to be more of a hosting site instead of an actual new endeavor in itself. It will augment my work this coming academic year, not replace it.

So far, this is par for the course. But I mention it because I did not want people to think that this channel would be like a sister-site, because this is not the case. Additionally, I want to also stress that not all of the programs I explained previously will become a reality. I would hope that they would become a reality eventually, but this depends on how several factors.

In any case, with those caveats out of the way, I wanted to explain how the YouTube channel was concretely going to effect post publication on this site.

The short answer is that it will not effect it. Why is because these posts, these videos, are part of a new creative academic project.

In my previously post, I had mentioned how The Milton Underground had replaced Enchanted Assemblages as that sort of fun academic engagement. I also referenced how I hadn't yet known what would happen to E.A. Well, after mulling things over these past few weeks, I have come to a decision: Enchanted Assemblages will be re-born as a new, medieval-oriented creative academic project focused on rich story-telling but also educational engagement.

Look for the first post explaining this project in full, this Saturday.

I hope you will read that post and give this new project a chance. I know I have been very floppy on what projects last and what do not, but this time is the last time I do any flopping. Promise. This re-booted Enchanted Assemblages will be its final form and you can expect content to be regularly published along with a plethora of status updates along the way. This undertaking is something I am very excited about, so I hope you will join me as I tell a grand tale which is as fun as educational.

So, other than E.A. I also wanted to touch on the kind of content you will be seeing this year.

In addition to the numerous post and updates related to EA, you can expect the Let's Reads and Notes to appear fairly frequently; as the year drags on, these will probably decrease in frequency, but you should expect at least one Let's Read and one Note per week. On top of the usual content, then, you can also expect my musings, frustrations, and day-to-day struggles learning Latin; as I said previously, I am taking an online Latin course this semester and I thought some of you might get a kick out of reading some notations on my learning process. These posts will be published as I complete them, so I will say at least one or two such posts per week. Finally, I want to also say that you, dear reader, should expect a assortment of posts on neo-medievalism; reviews, musings, engagements and more should be expected. This term I am taking an independent study on how the medieval interacts with today, so I will be sharing plenty of that coursework as it is completed. As an attachment to this course, I have planned a "final project" associated with it and though this project will be disseminated throughout the whole year, it will involve that "Medieval Harry Potter" series I had talked about way back.

In sum, there is plenty of high quality content coming your way!

Both the rebooted Enchanted Assemblages and the Medieval Harry Potter are projects I am super-excited for and I truly hope you will join me, comment, share, and simply participate in these endeavors; I am placing a lot of effort into these projects, so it just won't be the same if you don't give them a shot.

Okay, that is enough ranting for now. Please tune in this Saturday where I fully explain the nature of this rebooted EA and why I hope you will give it a chance.

Monday, October 9, 2017

My Plans for YouTube

Not quite the "tube" I am going to be on, but close enough!
In a previous post, I mentioned how it was in my blood to start a YouTube channel connected to this blog. This is still planned but I want to now share with you the specifics of what I hope for the channel. Please keep in mind, though, that everything below is just preliminary ideas and only represent possible aspirations. Likely, in a fashion true to me, these ideas will be implemented only gradually and likely as part of other projects. But the idea behind each program is below and the concept I hope to reach.

So, firstly, I do not yet have a name for the channel. I was considering appropriating Enchanted Assemblages for use as the name but I still don't know if I just want to use the name of this blog; it is up in the air, though I am leaning toward EA. (Edit: since initially writing this post, I have decided against using EA as the name; see a forthcoming post for reasons why.)

Secondly, a major point for the channel, whatever it's eventual name, is going to be the style.

I watch a lot of channels centered within the Humanities. So, I watch a lot of The Game Theorists (and the spin-off film channel), CinemaSins, and Wisecrack. Most of these channels have alternative programs. Going to The Game Theorists, for example, will see shorter videos done by friends of MatPat focused on culture. Taking a look at Wisecrack, meanwhile, will show that in addition to the main philosophical and theoretical videos, there is programs such as "Earthling Cinema" and "Thug Notes". Each program on these channels offers a unique experience to tie viewers over while content for the primary program is created. Just the same, I plan on offering several different programs on my channel.

Like any popular channel, though, mine will feature different programs; each program will be based around the central idea of medievalism and today, but will focus on unique programs. As I said, though, the style of my channel is going to be important; unlike CinemaSins or Wisecrack, after all, I am just one person; one person with little in the way of resources. So, I need to take a proper rote, one which enables me to do more with less.

Enter: stop-motion animation.

For most of my videos, I have opted to use stop-motion collage. This means that I will be using images, cut outs from both magazines but also general images from around the web, to animate my videos. Going frame-by-frame, I hope to build smooth, engaging videos which educate as well as entertain. Done from a bird-eye view, with the camera facing downward, my efforts will be captured in 2D but I hope to stretch this to innovative ends.

As I am still learning stop-motion, though, I want to move on to the actual programs.

(1) Arthuriana-O-Rama: my "flagship" program, this is also the program which I hope will use stop-motion animation in unique ways. Focusing on one-point perspective, I intend on animating short, over-the-shoulder videos starring "Gulliver" (or, maybe Phry), a character who is a sort of Arthurian everyman who gets transported into a land one in the same to the medieval world. Here, he will encounter stories and characters from various Arthurian tales. The program will center on the conflict between the modern and medieval, how the medieval is distorted by the modern, and how the medieval is "restored" by encountering the medieval. Specifics beyond this I do not yet know. I don't want to jump the gun before I count my chickens. Each episode here will be anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes in length. These will be the longest of any program; no other program will likely reach past six or even minutes, if even that, so these videos will be the true attraction.

(2) Gulliver's Chronicles: at this point I can tell you that the name "Gulliver" is based on the Victorian book featuring the same protagonist. But, since this name isn't yet set in stone, I won't bore you much with my literary life. The point of this program is where details which can't be fit into the flagship videos are posted. Essentially, the function of these videos is to outline and inform the audience on bits and pieces about the Arthurian legend, details which for whatever reason can't be reproduced in a "rama" video or that just don't meld well. So, things like King Arthur's familial relations, the evolution of the legend, and so forth will find their home here, among other aspects about the medieval world at large. This animation style may be less stop motion and more photo and voiceover oriented but I just don't have the details yet.

(3) Bede's Bedside: micro-reviews of relevant medieval texts. Meaning, reviews of actual medieval literature accompanied by explanations of what it all meant, as well as reviews of books which deal with medieval literature and history (academic or otherwise). These videos will be short. No longer than five minutes. As such, I am hoping to find a unique way to produce them, maybe branch out and see what products Adobe has to offer (though I loath to go on a subscription plan). In any case, if I can't find something too unique, I will just find a stop-motion style which works for me.

(4) Movie Knight: forgive the eye-rolling pun, but I had to name it accordingly. So, this won't use stop-motion animation; this video will be live-action. As you may have guessed, this program will be movie reviews, films which deal with the medieval and Arthurian world in some manner. As a point of inspiration, I have been inspired by two other YouTubers: Wisecrack's program "Earthling Cinema" (the actor who plays Eric Wormuloid) and Kevin from "Goodnight Kevin" channel. From the former, I enjoy the sense of suspended disbelief one must put themselves into to enjoy the review, the idea of de-familiarizing yourself to a film you've already enjoyed because it is being examined by "aliens". I think it is a neat and fun idea which brings a level of humor rarely seen to YouTube film reviews. From the latter I was inspired by just the witty, thoroughgoing and general high-quality production. Though I disagree with Kevin both politically and spiritually, I find his videos enjoyable. So, from both of these channels I hope to deliver something approximating the sum of both; I will likely act as the Movie Knight where I review films calling them "the Devil's Illusions". A kind of fish out of water affair, the reverse of the "Arthuriana-O-Rama" videos (I may even have these two acknowledge one another at certain points; it would be cool if all the programs were interconnected). The idea here would be that the knight reviews the films and makes witty commentary throughout while correcting historical inaccuracies. Unfortunately, these videos probably won't manifest for a while. Aside from the fact that I still need to learn the software needed to capture and properly edit the footage from the videos, I need to buy a lot of material: a footage capture machine, another external hard-drive, a green screen and possible projection lights, and props and a costume for the live-actions segments (along with the possibility of a new, slightly higher-quality video camera). Aside from that, I would need to find a dedicated space to shoot these videos. So, yeah, that is a lot to take into account. Since I have other obligations, not the least of which is schoolwork, I have no idea when I would have the money or space to shoot these vids. It is something that I really want to do, to be sure, but reality is kind of pressing up against me.

(5) V-logs: straight forward, I hope. Vlogs would just be simple videos of me, the normal everyday me, giving you guys updates for the channel. They would be shot using a webcam. These wouldn't be that long, maybe ten minutes at the longest. Other than updates and announcements, these videos would be pretty rare, so I'm only including them here as a heads-up. For the small everyday aspects of the channel, I will encourage viewers to go here, to this website, as a place for non-video content and for me musing on the channel.

(6) Practice Videos: self-explanatory. These videos aren't part of the larger project which will be this channel, but if I am attempting something new and want a testing field, then I will maybe upload a video purely to serve as a milestone marker on my progress as an editor and producer. Feel free to inwardly laugh at these videos.

So, that is all that I have so far for the channel. There is more brainstorming to do, of course, but I feel I am making strong gains. If you have any suggestions, please, let me know in the comments.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Abelard on Understanding Redemption (Notes:73)


Much like how Abelard understood and accepted the Trinity but found something in it lacking, he likewise finds a logical lack in the Atonement. Unfortunately, this too earns him the scorn of powerful people. Poor Abelard.

But, before we can get into Abelard’s fancies, we must understand what is the Atonement. Essentially, this just means that the passion and death of Christ, effects a reconciliation between God and humanity. They bring “at one-ment”, as the origin of the word goes, between us and God. Today, and as professor Williams states, no single definitive idea of the Atonement has been adopted as the singular idea behind the concept. Medieval thinkers, though, like Beernaert of Clairvo, had different ideas.

Ideas about the Atonement can be classified as either objective or subjective.

Objective theories describe the passion of Christ itself as accomplishing something, usually a ransom-like accomplishment where Christ’s sacrifice frees us from the Devil, for example. Subjective theories, meanwhile, locate the ethnicity of the passion in humanity. It is our reaction to the passion, as an exemplary approach takes it, that makes the difference, such as the idea that divine passion awakens in the believer an answering love.
It is commonly thought, then, that Abelard accepts purely objective theories in rather than subjective, that we locate the ability to raise ourselves up purely in ourselves instead of God. Professor Williams,

though, rejects this view and believes that Abelard rejects objective theories and accepts subjective, exemplary theories.

The main place to look for Abelard’s stance on the Atonement is in the Commentary of Epistle Paul to the Romans. Abelard reads Romans as having two main themes: 1. Paul wishes to exults divine grace at the expense of human merit. Contrary then to charges leveled against Abelard, there is a firm rejection of Pelagianism, or the idea that humans can act rightly even without divine grace: Abelard insists that Grace is necessary for any divine action; 2. We are meant to serve God out of love rather than fear. If Abelard’s ideas were based purely on exemplary idea of the Atonement, that it is humanity which responds to the Atonement, then there would be no need for an objective idea of Christ’s passion.

Abelard begins his commentary by rejecting a theory which was common in his day, the “ransom theory”. This idea comes from certain language in the new testament which gets translated over time to indicate that when human beings sinned, the devil acquired “rights” over us and we were transferred to his authority. God, then, must literally buy us back from the devil. Christ’s death, then, was a ransom to the devil’s righteous captivity.
Abelard has nothing but scorn for this understanding of the passion and death of Christ.
To Abelard, the ransom theory makes no sense philosophically. To Abelard, it “runs foul” of what we understand as justice in addition to its illogical movements. After all, the Elect are, by definition, not under the jurisdiction of the Devil (though this point is more theological than philosophical). Furthermore, the only rights which the devil had over human beings is the rights which God itself gave the Devil. If anything, Abelard argues, it is us who should be able to tempt the Devil since it is us with originally fell for his false promise of immortality. In sum, Abelard says that the Devil couldn’t possibly acquire any additional rights over human beings just because he succeeded in tempting us to disobey God. The Devil, then, merely acts as a God-sanctioned tormentor whose torments may be withdrawn by God at any given time without the Devil being injured. The idea of a ransom, then, makes no sense as why would God demand that his Son be killed to pay this “ransom” when God already has control over humanity? If payment, then, is to be demanded anywhere, it would be to God; so, the idea that God would demand payment to himself is absurd.
This rejection of the ransom theory was what so enraged Abelard’s contemporaries. Why, though? St. Anselm had rejected the ransom theory without people getting up in arms. Simply said, it comes down to earthly machinations: Abelard was not as well known or liked as Anselm and Abelard’s opponents delighted in drama, it seems; besides this, though, some thought that rejecting the ransom theory meant rejecting the very idea of Atonement.
But Abelard does have to accept some objective theory. So, he argues that the passion releases us from what he calls “the objective dominion of sin”. Christ’s bearing of pain was what freed us from sin. But, there is a subjective side of sin as well. Our desires are effected by sin so though we may know what is good, we cannot effectively will it. It is through a perfect love of God, given to us by the passion, that fear is cast out and we can serve God without falling into sin or fear of God.
Abelard, then, does not adhere to Pelagianism. He repeatedly makes clear that people with God’s grace cannot sin and that people who sin do so because they lack grace. This, of course, raises a question of God’s alleged favoritism and from that other questions on how moral this favoritism is when we consider sin (for instance, is it hardly a sinner’s fault that he sinned if God didn’t give him grace?). In a sense, we could say that God did offer everybody grace but sinners rejected that grace. Abelard, though, claims that this solution merely pushes it back a step since in his eyes he feels that one must already have grace to accept grace. If you do not accept this, then we fall back into Pelagianism, where someone can supposedly act godly without grace. 
So, how does Abelard resolve this conundrum? He writes of how we cannot be saved unless God does what is necessary to draw us to him. God, however, does this for everyone, not merely for those who will be saved and that everyone has the power to accept or reject God’s wooing. It is merely, then, in the particular form of our making which enables us to accept or reject grace; to this, Abelard makes an analogy of two poor men in a market who are offered money with conditions attached; one accepts the money with the conditions and throws himself into the work while the other rejects the money since he hates the idea of work. Both were offered the same thing but only one accepted. Same idea applied to philosophy of grace—we have been created in such a nature that we can accept or reject God’s offer.
But, doesn’t this go against the idea espoused in the Romans text, that we are to serve God not out of fear but love? If our reward for accepting grace is happiness then are we not, in a sense, serving God out of fear we won’t be happy or because we are lacking something which drives us to serve God? Finally, what does all of this has to do with the passion?
To Abelard, the passion is the ultimate sense of love, it shows humanity how much God deserves to be loved. It is God’s offering of himself as eternal happiness which drives us; his sacrifice of his son out of love is what inspires us to love him instead of fearing him. Therefore, he is not an adherent of Pelagianism. Of course, this depends on how you define Pelagianism, but that is another philosophical matter.
So, why was Abelard’s philosophy, as well worked as it was, ignored more than it should have been? It partly has to do with the influence of his intellectual adversaries but it also has to do with translations of Aristotle; you see, soon after Abelard, new and previously unseen translations of Aristotle’s works found their way into the Latin West and quickly made Abelard’s work old news.