Friday, November 07, 2003

Dan Darling on "Revolutions"

Dan apparently loved "Revolutions." Choice slice of whale blubber:

The ending... seems to be to very much in keeping with the Christian idea of the new heaven and the new earth or Origen's apokatastasis.

Christian theo was part of my course of study at Catholic U., but only because that's what CUA required. I may have heard the term "apokatastasis" once, but I sure as hell didn't retain what it means. So for your benefit and mine, I looked it up here and discovered this:

Origen of Alexandria and apokatastasis:
Some Notes on the Development of a Noble Notion

by Edward Moore

Origen of Alexandria (185-254 C.E.) was the greatest humanist theologian of the early Patristic era. He was active during a period of great intellectual confusion among Christians, when Gnosticism was the dominant intellectual force, and nascent orthodoxy was struggling to find a voice. Origen held a firm conviction that not a single rational being will be lost to the darkness of ignorance and sin. Even the most recalcitrant sinner, he argued, will eventually attain salvation. The fire of punishment is not an instrument of eternal torment, but of divine instruction and correction. Since the soul is essentially rational, it will eventually be convinced of the truth of the divine pedagogy. When this conviction arises, salvation and deification will follow. The word used to describe this universal salvation was apokatastasis, "restoration of all things."

This term occurs in only a single New Testament passage;[1] its provenance is not intrinsically Christian or even Jewish, but Hellenistic, and bound up with the cosmology and anthropology of the era - a system of belief which Origen, in his day, was obliged to undermine in the interest of Christian teaching. Before examining the apokatastasis doctrine in the works of Origen, we would do well to look back to the Hellenistic antecedents, which are to be found among the Stoic philosophers, Greco-Egyptian astrologers, the Hermetic school, and Gnostics.

I'm very, very weak on Origen. Hell, I'm weak on most in-depth Christian theo. You'll recall that Ken Mondschein of Corporate Motherfucker wrote an excellent essay on the Matrix that also made reference to Origen. Origen and Gnosticism do have some overlap, at least in terms of contemporaneity, and this can't be ignored.

As we scroll further down Moore's entry, we read:

The first truly conceptual use of this term is to be found in the writings - now only fragmentary - of the early Stoic thinkers, particularly Chrysippus, who had a special attachment to Babylonian astronomy, with its theory of cosmic cycles and eternal recurrence. [4] Already in Plato, however, we find a notion of distinct cosmic cycles or ages; [5] but a rigorous idea of eternal recurrence, involving a notion of cosmic culmination and reconstitution, was articulated for the first time by the Stoics.

This would dovetail with my own Hindu paradigm; the notion of constant (cosmic) destruction and renewal is integral to most Hindu thinking (cf. David Knipe for a short-but-good writeup).

And there's more:

Two versions of [Basilides'] system have come down to us, one preserved by St. Irenaeus, which is rather too simplistic to be authentic, considering that Basilides was famed as a highly original and provocative teacher. [16] The other version is preserved by St. Hippolytus, [17] and contains a highly original account of the apokatastasis, in which the post-restoration maintenance of cosmic order is described as depending upon lower existents' forgetfulness of the higher realm, to which only the "elect" can ascend. For according to Basilides, beings perish when they attempt to transgress the boundaries of their nature. The purpose of the forgetfulness is to prevent naturally inferior beings from striving for a station beyond their nature, and to avoid the suffering attendant upon such improper striving.

I love this. Smith (formerly Agent Smith) is certainly trying to "trangress the boundaries" of his nature.

Regarding Origen's stance:

Origen, who fully understood the meaning and intentionality of the tradition which I have elucidated ever-so-briefly here, responded with an assertion that was truly revolutionary. In the absence of human freedom, neither the cosmos nor even God hold any meaning for humanity.

Go and read the rest. Fascinating paper.

UPDATE: Dan offers a fuller Matrix post here.

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