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Translating My Mother’s Letters to Tante Irene

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For Mother’s Day I thought I would take the time to translate some of my mother’s letter to Tante Irene. My aunt sent them to me in 1972 when I was working as a vicar in Berlin. They have some poignant details in them that show the untold sacrifices endured by a mother. First the information upset me too much to deal with. But now that I am more mature, I’ve returned to her letters. As my father would say, “These are stories that took place in life because we had not died yet.” (Geschichten des Lebens die im Tode nicht mehr vorkommen.) Of course there is much more flesh than my mother put onto the bare bones of the events that she relates to my aunt in her letters. Those will have to await my mother’s long book she wrote about our family’s experience through the war.

Tante Irene transcribed and typed the letter from Gruenberg, 7/19/1925  and most of the one from Vegesack of 9/4/1945. The other letters are almost all in old German script, which made them much more difficult. Only after I deciphered them could I translate them.

As of May 1, (Philip’s Birthday), I have now finished eight of her letters. In the old German script words look so very different from what you would expect. I have to return to some words twenty times and then I suddenly recognize them!

An envelope addressed to Tante Irene in Bad Godesberg, containing many scraps of paper, because my mother evidently lacked stationery, is in Roman handwriting script. Interestingly enough, when she tells about almost dying, she unconsciously reverts back to the old script.  Tante Irene typed up the words from most of these scraps of paper from Vegesack, along with my mother’s first letter of 1925, when she was first leaving for America.

But in the envelope, there is also one undated four page letter that she sent from America just before Christmas in 1955. It took me all day to decipher the old script it was written in. It is marked page II and page I must be lost, just like the very first entry about her wedding. The first page folded into four quarters is lost and only the second exist, and we break into her letter in the fifth quarter.

Last of all I entered what she added to Rudolf’s letters from Ambridge, PA to Tante Irene. They are short remarks about sending her folks in Germany postage stamps that they are collecting and pictures of Ruth and Esther newly born. They are highly significant, because the handwriting in her first letters is so contained and precise, while her writing in my father’s Ambridge letters shows excruciating suffering. In one case she writes upside down over the salutation. Her world had been turned upside down. Things did not go very well. For example, the case of the six beautiful  spoons she describes in her first letter. They invited people from the congregation to the parsonage for dinner and when they left, all six spoons were gone!

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Written by peterkrey

April 29, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Robert Bellah’s Sociology of Religion Lectures, Spring Semester 1996 at UC Berkeley

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I typed up about 100 pages of notes that I took in Prof. Bellah’s Sociology of Religion lectures,  while another student agreed to type the rest. Alas, he did not do his part and I have not yet had the time to listen to the tapes and annotate the rest of the lectures. I start with the first lectures I heard. I missed his real first two lectures because the classroom was so crowded that I stood out in the hall and couldn’t hear anything.

I was looking for the place where Bellah explained that science operates in an alternative reality from that of everyday life. I ended up including my notes of the first lecture of the course, because they are so rewarding. I’ll have to search whether Prof. Bellah has published these thoughts in one of his books and then reference it so that his words can take precedence over my notes.

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1996

Department of Sociology             Professor Robert N. Bellah

Sociology 112

Sociology of Religion

Excerpts Prof. Bellah=s lectures for Theological Consideration

with comments by Peter Krey in the footnotes

January 15, 1996 to February 26, 1996

Overcrowding made it impossible to follow the class discussion from outside the door in the hall.

Jan. 18th: Missed Lecture.

Jan. 23rd:    For the study of the Sociology of Religion it is important to be able to bracket out your own belief. A radical atheist or a person who believes theirs is the true faith might not be able to do this. Just take the attitude, AIt might be true.@ Generalities are made here about religions, but nothing applies to them all.

What is reality? Berger and Luckman wrote a book entitled The Social Construction of Reality. From Alfred Schutz we also discover that reality is not a given. Defining reality delivers real power far superior to that of Bill Gates. Psychology and sociology overlap enormously here. This power is derived from the capacity to set the ideological agenda in the society; setting the parameters for what can be taken seriously; what is real and what isn=t real. For example in the scientific field that power determines who gets tenure and who not, and that concerns whose view of reality is accepted. When a scholars views are not considered real, their suffering becomes very real. Balancing the budget deficit is another example. Who now questons it? Will it redistribute massive new wealth to the rich?


To repeat: What is reality? Berger and Luckman wrote a book entitled The Social Construction of Reality. From Alfred Schutz we also discover that reality is not a given.[1] Defining reality delivers real power far superior to that of Bill Gates. Psychology and sociology overlap enormously here. This power inherent in defining reality is derived from the capacity to set the ideological agenda in the society, i.e., setting the parameters for what can be taken seriously, what is real and what isn=t real. Balancing the budget deficit is a particular example. Who now questions it?[2]

There are three approaches to religion:

1) the cognitive propositional

2) the expressive experiential

Using a Noam Chomsky expression, there is a deep structure to all religions and there are surface structures. Psychology has a preponderance in our society.

3) the cultural linguistic

Religion is a whole way of life. Learning religion is like learning a language with a whole grammar into which one is inducted over a long period of time. Religion is a system of beliefs and practices relative to the sacred creating a moral community. This moral community is critical. Private religion violates moral community. This definition of religion marginalizes private religion.


Chuang Tzu dreamt he was a butterfly and awoke, not knowing if his waking state was a dream or his dream was his waking state. Was he Chuang Tzu or a butterfly? This example concerned alternate realities and identities.

Alfred Schutz noted in 1930 that realities come in multiples and it is not just one thing. The wide awake grown up man sees reality of the world very differently from the way it is seen by a child. Reality could be gendered according to some feminist epistemology. But it would seem to be possible to move between these gendered realities.

Thy World of Daily Life

It is characterized by a natural attitude of which we are not conscious. Reality is what it seems to be, and what it seems to be I will take for granted is. This world as given in the reality of daily life is not experienced in the full immediacy of absolute “hereness and nowness”. It always thinks: AWhat next?@ And thus does not live in the radical sense of the here and now. The latter is a different reality, which is dominated by a practical and pragmatic interest of doing something and getting it done. Or thinking about what one hasn=t done yet and has to do.

Schutz was a phenomenologist and described how in the world of daily life one brought about a projected state of affairs by bodily movements, i.e., working. Thus it is changing things from how they are to how we/they/or professors prefer they be. Because the world of daily life concerns striving beyond working, and is about concerted effort, it always entails the background element of anxiety (to which we return after describing its sense of space and time).


In the world of daily life standard time and space are used. Clock time, in other words, and measuring-stick space, which is mechanical and utterly featureless: twelve o=clock midnight is the same as twelve noon; twenty miles whether coast land or hills, it does not matter. Nothing is pertinent here but exact measurement. The world of work is built on our common agreement on time and space. And standard time is very recent in our history. Not long ago every town had its own time. The railroad changed this and now standard time dominates us so completely we do not think about it.

Schutz was Jewish and hailed from Austria and then Germany.

A fundamental anxiety underlies the reality of daily life. It derives from the knowledge that we all must die. Subliminally we are aware of the fragility of things. Nothing will last. People will abandon us and we ourselves are mortal. As a child Professor Bellah himself was taught the children=s prayer:

If I should die before I wake

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

In the same fragility of life, children still die even now. Thus this anxiety plays into our working and striving. So that a big hole will not open in front of us, we always have to work very hard to keep things going. This characterizes the epoché.  Such doubt needs to be bracketed out. We do not raise that question. Children are more into the here and now because they are less into working. And they perceive the world differently. In taking a trip from his town into Basel, his child stepped out of the car and exclaimed:

ALook! The sun came with us!@


Question: If mentally challenged people have delusions, and if we argue that the reality of daily life is just another delusion, then how can it be shared? Dreams and delusions are individual.[3] The world of daily life is a socially constructed world, a collective representation, in Durkheim=s words. Realities are different in different subcultures. Thus what is being described here is not a psychology, but we are concerned with shared beliefs and these can be true or untrue. Think of the tulip mania in Holland. This was a common delusion.

Our selfhood is not a given. Selfhood in Bali is very different from our definition of it.

Occasionally daily life has intrusions which do not fit the rules. But this is experienced as strange. Bob Dillon=s ABallad of a Thin Man@ comes to mind:

ASomething is happening here, and you don=t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?@

When this happens something lifts the brackets of the epoché.

Thus the reality of the daily world is not the only reality any of us live in. No one can stand to live in it all the time. Some can=t stand to live in it at all. We leave it when we sleep. And here dreams are necessary as sleep. The structure of dreams is almost antithetical to the reality of the daily world and its space and time. To escape we also day-dream. At home we switch on the TV. One study speaks of the happiness quotient involved, and finds that TV leaves its viewers mildly depressed. But it gets us out of the reality of daily life with its anxieties and concerns. But TV can produce its own anxiety. But that is not real but play-anxiety.


Games represent another multiple reality. They are not played in the world of daily life, but in an artificial world as a parody of daily life. The latter is simplified to having one clear goal, that of winning. Games have a means-ends structure. Our lives do not. Games violate standard time and standard space. In a football game one hour is really more like three hours. Clock time is not equal to game time. In football the space is arbitrarily limited to end at a line. Thus the limiting of space gives it intensity. If we care too much about who wins or loses, then games do not do much for our psychic states.

Travel also helps get away from daily life.

Church services put us into a different reality.

Science operates in an alternate reality. It does not wish to discover useful answers, but merely how the world is. Practical and pragmatic concerns are in all the sciences, but they do not predominate. Science cannot accept the brackets of the daily world, of the epoché, because it looks beneath the surface. What is really going on is not what seems to be going on. The earth goes around the sun, according to science. But can anyone in this room demonstrate that this is really so? We still take it on faith. Even science cannot doubt everything at once. On the other hand, systematic doubt cannot characterize the daily world. It would drive you nuts. Science however uses systematic doubt.

Art responds with more immediacy to realities. If we were to open ourselves to great works of art enough, they might say to us: AChange your lives!@ Such masterpieces pull us into themselves so deeply that they lift the brackets and place us into question.


We tend to think daily reality is really real and all others are not quite real. Even our dreams. Even the university is not quite the real world. But the insulation of the university makes it more real rather than less real. Our culture, however, denies these alternate realities, while other cultures have considered other realities much more real. Especially religious reality has been considered that way. From the world of daily reality, they will all wake up, because daily life is a dream. It is an illusion that one is a ruler another a herdsman. The Buddha exclaimed that the world is a burning house – get out of it. Daily life is an illusion and those who put their trust in this world are lost and deluded. Such a religious reality is a direct frontal assault on the reality of daily life and a variation of outcomes results. In tribal religion the reality experienced in the great ceremonials is really real in comparison with hunting and gathering and digging in the fields. There is a contest for what is really real among alternate realities. In our culture, daily life makes religious reality go under. If it is asked whether religious reality is merely an escape from daily reality, then one needs to take account of the fact that the realities of daily life for different cultures are also different. Cultural variability demonstrates that reality also has some variability.


[1]Alfred Schutz, The Problem of Social Reality, (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1962).

[2](This note is added by Peter Krey.) A good portion of it (18%?) will be redistributed to the rich giving them massive new wealth. If we owed the national debt to ourselves, repayment would not be a redistribution-of-wealth problem. But when Reagan made huge tax cuts in the 1980’s, while increasing military spending, the tax cut amounts needed to be borrowed from the financial community and the people of wealth here and abroad, to whom our government is now beholden (yes) for over 15% of tax income for debt service. I write these figures from memory from the New Grollier Encyclopedia, but I believe they are pretty accurate. P. Krey.

[3]These words are the approximate sense of the question that I myself asked Prof. Bellah.

Written by peterkrey

April 28, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Divergent Social Realities and Being versus Deficiency Cognition: Notes taken in the First Robert Bellah Sociology of Religion Lectures

with 2 comments

University of California at Berkeley Spring Semester, 1996

Department of Sociology             Professor Robert N. Bellah

Sociology 112

Sociology of Religion

Excerpts Prof. Bellah’s lectures for Theological Consideration with comments by Peter Krey in the footnotes

January 15, 1996 to February 26, 1996

Overcrowding made it impossible to follow the class discussion from outside the door in the hall.

Jan. 18th: Missed Lecture.

Jan. 23rd:    For the study of the Sociology of Religion it is important to be able to bracket out your own belief. A radical atheist or a person who believes theirs is the true faith might not be able to do this. Just take the attitude, “It might be true.” Generalities are made here about religions, but nothing applies to them all.

What is reality? Berger and Luckman wrote a book entitled The Social Construction of Reality. From Alfred Schutz we also discover that reality is not a given. Defining reality delivers real power far superior to that of Bill Gates. Psychology and sociology overlap enormously here. This power is derived from the capacity to set the ideological agenda in the society; setting the parameters for what can be taken seriously; what is real and what isn’t real. For example in the scientific field that power determines who gets tenure and who not, and that concerns whose view of reality is accepted. When a scholars views are not considered real, their suffering becomes very real. Balancing the budget deficit is another example. Who now questions it? Will it redistribute massive new wealth to the rich?

To repeat: What is reality? Berger and Luckman wrote a book entitled The Social Construction of Reality. From Alfred Schutz we also discover that reality is not a given.[1] Defining reality delivers real power far superior to that of Bill Gates. Psychology and sociology overlap enormously here. This power inherent in defining reality is derived from the capacity to set the ideological agenda in the society, i.e., setting the parameters for what can be taken seriously, what is real and what isn’t real. Balancing the budget deficit is a particular example. Who now questions it?[2]

There are three approaches to religion:

1) the cognitive propositional

2) the expressive experiential

Using a Noam Chomsky expression, there is a deep structure to all religions and there are surface structures. Psychology has a preponderance in our society.

3) the cultural linguistic

Religion is a whole way of life. Learning religion is like learning a language with a whole grammar into which one is inducted over a long period of time. Religion is a system of beliefs and practices relative to the sacred creating a moral community. This moral community is critical. Private religion violates moral community. This definition of religion marginalizes private religion.

Chuang Tzu dreamt he was a butterfly and awoke, not knowing if his waking state was a dream or his dream was his waking state. Was he Chuang Tzu or a butterfly? This example concerned alternate realities and identities.

Alfred Schutz noted in 1930 that realities come in multiples and it is not just one thing. The wide awake grown up man sees reality of the world very differently from the way it is seen by a child. Reality could be gendered according to some feminist epistemology. But it would seem to be possible to move between these gendered realities.

Thy World of Daily Life

It is characterized by a natural attitude of which we are not conscious. Reality is what it seems to be, and what it seems to be I will take for granted is. This world as given in the reality of daily life is not experienced in the full immediacy of absolute “hereness and nowness”. It always thinks: “What next?” And thus does not live in the radical sense of the here and now. The latter is a different reality, which is dominated by a practical and pragmatic interest of doing something and getting it done. Or thinking about what one hasn’t done yet and has to do.

Schutz was a phenomenologist and described how in the world of daily life one brought about a projected state of affairs by bodily movements, i.e., working. Thus it is changing things from how they are to how we/they/or professors prefer they be. Because the world of daily life concerns striving beyond working, and is about concerted effort, it always entails the background element of anxiety (to which we return after describing its sense of space and time).

In the world of daily life standard time and space are used. Clock time, in other words, and measuring-stick space, which is mechanical and utterly featureless: twelve o’clock midnight is the same as twelve noon; twenty miles whether coast land or hills, it does not matter. Nothing is pertinent here but exact measurement. The world of work is built on our common agreement on time and space. And standard time is very recent in our history. Not long ago every town had its own time. The railroad changed this and now standard time dominates us so completely we do not think about it.

Schutz was Jewish and hailed from Austria and then Germany.  A fundamental anxiety underlies the reality of daily life. It derives from the knowledge that we all must die. Subliminally we are aware of the fragility of things. Nothing will last. People will abandon us and we ourselves are mortal. As a child Professor Bellah himself was taught the children’s prayer:

If I should die before I wake

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

In the same fragility of life, children still die even now. Thus this anxiety plays into our working and striving. So that a big hole will not open in front of us, we always have to work very hard to keep things going. This characterizes the epoché.  Such doubt needs to be bracketed out. We do not raise that question. Children are more into the here and now because they are less into working. And they perceive the world differently. In taking a trip from his town into Basel, his child stepped out of the car and exclaimed:

“Look! The sun came with us!”

[Question: If mentally challenged people have delusions, and if we argue that the reality of daily life is just another delusion, then how can it be shared? Dreams and delusions are individual.][3] Prof. Bellah’s response: The world of daily life is a socially constructed world, a collective representation, in Durkheim’s words. Realities are different in different subcultures. Thus what is being described here is not a psychology, but we are concerned with shared beliefs and these can be true or untrue. Think of the tulip mania in Holland. This was a common delusion.

Our selfhood is not a given. Selfhood in Bali is very different from our definition of it.

Occasionally daily life has intrusions which do not fit the rules. But this is experienced as strange. Bob Dillon’s “Ballad of a Thin Man” comes to mind:

“Something is happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”

When this happens something lifts the brackets of the epoché.

Thus the reality of the daily world is not the only reality any of us live in. No one can stand to live in it all the time. Some can’t stand to live in it at all. We leave it when we sleep. And here dreams are necessary as sleep. The structure of dreams is almost antithetical to the reality of the daily world and its space and time. To escape we also day-dream. At home we switch on the TV. One study speaks of the happiness quotient involved, and finds that TV leaves its viewers mildly depressed. But it gets us out of the reality of daily life with its anxieties and concerns. But TV can produce its own anxiety. But that is not real but play-anxiety.

Games represent another multiple reality. They are not played in the world of daily life, but in an artificial world as a parody of daily life. The latter is simplified to having one clear goal, that of winning. Games have a means-ends structure. Our lives do not. Games violate standard time and standard space. In a football game one hour is really more like three hours. Clock time is not equal to game time. In football the space is arbitrarily limited to end at a line. Thus the limiting of space gives it intensity. If we care too much about who wins or loses, then games do not do much for our psychic states.

Travel also helps get away from daily life.

Church services put us into a different reality.

Science operates in an alternate reality. It does not wish to discover useful answers, but merely how the world is. Practical and pragmatic concerns are in all the sciences, but they do not predominate. Science cannot accept the brackets of the daily world, of the epoché, because it looks beneath the surface. What is really going on is not what seems to be going on. The earth goes around the sun, according to science. But can anyone in this room demonstrate that this is really so? We still take it on faith. Even science cannot doubt everything at once. On the other hand, systematic doubt cannot characterize the daily world. It would drive you nuts. Science however uses systematic doubt.

Art responds with more immediacy to realities. If we were to open ourselves to great works of art enough, they might say to us: “Change your lives!” Such masterpieces pull us into themselves so deeply that they lift the brackets and place us into question.

We tend to think daily reality is really real and all others are not quite real. Even our dreams. Even the university is not quite the real world. But the insulation of the university makes it more real rather than less real. Our culture, however, denies these alternate realities, while other cultures have considered other realities much more real. Especially religious reality has been considered that way. From the world of daily reality, they will all wake up, because daily life is a dream. It is an illusion that one is a ruler another a herdsman. The Buddha exclaimed that the world is a burning house – get out of it. Daily life is an illusion and those who put their trust in this world are lost and deluded. Such a religious reality is a direct frontal assault on the reality of daily life and a variation of outcomes results. In tribal religion the reality experienced in the great ceremonials is really real in comparison with hunting and gathering and digging in the fields. There is a contest for what is really real among alternate realities. In our culture, daily life makes religious reality go under. If it is asked whether religious reality is merely an escape from daily reality, then one needs to take account of the fact that the realities of daily life for different cultures are also different. Cultural variability demonstrates that reality also has some variability.


[1]Alfred Schutz, The Problem of Social Reality, (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1962).

[2](This note is added by Peter Krey.) A good portion of our national debt (18%?) will be redistributed to the rich giving them massive new wealth. If we owed the national debt to ourselves, repayment would not be a redistribution-of-wealth problem. But when Reagan made huge tax cuts in the 1980’s, while increasing military spending, the tax cut amounts needed to be borrowed from the financial community and the people of wealth here and abroad, to whom our government is now beholden (yes) for over 15% of tax income for debt service. I write these figures from memory from the New Grollier Encyclopedia, but I believe they are pretty accurate. P. Krey.

[3]These words are the approximate sense of the question that I myself asked Prof. Bellah.

Parallel to the theorizing of Alfred Schutz on daily reality we have the thinking of Abraham Maslow concerning Deficiency cognition and Being cognition.[1] In the latter what he describes as peak experiences come close to what tribal people experienced as “the felt whole”. (See the chart.) Maslow would argue that D – experience characterizes the anxiety of daily life. It is a mode of relating to the world in a partial reality, a deficiency reality. One is not concerned with how things are, but how to use them. One is concerned with manipulation, even of people. Things and people are used to get ahead. In deficiency reality the full immediacy of being in the presence of anything is absent or severely limited. In contrast to this, Maslow speaks of B-cognition in which participation is predominant, that is, “being with” – and being with is its own end. This is the classical ideal type which predominates in B-cognition. Not how to use, but to be open to totality has primacy.

D-cognition has a complete split between subjects and objects. I am clarifying that I am me and not you. I am an independent person relative to anyone. Thus parents cannot nor can you tell me what to do. This goes into our very self definition.

In B-cognition the subject/object split is for the moment abandoned. If I am really with you this moment, the distinction between you and me is not gone, but not salient. In D-cognition there is a great sense of difference from the Other. I am me! Such an emphasis makes a big deal about the Other. But for Being cognition there is no other.

Another distinction between B and D cognition is that in the latter one looks at things as means, because one always looks ahead. But in the former, the means is its own end. We are a very means oriented culture and hence we are very manipulated, while also being keyed into standard time and space. B-cognition is a-spatial and atemporal. Eternity is not endless existence in time but out of time. Something going on forever and ever is not heaven, but the worst nightmare. First Maslow did not have the question of religion in mind at all. B-cognition can occur in all kinds of places. He called them peak experiences, and occurring in athletic feats they can rival contemplative graces. Joe Montana reports entering a “zone.” He reports no longer hearing the crowd – all become one. The difference between player and game, dance and dancer disappears. The minute you worry what will happen next it is gone and you are out of the zone. This is an experience of the felt whole. The feeling proceeds through participation.

Is this experience in sports the same as a religious one? Richardson speaks about feeling a finite whole, while in religion one feels an infinite whole. But is there really a distinction? A finite whole is like the immensity of the ocean, or the presence of another. Jonathan Edwards, a Puritan of the eighteenth century spoke of an infinite whole. -There came into my soul and was as it were, diffused through it, a sense of divine being. How excellent that Being was. And wrapped with him in heaven. And he wanted that excellence to remain his whole life. He continued about feeling the general rightness of all things, and perfect being.

In life dominated by deficiency cognition things are not that great. The consideration is how to respond to the next challenge. This is the expressive experiential point of view (See p. 1 above) with cultural definition.

Another peak experience comes from P. Havel, the current president of Check Republic, who had it when he was in prison. It is recorded in his Letters from Prison.

On a hot cloudless day Havel gazed into the crown of a gorgeous tree that stretched over the fences alongside the watchtowers of his prison. Its branches quivered in the fragile sky. And he went into a vision – all his memories became co-present with an acceptance of the inevitable sovereignty of being. (That is merely the gist of a much longer description of his vision.) Being is one of the definitions of God. Havel felt he was trembling at the abyss of meaning, standing at the edge of the finite. I was struck by the love, he said, I don’t know from whom or from what. He described participation, rightness of things, personal well being.

These experiences are often expressed aesthetically in music or poetry. Wallace Stevens brings in an awakening: Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake, to watch a definition become certain. A cock crows on the left and all is well. Not the balances we achieve, but the balances that happen, moments of awakening, sit at the edge of sleep. Behold the academics as structures in the mist. (These notes should identify his poem so that it could be more accurately transcribed.)

Is there a method to achieve enlightenment?

Sit in order to be enlightened and you will not be. It cannot be manipulated. The sense of enlightenment comes or doesn’t come by itself. You cannot force it. These are trance states. Sometimes dances or bodily movements induce trance states. People in sports don=t seek them, it suddenly comes to them. Quiet meditation and prayer are the background for it often. Taking the Eucharist can be shattering, an incredible experience – when you know you are the body of Christ. Certain things set it up and make it more likely. Samsara is the world of suffering. Even in the world of deficiency something can break.

Can it be achieved through morality?

Morality has a prohibitive and punitive aspect, but also a positive aspect, an attraction to the good component. The former is quintessential to the problem. But for Plato beauty equaled the good. Morality is constraint but also attraction to good. Morality has a special relation to Being cognition.

In B-cognition realities come together. Objects can have different realities. Havel saw the world tree. But it could be just another tree. An object can have another meaning from the one it has in the world of working. Communion bread and wine, for example. A symbol has an ordinary meaning in one realm and can have another meaning in another realm. In the world of daily life we are constantly surrounded by symbols or potential symbols: a tree, a room, a teacher, can mean a lot of other things. Part of us thinks about it in our consciousness. We can train ourselves to become sensitive, but it is of itself. It cannot be manipulated.

Maslow himself had a B-cognition as the Dean of Brandeis University. (Brandeis is located in a suburb of Boston.) A procession was going to take place, and he was expected to attend in full regalia. He had always avoided these processions as silly rituals. We often say, AThat is just a ritual.@ But without rituals we would not be human. He was the dean, so he could not very well avoid the exercise. As the procession began to move, he suddenly saw it stretch out before him. He saw Plato, Aristotle, Marx, Freud and others before him, all in their place until he himself took his place. Behind him were all his students, and his students’ students yet unborn. He experienced an apprehension of the academic procession of academic learning extending backward through time and space, seeing the real basis of the university. If we no longer glimpse that sacred foundation, then it is gone. There is no wholesale knowledge outlet for the consumer society, no ideology factory, but a community devoted to the search for meaning, and if only for a job, all is lost.

Kenneth Burke makes >beyond= into a verb, and speaks of ‘beyonding’.  It is symbolic transcendence. There is something deeper, something truer. One can be trapped in the world of dreadful immanence, totally captivated in the deficiency world with no way out. Like Weber one can be trapped in the iron cage. Sole response can be determined by desire and need. Thus one needs beyonding. One needs to break the dreadful fatalities of this world of realities. To hold everyday reality as the paramount reality is a dangerous assumption. It is just a necessary one for a time. But those locked into this time fail to overcome the deficiencies, and thus ceremonies are necessary, practices whose goods are internal to them. They are not means to an end. It is not what we achieve, but what happens. Meals, sports, concerts, the Sabbath, day of rest, rituals, Time, in part, out of time, with the anxieties of life temporarily allayed. A break seems to be essential.


[1]Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being, (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1968).

________________________________________________________________________________________________

January 30th. I missed this lecture.

February 1, 1996

The point when religious structures were distinguished from social ones is important. Formerly religion was a whole way of life. It is in a late development that religion becomes a restricted sphere.

Bodily actions are central to religion at every stage, as well as materiality in the sacraments. The notion that art, music, poetry is other than religious is quite recent.

Narrative mode of expression stands in contrast to logical or experimental demonstration, which has more prestige in our society. But here in the social sciences the latter are more ambiguous. For example, narrative is necessary at the center of history for it to be able to understand itself.

Myth stands in contrast to how it really is. The former has no concern for when or whether it happened. Saga, however, has rooting in historical experience.  In oral history the meaning of its accounts were shaped by the concerns of later historical elements. It is a huge project to try to isolate the historic elements in the Bible. But Judaism is a historic, not an archaic religion. The Bible does not contain myth, but saga, with mythical elements. The Bible is not tribal (i.e., primitive). They believe it happened.

Facis [from the Latin facio?] points to a fact, a made thing.

Facis points to fiction, a made thing.

But history is also a made thing.

History, at least in a book, also has a plot. Historians want to tell how it actually was, but that is hubris. History is narrative.

Q. (Moving up in the chart gets you into B-cognition.) [See post with Bellah’s first two lectures.]

Anecdote: Bellah was at the Princeton House of Studies and had an opportunity to experience some of the world’s greatest mathematicians and physicists. They are not into the everyday realities of life. Their wives had to come to the door in order to get them and take them home. Music reached them the way normal human interaction could not. This also shows the interrelationship of math and music.

A question arose whether or not Genesis did not have to be considered a myth. What Mid-eastern myth starts off with God? For a very long time Genesis was considered history. The stories were not perceived as myth, and they were not meant to be myths. The stories were at odds with myths and intended as critique of myths. But they have mythical elements.

Q. If our faith and religion are restricted in our society, and every society is inescapably religious, then what is the real religion of our society?[1] Every society has a faith, has a religion, and it can be called humanistic rationalism (The Right is not crazy.) or civil religion. You can’t get rid of it even if you don’t like it. You can only reform it.

A Buddhist apprentice, Ishida Baigan, (Ishida is his family name), practiced meditation.  While nursing his mother, he opened the door, the doubt of his former life scattered, fish swam in the water, birds flew in the air, everything is natural and he rejoiced. He related his experience to his teacher who was not satisfied, because the I remains. There must be nature without the I. In other words the element of subjectivity must be overcome. Then he experienced the serenity of the great sea and the cloudless sky and their distinction disappeared.

It can be the cry of a sparrow, something radically unexpected that wakes you up. Get the self out of the experience. In his second experience, the objective reality is in the forefront, and in the first it was his subjective interpretation. He was a single individual to the point of his second experience.

What he experienced can also be a group experience. It was primarily originally collective, a collective effervescent experience, which is the experience of a different and deeper reality. When the general effervescence is increasing, the group is dominated and carried away by an external power, in which a person does not recognize himself. The Greek word is ec stasis, to stand outside oneself, i.e., to become a new being. A mask is put on the face, and all the companions feel transformed in some way. An environment of exceptionally intense force metamorphosizes them. The language they use is close to that of being born again. The force takes people out of themselves and reveals to them another reality. Not the world that drags along is here, but the sacred power of reality itself. These are unitive events – like experienced in Pentecostalism. The I is gone, who is experiencing is gone; there is no subjectivity nor objectivity but Reality.

There is of course a “hard-wiring” potential for shifts of consciousness. But there is no cheap grace. Drunkenness or drugs will not do. You cannot get it out of a bottle. Because there is no religious atmosphere, you do not get into the B-consciousness.

Jean Piaget[2]

Children first see objects as extensions of their bodies. Early experiences are lived rather than thought, or thinking is living at that stage. But gradually, Piaget notes, for the child to hold in the mind without holding in the hand is an achievement. This is the grasp. (J. Brunner) Representation can be put to the guidance of action itself. Even after action-free imagery has developed, the child needs to do what it is talking about. This is enactive representation. We can give a verbal instruction of how to tie a knot. But it is not learned until it becomes a body motor, sensory-motor habit. It becomes an embodied recipe for certain kinds of actions. Only in this sense can we speak of representations.

The seeing becomes important, but centered on the face relating to holding, feeding, warming and comforting. Seeing is embedded in global human relation.

Religion is always in part bodily. But this brings one problem: we can get sick because of our bodies. Religion has an important role here. Sabaton is rooted in bodily health.[3]

Birth and death are almost always central for religious systems. There is the importance of the rhythm of bodily motion. Concerted physical movements can induce B-cognition. Things can be thought out or danced out. Dancing can be a highly complex and highly intelligent form of activity. But it is embodied. Meditation is an extremely refined use of the body. (Note that the word “use” is very problematic here.) But it is sitting. The pain in the knees kill you. That painful sensation gets better, long devotees report, but it never completely goes away. Breathing is an important form of religious action.

W. B. Yeats wrote an example of enactive representation about six days before his death in 1950?

I know for certain my time will not be long.

I am happy and full of energy.

Man can embody truth, but he cannot know it.

I must embody it in the completion of my life.

Our culture makes knowing anti-physical. If I can’t embody it, if I know it just mentally, it is not there. Christianity rests its truth on the Incarnation, on the embodied truth.

A question was asked concerning the enactive mode of representation. We cannot do without the world of working. A degree of means-ends thinking is pretty essential to avoid catastrophe. If we remain in the unitive state then we are always looking up, and then we fall into a hole.

Here we are making an analogy between the development from childhood to adulthood and the evolution from primitive social fusion to a higher differentiation as society.

To think with a pencil in hand is one thing.

To think without a pencil in hand is an achievement.

To think with a pencil in hand is another achievement again.

A symbol means all kinds of things.  Rockets all over the map.

Some mean the conceptual by it. But Piaget means things rooted in something separate from the body. Piaget speaks of being with a child beside a cathedral in which the bells began ringing with a deafening noise. In his office, the child makes a lot of noise next to his desk. “You are bothering me.” He says to the child.

“You can’t bother me. I am the church.” Piaget noticed that the child was enacting the bell from the church.

When the child starts becoming loose from the enactive stage the game Peek-a-boo becomes its favorite. The deep structure of Peek-a-boo is controlled disappearance and reappearance of a face or object. Children are fascinated with the game. It is preverbal. When played by the mother or with a familiar face the child responds with laughter. But with a stranger it collapses into tears. The game plays with its deepest fears, those of being left. It brings the child to the edge of terror. But it has a ritual delight. There is the loss of the care giver, or loss of object and return. It is a rousing of anxiety and allaying it, also not unknown to religion.

Paul Ricoeur holds that religious symbolism is the central point of religious representation. Subjectivity and objectivity are not radically separate. Both are going on in the representation of a child and in religion. There is regression and progression, double regression and return to discovery. We have the surveyor, staff, and guide, cosmos and psyche, and the great hierophanies. There are great symbols that reveal the sacred: light, water, sun, iconic symbols. The little girl as the church. Images are full of muscles and they do not only affect the brain, but induce enactment.

When a child is first given a crayon it first begins with a random scribble, which is an enactive symbol. It has pleasure in the movement. The hand, line, crayon are all fused. The child is not making a picture, above all not about something. The child is the picture. The paintings of Jackson Pollack are of an adult who is two years old.

Then the child discovers shape, which is more than just an extension of the body. Then at three to four years of age it can draw more clearly bounded shapes like circles and squares. Adults with a strong difference between themselves and the world want the picture to be about something. There is a bounded form in the emerging self.

Mandela, rose window

With a central cross

There is a sense of order in both the self and the world. A drawing can be of a sun or a flower.

Then at four or five children are capable of drawing people identifiably. Then the drawing gets a face – and it is me – or the sun? a flower?  Me?

There are resonances

between the self and the world.

Rhoda Kellog and Scott O’ Dell in the Psychology of Children show that if a child is pushed to representation then it collapses, and then it becomes tedious and bored with the exercises.

Music. If images are full of muscles, then rhythms are characterized by bodily life. Music reaches right into the body. Although the mathematicians and physicists at Princeton were so disembodied, the music could reach them. At a concert the audience should not sit there like a stone. They were playing Vivaldi and Bach and all the musicians were moving, and the audience should too. Otto Klemper, who sat beside Bellah, could not keep still. Music is embodied. It comes out of enactment and goes back into it. Singing is enactment. It is body. To many worshipers, singing is the most important thing in the service.

In many pre-modern conditions music was a more central phenomenon in terms of how cosmic and personal reality came together. Pythagoras discovered that the scale had seven notes, and the planets moved in a musical progression. He heard the music of the spheres, which was an expression of the order of the cosmos. Singing is not just a form of self expression, but one is bringing oneself into harmony with the sounds and rhythms of the cosmos. Confucius takes music to relate to the inner rhythm of Tao and the state of the moral consciousness of people. He visited a number of small states in China. If he heard licentious music there, he said: This state cannot last long.


[1]This is another of my questions.

[2]Bellah is most likely referring to J. Piaget, The Child’s Conception of the World, or Judgement and Reasoning in the Child. A child’s conception of the world provides a recapitulation for the unitive event in religion developing into the mature conceptual stage of adults as well as religions.

[3] Note: Is Sabaton a Swedish sauna? It names a band. It can also be medieval foot and toe armor. I missed the reference and connection here.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

February 6, 1996

Rhoda Kellog and Scott O’ Dell, Psychology of Children.

Music has the power to reach into the body.

We have Verbal symbolization

Poetic symbolization

Narrative symbolization

and Conceptual language.

We take the latter for granted, especially in the university, where we are saturated with it all the time.

Linguistic symbolization.  The relation of a sign and the object to which it points is [said to be] arbitrary. E.g., ‘dog’ and ‘chien’. We turn to the cognitive development of a child to shed light on the fact that the word and object to which it refers is not arbitrary. Piaget is questioning a child: They are discussing a picture of the sun.

“How did we know its name was ‘sun'”?

“Because it was yellow.”

He questioned it over and over again and never could disconnect the sign from the object. They just said it was the sun. There was no understanding that the ‘sun’ is an arbitrary name. For the children the name is an essential part of the thing. The name of the sun entails it. For children the sun is not a concept but for them, the object itself.[1]

Wallace Stevens calls the poem “the cry of the occasion.” It is part of the thing itself, not about it. Conceptual language is always about something. Thus the poem collapses. What is essential is lost. Archibald MacLeish writes:

A poem should be palpable and mute

As a globed fruit.

Dumb

As old medallions on the thumb….

Motionless in time,

As the moon climbs….

A poem should not mean

But be.

“A poem should not mean but be.” We should not ask, what does it mean? It is being at a different level of our consciousness. We have to be part of it. The quality of our participation gives poetry its particular force.

Performative language is not about something, but does something off in a ritual context. “I do” spoken in a marriage ceremony speaks the vows that make the action. Poetry is power. A metaphor can change the world. Unless we see speech acts and not descriptions, we won’t understand the force of the great sonnets of Shakespeare: sense and sensibility. Images and sounds reach into the body. This is accomplished by heightened language, condensed language does that too.

An example for what language can do: An urban pastor was called into the home of a dying mother by her daughter. The daughter explains that she does not know why she called the pastor. A friend had notified the pastor, because they had been estranged from the church a long while. She asked him to pray, but right there.

“Why not in your mother’s room?” the pastor asked.

“Because she has been in a coma a long time, and she would not hear you.”

The pastor insisted that the prayer should be said in the room where the mother lay dying. When the pastor began the Lord’s Prayer, the deeply familiar words reached into her body and pulled her back, because she started to pray the words with them. She remained conscious for a few days and could communicate with her daughter until she died.

Emile Durkheim speaks of a collective consciousness. These words had been said in unison 1,000 times together. 99% of the time speaking the Lord’s Prayer is routine. It is ‘ritual’ in a put-down sense. But 1% of the time, it does do it. Another mode of relating reached her.

Condensed language is the intimate language of a parent and a child, of lovers, words and expressions, unique, only in that relationship. In rocking a child, one says nonsense things, and some stick, become constitutive, trigger associations, touch the world of the shared experience, reach into the body.

In our rush to modernization, we have lost the art of memorization. Before its significance was understood. Foucalt said that it inscribed words on the body forever. Therefore we had a shared culture. Most of the culture any of us has is deeply rooted in the body, the way traditional cultures would have been.

Benedict Anderson speaks of reciting words together operating in forming national identity. They are banal words and times, but a commonality develops. That the words are spoken in unison is important, making the sounds together. This is an echoed physical realization of the imagined community.

In Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1913), Emil Durkheim described religious language as condensed, poetic, performative, and involving unisonality. Wallace Steven writes, “The heaven of Europe is empty, like a Schloss abandoned….” He writes about what did it: “Rust on the steeples. These stretched mother of pearl.” But then Stevens goes on to give it back: “There was a heaven once far beyond thoughts of regulation. The mind saw transparence. The doves of azure. Each man beheld the truth and knew it to be true.” This is something like a B-cognition by Wallace Stevens. God and imagination are one. Rhythm and poetry and heart beat.

Q. Is the religious performative the same thing that John Searle is speaking about? A. Yes. It is doing something with words.

2) Narrative is transitional. It falls between the symbolic poetic and the conceptual. Its language is loaded, but is still somewhat conceptual. There are literal descriptions of what was done. Forms of narratives are often governed by symbolic modes of representation as opposed to literal conceptual concerns. Mythical discourse takes place at the total level not that of the word, sentence, or story. An important question: Is plot in the world or is plot something we see in the world. The truth in narrative does not arise from the correspondence of its words to facts. But story is true at a much deeper level than the literal one. A poem translated into the conceptual has loss. A story also has loss when expressed in conceptual language.

Myth, like music, appears to be in time, but is actually outside time. It requires time to unfold, but it has a special relation with time. It requires time only to deny it. It catches and unfolds like a cloth flapping in the wind. (Claude Levy-Strauss has much to say about music and myth.) The temporal element is not the key. It enters e-ternity. Out-of-time. It deals with permanent truth, which is atemporal and permanent in time. In an adventure movie you gasp and cringe because you lose the distinction between yourself and the movie. You get into it. Narrative, in the same way, obliterates the distinction between you and what is going on – between the inner and outer, between the self and world. In such a way narrative operates differently from conceptual analysis.

In Masterpiece Theater: Final Act makes one identify with a monster, Richard III. He is unspeakably awful. Great plays make you identify, e.g., with Macbeth or Othello. We say “Don’t get upset. It is only a story.”   Would we say, “Don’t get upset. It is only a ritual”? It upsets us because it gets us at a level of truth that is there. We feed on narratives. Narratives keep us going. In a study it was found that narratives occurred every seven minutes between mothers and children. We tell stories to others and to ourselves.  Brunner holds that there is a constitutive function of narrative. We are looking for a plot, a story, so that our self and the world make sense. The self can be depicted as a story teller, which comes close to what it means to be a self. Telling a story to the self encloses one story in another. In this view the self is a telling. The story one tells about oneself to oneself is the self.[2]

There are screen memories, fiction and fact. Truth is not historical but narrative truth. And new narrative is necessary. Psychoanalysis can be presented as re-describing one’s life so that there is more life and possibilities in it than some of the tellings we tell ourselves.

In universities, Departments of Sociology have stories to tell. Scientific accuracy is not the point. Point for point accuracy is not the point. Johann Baptiste Metz said do not obscure intentional dangerous memory. For the nation state, [it is necessary] to tell a story to its people about that people to create that nation. The deepest disputes in history are not about facts, but about the story. What is the right way to tell the story? That is the issue. There is a strange mixture of forgetting and remembering. We have to be very careful about both. But you cannot tell anything you like. Who is to control our freedom? Kenneth Burke states that significant narrative has to deal with those things which we cannot forget. TROUBLE. Things that are just there. For example, Buddha’s birthplace is in Nepal, but India tells it is in Northern India. Someone dead, someone sick, someone old – off Buddha goes. Who has life without trouble? Who has a self without trouble? W.E.H. Stannen an Australian anthropologist speaks of the “immemorial misdirection of life.” Things go wrong right where you don’t want them to. Jesus’ disciples are horrified by the crucifixion. But the cross is the symbol that takes time and trouble into the heart of daily life. Thus the disciples are not to deny the crucifixion, but place it right into the heart of daily life and 1,000 times 1,000 times. It is enacted every moment. Every day is Good Friday.

Benedict Anderson says that national histories are involved in remembering our dead, who must be remembered so that they will not have died in vain.

Narratives have moments where we breakthrough trouble, but can’t stay there. It is just like we can’t stay in daily life all the time. Is this all just an illusion, just an opium for the people? Marx also saw religion as a cry from the heart of a heartless world. If religion kids us out of facing trouble, then it is no help. It needs to be taken up case by case. But most religions are not about that. To dismiss religion is a massive form of denial, which really shows an inadequate study of the subject.

In the transition to conceptual language, Brunner notes that logical propositions are most easily understood when they are embedded in a story. In the broadest sense poetry is also rational and there are categories in narrative too. Conceptual representation is not equal to rationality. Stories are organized by concepts. Religion is involved with the worst as well as the best things done to people. This is the empirical study of religion.

K. Burke notes the powerful story of Genesis chapters 1-3. Rephrased in logical entailment, these chapters concern the freedom to choose, which leads to the logical consequence of disobedience. “Do not do that!” a child is told. “No.” In the logic of the situation, given free will, Q.E.D., they eat the apple. The story is not antithetical to logic. One can tease the logic out of it.

At some point Piaget’s European children at age 7 or 8 begin to achieve the capacity to distinguish themselves from what it is we are describing or arguing about. “The sun did not come with me. I moved. The sun is not a part of me or is only in relation to me.” We learn to ‘decenter’ , which is a classic term coined by Piaget. Much goes on independently of us. We come to the end of our ego-centric period. The child learns to distinguish different points of view. George Herbert Meade speaks of the capacity to take the place of another. One can play baseball, a game in which one has to know all the player positions to be able to play. It is the self against the world, and baseball is a very complex game. The decentered world of late childhood approximates the world of daily life. Because the child does not fully dominate daily life, it is not so conceptual. It has not differentiated itself fully. But reverting back, in a special moment at the end of its first year, the child may take the spoon and feed its mother. That is a sign for not just give-me, but also, I-give-you. Of course, we never quite entirely reach the moment when we don’t think the world hinges on us, but we try.

When we conceptualize, we bracket ourselves and try to see the world as it is, as much as possible. The Greek philosophers had two concepts: 1)epistome and 2)doxa, i.e., 1) knowing, demonstratively, and 2) being of the opinion, which is always arguable. The first deals with objective argument which can be tested. What it tests is always saturated with opinion, doxa. Rhetoric persuades, but it cannot demonstrate. The epistemic can demonstrate, but it cannot persuade. And the world cannot run on epistemes alone.

When the world was de-contextualized and de-centered, a conceptual critique of myth enters, and in the 17th century, conceptual conscious representation arises. But in revolutionary triumph, one throws out from the past what cannot be thrown out. In the words of Yeats: “One cannot know the truth. One can only embody it.” Thomas Hobbes would say that there is no truth in speech, no truth in things spoken of. Only a proposition is true. In a text, the metaphorical is deception. The whole absurdity of metaphor needs to be thrown out. There is no such thing as a common good.” That is language gone crazy. Descartes comes in here. Rosenstock Husey yearning for a clean slate, which could be attained at twenty, exclaimed, “Would to God we had all been born at the age of twenty!” Hobbes and Descartes led to the Enlightenment and modern science. They went too far. This brought about the dark side of modernity, because they denied too much, rather than dealing with it. We cannot really live in the light of conceptual consciousness.


[1]Jean Piaget, The Child’s Conception of the World, (Totowa. New Jersey: Littlefield, Adams, & Company, 1976), p.69 and 86.

[2]A thought of my own that I attach to this lecture: In this version of the self the speech act and the self could be related if it were not a mere sentence as the basic unit, but a literal form, like a poem or story, or drama, or novel, etc, perhaps as unit. It may turn out that a higher level of such a complex speech act could be a person.

Written by peterkrey

April 28, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Sociology

When did Philosophy and Science Divorce?

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A Synthesis of Philosophy and Science: When did they Divorce?

Dr. Peter D. S. Krey ——————— April 26th 2010

Asked by a scientist to come up with a schema to represent the unity of science and philosophy, it occurred to me that the schema used by William F. Lawhead to present Thomas Aquinas’ synthesis of theology with philosophy would be helpful.[1] Thus I changed his schema to represent a synthesis of philosophy and science. The concept of Spirit on the left is supposed to be taken in the German sense of the essence of the search for truth by the Humanities, which are called the Geistes Wissenschaften or the “sciences of the spirit” in German.[2]

The history of the relation of philosophy and science is a far reaching topic, which I can only present briefly and insofar as my meager knowledge of this subject goes. We have to start with the founder of natural philosophy, as science was called in those days, Thales of Miletus, who said that water is the source of all things and that the world was full of gods. We date him about 580 BCE. He started trying to give natural explanations for natural phenomena, a very novel way of thought, when mythological explanations had long sufficed. After Thales we would have to present all the other Pre-Socratics and how they fashioned logos out of mythos, reasoning out of mythology that explained the phenomena of nature by telling narratives about the gods. The Pre-Socratics hammered out the ideas of the elements: earth, wind, water, and fire; substances, their properties, etc. Pythagoras studied forms and numbers while many of the others concentrated on substances, for example whether, it was air rather than water as the source of all things as Thales argued, or fire (energy) as Heraclitus thought.

Pythagoras thought that forms were basic and that mathematics and music could describe nature. Movement, he reasoned, had to cause sound and as a mystic he heard the music of the spheres.[3] Heraclitus taught that change is a constant and Parmenides taught that change is a logical impossibility and the paradoxes of his disciple Zeno, conceived of infinitesimals that took a step toward calculus. Leucippus (440 BCE) and Democritus (420 BCE), both of Abdera in Asia Minor, would have to be mentioned, because they reasoned out an atomic theory for all things.

Some of the Pre-Socratics were more natural philosophers than moral philosophers and some were veritable religious figures like Heraclitus, the obscure prophet; Empedocles, a healer who jumped into a volcano to prove he was a god. The volcano spewed out only one of his golden sandals. Even Pythagoras was the leader of a secret mystery cult.

Socrates, or Plato, really, through whom we know Socrates, was much more of a moral philosopher than a natural one. His disciple, Aristotle, whose heart was really in natural philosophy, makes great contributions, however, to the humanities and especially in logic, the art of reasoning. Alfred North Whitehead said that all of Western Philosophy is a series of footnotes on Plato. But Aristotle’s thinking took a giant step beyond that of Plato. In medieval times he was referred to as The Philosopher.

When with Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274 CE) the emphasis swings from Plato to Aristotle, philosophy now wedded to theology, opened up far more than before to what we call science than the religious emphasis of Plato and his theory of forms had done. For Aristotle forms did not ascend vertically into heaven, but were inherent dynamically in things, and there was only one world, the natural one, and he argued that we are smack in the middle of it. Augustine (354-430 CE) had incorporated Plato into his theology as Origen (ca. 185-ca.254 CE) had done before him, while Thomas Aquinas incorporated Aristotle into his theology and throughout the Middle Ages and medieval times, philosophy was done by theologians, who reacted to the philosophy of Greece and Rome, if we can really speak of Romans as thinkers. The only Roman who is said to have participated in a math problem was a soldier, who killed Archimedes with his sword when he refused to stop drawing on the ground and working out a solution to a problem, while the Romans conquered his city. Doing calculations with Roman numerals, however, is horrendously difficult.

No one improved on or overtook Aristotle’s logic until the late nineteenth century and meanwhile he was the authority in science and was referred to, to settle any question or issue in natural philosophy until early modern times. The story goes that a young monk tried to settle a question about how many teeth horses had in their mouths. The monks searched one Aristotle text after another and the debate raged on. “Why not just take a horse, open its mouth and count them?” the young monk asked. They laughed him to scorn, because different horses could all have different numbers of teeth. Inductive thinking, however, suggests getting answers right out of the horse’s mouth.

The rationalist, René Descartes (1596-1650 CE) thought out a very foundational philosophy that was very important for launching modern science. Cogito ergo sum. “I think therefore I am.” He was followed by the other Continental Rationalists Spinoza (1632-1677) and Leibniz (1646-1716). Leibniz discovered calculus at the same time that Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) did. The Continental Rationalists were opposed to the British Empiricists, who held that not reasoning, but the observations of the senses produced reliable knowledge. Their names were John Locke (1632-1704), Bishop Berkeley (1685-1753), and David Hume (1711-1776).

The British also produced a strain of thinkers, who went to the edge of using their senses for observations. Way back in ca.1212-1292, there was Roger Bacon, who disparaged philosophical speculation for curiosity about nature. Then there was the nominalist, William of Ockham (ca. 1280-1349), who emphasized experience, opposed metaphysics as unwarrented, and taught that – other than revelation, knowledge could be attained only by the direct observation of objects and events by the senses; and then there was Francis Bacon (1561-1626), whose inductive method made him a pioneer in an early version of the scientific method.

It was the skepticism of the British Empiricist, David Hume that awakened Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) out of his dogmatic slumbers. His transcendental idealism is a great synthesis of rationalism and empiricism. Now with Kant we are already into the Enlightenment and many discoveries in medicine, genetics, and chemistry are beginning to take place, like the earlier ones in astronomy with Galileo (1564- 1642) and the great Copernicus (1473-1543) before him.

“Since the Enlightenment, people [have] been increasingly convinced that it is science that truly reveals reality to us and all other ways of comprehending our experience must be subservient to the scientific outlook.”[4] So in the times after Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, the field of science called Physics was developing and the Logical Positivists of the Vienna Circle in the 1920’s and 1930’s felt that it replaced philosophy, which they now referred to as “Metaphysics.” They used a verifiability principle that relegated all things opposed to experience as nonsense. Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) was part of that circle and came to a crisis when he realized that his own verifiability principle also could not stand the test and could be considered nonsense. He left the philosophers who were laying a more and more precise language for the scientific endeavor (e.g., Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) and the early Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), in order to launch ordinary language philosophy.

The verifiability principle stated that a factual statement is meaningful if it can be verified by experience. That relegated much of philosophy to the waste bin of history. It was much like the “scissors” that David Hume wielded. “Does divinity or metaphysics contain abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No? Does it contain experimental reasoning? No? Then commit it to the flames as sophistry and illusion.” Or Ockham’s razor: “Do not multiply entities beyond necessity” or if there is a complicated explanation and a simpler one, then the simpler one should be chosen. These principles did much to divorce philosophy from science.

The rise of modern science undermined philosophy, whose representatives dedicated themselves to the service of scientists, first by making language more precise between the mathematical equations that described the workings of the universe and then by taking language as the object of philosophy and coming up with the Philosophy of Language – speech acts, performatives, intentionality, the theory of action, the philosophy of the mind, etc.

The analytic philosophers, G.E. Moore (1873-1958), Bertrand Russell, the early Wittgenstein, and Willard van Ormand Quine (1908-2000) are in this school with the Logical Positivists, who pull the ground out from under philosophy and make it completely ancillary to science.

The Continental Philosophers following in the shadow of Kant and Georg W.F. Hegel (1770-1831) go into different directions. Hegel’s great thought experiment was fruitful for four schools of thought: German idealism, Marxism, Existentialism, and Phenomenology. Marx, for example, takes Hegel’s dialectic of the thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, and turns the idealism Hegel intended on its head for dialectical materialism, to describe the history and theory of the class struggle. Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), the father of Existentialism, uses Hegel’s dialectic to develop the different stages of our individual existence: the aesthetic (pleasure), ethical (responsibility), and religious (taking the leap of faith).

Phenomenologists speak of subjective experience and a life world that scientists tend to be unaware of. Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) defines the life world as “an all inclusive region of ordinary experience, out of which all meanings must emerge. It is the total background of our pre-theoretical experience.”[5] Husserl observes that scientists are first and foremost human beings living in the world of everyday experience before they formulate their theories.[6] He opposed naturalism, which “claims that physical nature encompasses everything real and all reality can be exhaustively explained by the natural sciences.” But “if consciousness and our beliefs,” he countered, “are simply products of blind and irrational physical causes, then we cannot have rational justified beliefs (including the belief in naturalism).[7]

Husserl does not at all denigrate science, but considers it a great achievement of the human spirit. But he shows his independence from science, when he states: “The investigator of nature, however, does not make it clear to himself that the constant foundation of his admittedly subjective thinking activity is the environing world of life. The latter is constantly presupposed as the basic working area, in which alone his questions and methodology make sense.”[8] There is a large gap between life experience, the life world, and the atomic, subatomic, and molecular scientific level of description.

In terms of religion and ethics, the divorce between philosophy and science has become more pronounced. Science does not provide a way of life the way a religion does and if it should, it would become scientism, destroying its very mode of operation. Some try unconvincingly (from my point of view) to derive an ethics from evolution, while others have developed and promulgated a nefarious social Darwinism from evolution by collapsing sociological principles into biological ones. Ethics is basic to the scientific endeavor as it is in every other realm of human life. Without ethics trust and credibility would soon evaporate, and like an unethical economy, would soon grind to a halt.

I believe the schema with which I started, speaks to a synthesis of science and philosophy that would be very helpful for today. At this point I would merely suggest reading another non-scientific way of viewing nature (Google Peter Krey Notes from Moltmann) without at all disparaging the wonderfully fruitful contribution science and scientists have made to our modern lives. Not to say that this contribution has not been ambiguous. Religion has also brought good and evil into the world. Immanuel Kant, who put the golden rule into a rational formula called the categorical imperative, said that the only unambiguous thing in the world is the good will. I believe that the good will of scientists and philosophers could bring about the atonement and marriage of science and philosophy once again or at a higher level of description never achieved in the world before.


[1] William F. Lawhead, The Voyage of Discovery: a Historical Introduction to Philosophy, (Stamford, CT: Wadsworth Thomson Learning, 2002), p. 171. Merely Google “Peter Krey Thomas Aquinas Lecture” to see W. Lawhead’s schema online.

[2] In German science is called Natur Wissenschaft, so they refer to the sciences of the spirit and nature. In English the usage of the word “spirit” is usually more restricted. But we sometimes refer to sociology, psychology, and anthropology, etc. as the social sciences.

[3] Scientists today say that a very low B flat is supposed to issue from the universe.

[4] William F. Lawhead, The Voyage of Discovery, p. 532.

[5] Ibid., 532.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., page 528.

[8] Ibid., page 533.

Written by peterkrey

April 28, 2010 at 1:52 am

Posted in Philosophy

Mother’s Day: Letters of my Mother to Tante Irene (1925-1955)

with 3 comments

My Mother’s Letters to Tante Irene

For Mother’s Day, 2010

Letters from Mrs. Gertrude Krey, née Behrens

An undated letter, whose first four quarter pages are missing. Rudolf is still at the Seminary, Hamma Divinity School, thus this letter has to precede his being a pastor in Turners Falls. My mother is still in Germany with her civil wedding fresh on her mind: (Her handwriting in the old German script is as small, clear, and precise as can possibly be!)

(This was among Tante Irene’s letters)

…like the English language more precisely. Rudie was to have a position as a pastor in America right away. But he would gladly like to study another four semesters, in order to make better headway in America. He has to preach in the English language already. He is now going to Springfield in Ohio. The president of Hamma Divinity School [stood] for his oath of American citizenship. Now first, Rudie is also dwelling with President Tulloss.

Now I thank you heartily for the china-ware that you loved ones have sent home. I will certainly be able to take it along. Here I have already received very beautiful presents. For my engagement in Gruenberg I received one large carton full of small presents, which I will be able to use later. Now the marriage took place, of course, in Gruenberg. It was only a plain and simple celebration, because for us it was not yet the real marriage, since the church marriage has not taken place yet. We had to let ourselves be married, because I could not go over there without being a bride, because according to American law, I was taken to be Polish. As a wife, I now have it much easier. We will still have our church wedding in America. When my husband, however, now comes over to get me, [then] I will be in Gruenberg [that is, as a German].

On my wedding day I received many beautiful things, for example, a little silver sugar basket, whose inside is made of gold; and spoons, a wonderfully beautiful wine ladle, a pastry serving utensil, ½ dozen teaspoons, three tablecloths and egg cups with spoons. At Christmas from my Rudie, I received a glorious leather suitcase for women (65 Mark), a beautiful winter hat (30M.), a leather bound Bible; and for my birthday, I received a little silver bracelet watch. How much these cost, I do not know. But I was allowed to select the suitcase and hat myself; that’s why I know the price. I did not know before that one needed so many things for one’s own household. When I think about it, [a person] can become really dizzy, right? Ha, ha. Rudie will buy all the furniture over there in America. I wish we already had all this behind us. Now I have told you enough about us. Now you are, of course, satisfied, right?

Now I greet all you loved ones heartily,

Your,

Trudel.

On the 14th tomorrow I will travel home.

[Note that this note might indicate the date of this letter, if someone knows, when the civil marriage took place in Germany and where Mother is writing from.]

(In a hurry) Gruenberg, 7/19/1925

Dear Aunt Meta and Irene,

For all of us this was a real surprise. The package came on Friday and on Saturday Uncle Gustav. Now we are finally hearing, rightly, how you are all doing. I was especially happy to see Uncle Gustav again. Now the time is just about up for my departure to America, which with the help of God should become my new native country (Heimat). On the morning of the 28th of July, I will leave here. My steamer departs on July 31st at 11:00 o’clock in the morning. In Hamburg before traveling, I will still have several chores. First I still need to have a doctor’s physical examination and get vaccinations. Mother and Louie (Muttel und Lulu) will probably accompany me up to Hamburg. Ludwig yearns for the day a long time already. I myself would gladly postpone the day a little, because I still have so much to do. But, on the other hand, I feel glad soon to be united with Rudie again. Because [for a relationship] it is nothing to be dependent on writing to one another. Rudie would have liked most to have had me there much earlier, but things don’t always go that fast. Because since the immigration list is closed, it is bad for those who want to get over there. If God, however, has helped up to this point, God will also continue helping.

Over there Rudie has a solid [pastorate] position since Pentecost already. Right now he has a whole lot to do. The elderly pastor of his neighboring church has taken sick, and Rudie also has to stand in for him. The congregation that Rudie has is very nice. Most of them are Wuerttemberger Swabians. They are, as everyone knows, always friendly and sociable (Gemuetlich). In the short time he has been there, he has already received many gifts. The region there is beautiful. Turners Falls by train is five hours away from New York. I’m sure that Uncle will still tell you everything. I will send you a wedding picture right away from over there. I gave Uncle the last picture taken of me to take along. It is very sad of course that none of our families or relatives can be present at our wedding. The day for me will be a sad day, but also a very happy one. The marriage will take place during our very first days in New York…. Now, however, I have to stop, because we want to pick up Uncle from the car. He traveled by Omnibus to Zuellichau today at noon. –– Now Uncle is well taken care of. He is sleeping downstairs at Grandmother’s (Grossmuttel). —- Vallie is sewing my clothes expertly, but she will not get everything done. Now I will have to continue sewing at home; what a lot of agitation! In a few days I still want to visit Mrs. Anders in Beuthen. — I’m sure all of you are now asleep. It is already eleven o’clock. Please write me too before I leave. I will certainly also write you from over there. — Now you loved ones are all most heartily greeted by your Trudel, who loves you. —- God grant that we see each other again. In two or three years, God willing, we will indeed, embark on our first trip to Germany. A greeting and kiss, Trudel.

(Supplemented by M. Behrens: four large, bright rooms; a kitchen, dining room, bathroom, all with central heating, porch, extra room for visitors, a yard with a lawn for drying the laundry). (I believe this is Aunt Meta’s description of the Turners Falls parsonage Mom and Pappa would go to live in.)

(On Rudolf’s letter)      275 Creese Street

Ambridge, Pennsylvania

U.S.A.

March 7th 1930

Dear Loved Ones,

In this letter I’m enclosing some Italian and Rumanian [postage] stamps. I hope this letter does not get lost. Can you use these stamps? Do you always need one of each kind or can there be more? Write and tell me soon, O.K? Many thanks for your birthday wishes. Enclosed are two pictures of Ruth an Esther.

Many greetings,

Trudel.

(At the end of Rudolf’s letter)     Ambridge, Pennsylvania

May 29th 1930

Dear Loved Ones,

I am enclosing some stamps in this letter. These are all that I just now have in hand. But I will get more. Can you also use these used ones that are stamped? The pictures that Rev. Dietrich recently took of us did not come out well. So as soon as we get some, I’ll send you some. Are you exchanging letters with Mother and our siblings?

If this letter goes as fast as yours, dear Irene, then it should make it to you comfortably by Pentecost. It took your letter nine days.

Now heartfelt greetings and a blessed Pentecost,

Your,

Trudel.

Erfurt, 13th of January, 1944

Dear Irene,

We were completely astonished and also overjoyed when the money mail carrier knocked at our window in order to bring me your “little welcoming greeting for Peter.” Let me give you my most heartfelt thanks for it. I’ve been able to put it to good use. I still had some purchase-coupons (Bezugscheine) for little Peter lying around, for example, for bathtowels, pillowcases, etc. for Johnny I still needed a pair of pants, a long time for which I looked around in vain. Over here it is very difficult to get anything. One has to walk a great deal searching and often it is all for nothing.

Now I have to tell you something that will make you laugh. The dear card that you sent me first brought it back to mind. On the night before Sunday I dreamt that four of us were [visiting] you. I saw Matthias and Phoebe real clearly. And you wouldn’t believe it: you were married! In your living room you had a nice corner and there I saw him sitting: your husband! He seemed to be a little older than Rudolf [my husband]. He busied himself telling stories to the children. He was very nice and loved children. You were busy with cooking and all manner of other household duties. We wanted to leave but your husband “always kept me back [saying] ‘stay a little longer!’” Here comes the good part. He gave me patterns for darning stockings! He could cut out [the patterns] quickly and well. He also explained to me how practical you were.

[Tirzah, the word “practical” took along time to figure out! It is like doing a puzzle and you have to puzzle it out. You might, however, find some mis-readings.]

I was very happy about it, because I had been on the look out a long time for such a pattern. That was my dream.

Immediately afterward I received your card with the question about whether I would like to have such a pattern, and again, I would have to say that I have long been on the look out for such a pattern. Doesn’t that make you laugh? I related my dream Sunday around the coffee table and I would have completely forgotten it, if your card had not come.

To this point we are doing well. This winter, thank God, is not so fierce. —-

17th of January, 1944

(Margin note: Wednesday we had heat.)

I am sorry that only now I can continue writing to you. In the last days we had trouble with our heating. Now it should be in order again for a good while. We did not have these troubles in Hamburg. — You ask if we have settled into our home. We dare not get comfortable, because in April or May this [park] house will once again be opened to the public. At that time we will have to have another place to live. The city below is also preparing itself for an attack. Everyone wants to hide their things in the mountains. There is no peace anywhere. The Tommy often flies over us. Even today we saw the well known silver stripes lying [on the ground?], which he threw down in his last flight. So it would also be a risk, if we moved down into the city. You can therefore see, for all that, we still face difficulties. The war has just simply not ended yet. I think only with horror, if what happened in the great attacks on Hamburg, happened here to us! What could I possibly do with the little ones here in the cold? For little Peter it would have to be destructive. Let’s hope that we do not experience such danger. It does become unbearable, when throughout the past days we had to shiver without heating. But we were happy that we still had a roof over our heads and window panes that were not broken. —

Your dear package arrived yesterday. Rudolf was really overjoyed with the stationery. I felt happy to receive the new clothespins. Rudolf has begun to write a letter to you. But I want to send my letter to you off tomorrow. The little baptism book and everything that you sent us, we received thankfully. I found the little book very nice. It is what I read mornings in bed.

Our children like the schools here very well. The Erfurt children are quite a piece more advanced. Nothing is left for our children to do but study. We can only heat one living room here, besides the kitchen, so with all the children in one room, it is not a very comfortable setting for learning. The long and strenuous trek to school also robs them of much time. They do not make it very easy for our big girls.

20th of January, 1944

Now I have to close. If I write much longer, then the letter will sit here again [without being sent]. We just had an alarm. Ruth is sitting and writing a German essay. Hanna is studying English. Today it was somewhat warm. I wonder if the whole winter will be that way. Is it also so nice in [Bad] Godesberg?

Now many hearty and thankful greetings from us all, your

Trudel

__________ yours M.                                                                                                                       A very hearty greeting and many kisses,

Your little Hanna

(Mother’s writing in back of my father’s typewritten letter dated the 16th of January, 1944 )

From Erfurt

Liebe Irene,  (Hurriedly)

Two days ago we had an attack here. The city itself was not hit. In our quarter some oak trees fell down. Our windows sure rattled. We went outside and stayed in a ravine until the fighter planes were no longer over us. Happily our children were very reasonable. Little Peter only had a little cold. Otherwise things were all right with him. We were really frightened when we could return to our warm rooms. Today we had another alarm during the day. Are the same things happening where you are?

Many greetings your, Trudel

This morning, Tommy (the British) threw down [from their planes] a variety of pamphlets and papers, almost 200 pieces. We brought them to the police right away. They were deceptively similar to our ration coupons. But if you studied them closely, you noticed small differences. In any case, we would rather have had coupons for butter than a bomb. The police had already gathered together a half a bushel of them. I am somewhat curious if some people kept and saved them.                    Tr.

Vegesack 9/4/1945

Dear Irene,

Today as we (Rudolf and I) came from Bremen, Phoebe told us right away at the railway station, “Mother, Tante Irene wrote us today!” How that made us all happy! We have so often thought of you. You write that the last time you received mail from us was from Blankenese. We still wrote to you also from Fliegenberg near Hamburg. The mail must have been lost. We lived in Fliegenberg, a village on the Elbe [River], much like visitors. We lived there (until 3/6/1945 and) quite well, since Matthias worked with a farmer and I also received a great deal from the farmers, because Rudolf provided church services for the farmers.

The air attacks on Hamburg area became too dangerous. Hanna, Phoebe, and Matthias went to school in Lueneburg. In the mornings at 7:00 they rode off or they walked the sixteen kilometers and returned home at 7:00 in the evenings. Then they had approximately one hour [off]. The war drew ever closer. Thus we decided to go to Magdeburg-Haldensleben, because Mother, Vallie, and Ludwig were there. Our travel there was difficult because it was still cold and we had to lay in the railway station a long time.

In the forest of “Friedrichsruh” our little ones suddenly almost all lost their lives. Our train was attacked by low flying aircraft. We were all told that we should flee into the forest on both sides of the tracks. Some soldiers lifted all the little ones, except for Peter, whom I carried, through the windows, in order to get us out of the train faster. All of a sudden an express train zoomed past our train from the other side. When I saw it, I thought I would lose my mind, because I knew the little ones were on the tracks. Hanna was still crouching in the window ready to jump down. What I screamed in the anguish of my heart, I do not know. — I could not get out of the train; you can imagine the pushing and shoving of the people. Then I heard Esther calling, “Mamma, everything is all right. They have been saved!” The soldiers in the midst of that utmost danger had thrown them all under our train and Hanna was prevented from jumping out that way. How thankful for that we were to God!

After many alarms and much laying around in railway stations, we finally arrived in Magdeburg at 9 o’clock in the evening of April 9th. It was very dark and the station was destroyed. We had just unpacked our things when there was an alarm. We had to leave all our belongings standing on the station platform and run into railway station bunker. The first American tanks had already penetrated into Magdeburg. At night we retrieved our belongings and luggage and brought it all into the bunker. We found that Matthias’ bicycle was missing as well as a school bag that contained the children’s stockings and our handkerchiefs.

We had to stay in the bunker eleven days and eleven nights. It was a bad time, but here God also helped us through it. On April 17th the fighting before and around our bunker was very intense: for three long hours the bombs fell. Ten heavy bombs fell on the bunker. One landed right over us. The concussion shaking the bunker and the air blast were terrible. The third bomb penetrated the room beside ours. Many were injured. Little Peter felt no fear; he just did not eat. He didn’t like the taste of the small portion of black bread that I received, so I had to nurse him. For three weeks I received no milk. So this must have been too hard for my body, because little Peter was already one and a quarter years old. But I kept him real healthy. Even these evil days came to an end.

Through the American Commandant we received a beautiful dwelling. We also received abundant groceries. The danger for our lives had come to an end. It was not only the bombs. It was also the S.S. (Schutzstaffel: Special NAZI Soldiers), who wanted to take our lives. On a daily basis many, many foreigners were taken out of the bunker and shot in the room of a basement opposite our bunker. Only because I refused to leave the bunker with my children were we saved from death. One night about 3 to 4 o’clock in the morning, fleeing S.S. tried to get us out of the bunker. Because the Americans were now on the scene, that danger was also overcome.

In our new house we all collapsed. The children got over it all quite well, but I had to stay in bed for fourteen days. The good times in Magdeburg ended all too fast. The Americans were replaced by the British. After a short while the English required us to leave the city because the Russians were going to have it. We decided to return to Fliegenberg and from there we hoped to receive a dwelling in Bremen.  We took Mother and Vallie along out of Haldensleben. Mother and Vallie received a good place to sleep. Rudolf and I, and the little ones, had a little room with another farmer. All the other children slept in the hay of still another farmer. During the warm days that worked very well. In the day time we all gathered together with the last farmer, cooking and living there. Rudolf was mostly in Bremen. After several weeks he had luck and we received a dwelling there.

Shortly before our departure I took sick during the night and so in that same night I had to be rushed to a hospital that was eight kilometers away. I had an internal blood obstruction in my abdomen. Now the blood gushed out. It was one good thing that Rudolf was there that night or I would probably have bled to death, because I needed help right away. It all went well with me. The lady physician thought that I might have had too much strain. I think I nursed little Peter too long. Now, however, I already feel better. And here I also do not have very much to do. The girls are helping diligently and our dwelling is very nice and comfortable.  ——-

September 8th 1945, dear Irene, Thank you so very much for sending your dear [the package]. Right now we can really use it. Thank you once again. The children are all cheerful and healthy. Little Peter is the dearest little brat (Bengel). He repeats everything we say beautifully. From the belly warmer that you had sent us in Erfurt, he has gotten a nice pullover. Now Ruth and “Hilde” (H. Fellenberg, a relative from Gruenberg) have taken old pullovers apart by the seems, to tailor new little pair of pants for him. Right now nothing else is there. —– We have the intention, as soon as we can, to return to the U.S.A. As you see, here we are not really coming to rest. It will be better for us and the children if we cross over there.

Whom have we lost sight of? Almost everybody! Out of Silesia we took along only Mother and Vallie. We have lost all our relatives. [My sister] Hanna with her children has fled to the Sudetes [the German speaking part of Czechoslovakia], there where her husband was wounded. According to her last letter, she also found him there. Now they are also with the Russians. Ludwig did not come along with us from Haldensleben. Now he will probably no longer be able to get out. We visited the Peschkos when we traveled from Gruenberg to Frankfurt on the Oder. They lived in Lebus. Mother and Vallie drove to Haldensleben and we remained in Frankfurt. We wanted to take along some things from our household belongings, because we had everything in storage there. Little Peter and the little ones got sick on us too, so we drove to Lebus. We met Ruth, Edwin, Toni, Ruth’s children. They all wanted to flee to Trude in Brandenburg. Eliza was already there. They went the next morning. They took along whatever they could carry.  (September 10th) Ruth and Toni came again one time after two days. That’s when we saw them last. We stayed there only two more days, then we had to go, the [Russian] front was approaching, right before us….

Allendorf near Marburg, 9th of May, 1946

Dear Irene,

In the meantime you should have certainly received a little package. Today I also wanted to send off the bread, but Phoebe brought it back from the Post office, because the post office clerk insisted that it was too heavy, 1 ½ Lb. Only one lb. is allowed to be sent. So I will cut off a piece and send it that way. In any case, do you lack bread over there? In the camp they keep all the fats [like butter, oil, etc.] very scarce. We receive our dinner already cooked and then some provisions for drinking alongside of it. When we come to Frankfurt on the Main, we should get a somewhat richer portion.

For this whole time I have not had any paper, that is, writing paper for letters. Today my sister-in-law sent me some and so I could send a little package again. Ruth and Esther want to make it to Frankfurt and they will not fail to visit you. But perhaps you could still come to us? From Frankfurt we will come to Bremen. This will be our last station and we will leave from there.

We are very busy here in the camp. Rudolf is the principal of the schools and the pastor for the camp. Ruth has a very responsible position in the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). Esther is helping in the office. Matthias is giving instructions in English in the Polish camp. Ruth and Esther until now have also given English instruction in our camp. They want to stop during the Easter vacation and will hand over the instruction to another American woman. The people are striking and want our girls back. Now I don’t know how it will come out. I am just afraid that Ruth might overwork herself, because often she has to work until 10 o’clock [at night] or later. In Frankfurt they do not want to work but travel. Phoebe is going to school in Marburg and is learning Latin diligently. Tirzah, Johnny, and Mirjam are going to the school in the camp. Ursula, Priscilla, and Peter are in the Kindergarten that Ruth just newly organized [for the camp]. Some Hungarian artists have just painted the walls wonderfully with fairy tale figures. We have about 500 to 600 people in our camp, with over twenty nations [represented], and 125 Americans. Very many people from the Baltic countries are here, just no Polish.

I am including a passport photograph of our family in the envelope. From left to right:

First row: Ruth, Matthias, Phoebe, Johanna, and Esther

Second row: Tirzah, Rudolf, Trudel, Johnny

Third row: Mirjam, Priscilla, Peter, and Ursula.

Can you also recognize Johanna’s Blouse? It is made of the colorful flowery cloth that you sent her for her confirmation.

Now many hearty greetings from us all,

Your,

Trudel.

II

[From Haverhill, Massachusetts, just before Christmas, 1955]

Peter was born on Papas’ birthday [that of Ludwig Behrens on December 9th 1841]. At that time you sent me the hot water bottle to keep the little one warm. Later I am certain that it saved his life. The midwife thought that the child would get pneumonia, because he always had ice-cold feet. The wash room was way over-sized and had a cement floor and the furnace did not heat, because of old age weakness. Then your hot water bottle came to my mind. [It was made of stuff like a cushion.] I always put it between Peter’s second diaper and the cover I wrapped him in and kept his feet warm, always warm. He slept, he didn’t cry anymore, and the milk began to stay in his stomach. With that you can see what a difference pure warmth makes for a baby.

Peter wants to be a pastor. He is good in school. He is excited about his teacher, who would glad to have him become a teacher [as well]. He is especially interested in sports. For his birthday he asked for a football and Rudolf gave him money so that he could buy a football helmet in Boston. Ruth and Esther took him along last Saturday to see the Christmas windows [of the department stores] in Boston. Otherwise they don’t drive to Boston on Saturdays. Phoebe, however, has to work this Saturday before Christmas, because they are doing experiments with students. Peter, when he is free, is the next boy in line to help Rudolf, because Matthias and Johnny can’t help much anymore. He has to help him especially with butchering the poultry.

Andrew is in the first grade. He is already going to school. He is very good in arithmetic. He could already do simple fractions before he went to school. It gave Esther quite some amusement to explain it to him. He really learned it and it stuck with him.

Philip is a small and gentle boy. He is very tender, has white skin, red cheeks, and big blue eyes. He speaks a splendid English. He will probably go to school next year.

Shem or Semmie is a small refreshing brat (Bengel). He is Mother’s helper, Suzie’s friend. He does everything for his dear sister. He’s mechanically talented. Whatever has screws, any machines, that’s his department. When the big boys are repairing something, he is right there to hand them what they need. As young as he is, he knows all the tools. He is also very concerned when someone is hurt. He has to be present while they are being treated.

Susanna or Suzie walks, sleeps well, doesn’t disturb our rest, eats well and is coming along well. She loves music and gets along very well with our little boys. For her first birthday, Esther gave her a little doll as a present. I believe that she would have been more interested in a toy car. But [among her little brothers] this is what she’s used to.

Matthias is in France. [He was serving there in the army.] He’ll still be celebrating this Christmas in a foreign place. He is homesick, I think, especially now for Christmas. He will get a furlough now in the early part of the coming year. During that time he wants to visit Germany. Perhaps he will be able to pass through [Bad] Godesberg. I want to write him, if it is possible, to visit you. When you see a young American coming to visit you early in the year and he says to you, “Good Day, Tante Irene!” then you will know that it is Matthias.

So now I have written so very much. I have not written this much for a whole year! You probably wonder, why? —– Except for a few colds, we are all healthy. Before Thanksgiving Day, Ruth was in the hospital for five days. She had a small growth in her neck that looked like an Adam’s apple. The physician believed that it could have been caused by undernourishment (most likely in Germany). Thank God it came out well. Phoebe with many other (Harvard) students watched her operation from a balcony [of the operating room]. She then took charge of nursing Ruth. After five days Ruth came back home [from the hospital]. She has almost recovered. She will have to take three months off from work for her recovery. At this time she has already baked many Christmas cakes and pastries.

We still have very many preparations to do. For Christmas and birthdays we give [each other] presents that are needed and that the family wishes to have. We have to take the opportunities to make purchases whenever we can. Often we have to counsel with each other very closely. But everything is very expensive. [The expense] has no relation with our finances.

Just before, Ruth and Esther drove away with the three little boys to buy the Christmas tree. They had to have the tree today in order to put it up by the Third or Fourth Advent. We still firmly follow the German custom, [celebrating on Christmas Eve]. We also have real wax candles [burning on the tree].

Johnny just looked into the oven to see if my bread is already done. Every second day I bake seven breads and thirty-six buns. That saves a lot on household expenses. Our chickens, ducks, and geese cut down a lot on our meat costs. In the summer the eggs also help us. Right now, however, they are not laying so well.

Now, dear Irene, we all wish you a very blessed Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year. Many heartfelt greetings from all of us,

Your,

Trudel.

Written by peterkrey

April 26, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Posted in Letters

Notes and Thoughts for Reformation Day, 1996

with one comment

REFORMATION DAY NOTES and THOUGHTS

OCTOBER 31, 1996

In reading A. G. Dickens’  The English Reformation,[1] the section about anti-clericalism stirred my thoughts, which are revolving right now around Martin Luther’s slogan of the priesthood of all believers. My thoughts also extended into secularization (in its early modern conception), then a description of the Reformation as a greater internalization of Christianity in the laity,[2] and finally the Lutheran slogan: finitum capax infiniti, which means, the finite can contain the infinite. Because I just studied Immanuel Kant, Georg F. W. Hegel, and Emile Durkheim, you will notice that their ideas emerge in my understanding and interpretation of the Reformation.

Using Wolfgang Rochler’s thesis that the Reformation was a lay movement,[3] anti-clericalism could be described not as a crucial linchpin of the Reformation, but merely as a collective affect or attitude indulged in by the laity while “overtaking” the clerical estate. By “overtaking” here I mean passing them in maturity and education, much like children do their parents who no longer grow and respond creatively to historical change. The thesis of Rochler’s book is very interesting, although he means something much more fundamental and comprehensive than what would be understood as a lay movement today.  A.G. Dickens illustrates Rochler’s point when he notes that a “slow and steady growth in urban life, in lay sophistication, educational expansion, and professional esprit de corps” characterized the people, and “the common lawyers, [now, having become] instruments of an effective state, were also an independent lay corporation with an obvious inducement to restrict the jurisdiction of the  ecclesiastical courts.”[4] Thus the long legacy of ecclesiastical participation, intervention, or disruption of temporal government was coming under siege. It is telling, however, that Luther and Zwingli, themselves priests, spearheaded the Reformation, and with certainly something more than mere anti-clericalism in mind. But if the laity had not been ready, (and, of course, if the papacy had not been obstructed and the empire absorbed in other conflicts) the reformers could not have stirred up this renewal movement successfully.

At a crucial time, when some priests heard Martin Luther, and began to see a new chapter of Christianity in the making, the real leadership of the Church in its papacy and curia, was completely buried in business as usual, while the lay people: princes, the nobility, the knights, the peasants, and the burghers, saw the new day and seized it. Thus the papacy, caught in the problematic legacy of the Conciliar Movement, could not afford to call a council to respond to the new challenge. It was the emperor, Charles V, and it was first in the Diet of Worms, that Luther could be heard. And then it was in an imperial council at Augsburg in 1530, where the Emperor presided again, because the general council of the church would not be called by church authority. Later Charles V resigned as emperor. A factor in his resignation may have been his inability to face his failure in bringing the Protestants and Catholics back together, because his military campaigns were by and large successful, until the Duke Moritz, whom he had newly made an elector, turned on him. His brother Ferdinand of Austria and Hungary, in 1555 had to negotiate the Peace of Augsburg for Charles V. Thus lay initiative became necessary, because the church was not unresponsive, but its response was too negative. If Frederick the Wise had allowed Luther to be tried in Rome, he would have merely thrown him to the wolves.

The church in Rome had played a historical role in early medieval days, jumping in with well developed institutions and organized leadership before medieval temporal institutions had developed thus far themselves. Now with the daybreak of early modern times, I argue that secular authorities began to feel that the ecclesiastical system was holding them back. Secular authorities were able to respond with initiatives, while the church leadership was not.

The laity thus started overtaking the clergy by means of an internalization of Christianity among the common people and the nobility. In this special sense, the finite began to grasp the infinite, that is, the Holy, as some peasants, burghers, and nobility were incorporating the priestly estate. Some ruling princes, especially, the Electors of Saxony, and the Margrave Philip of Hesse, need to be singled out on the pro-side, while others, like Duke George, took initiative as contra. But the dictum concerning the finite having the capacity to hold the infinite is crucial here.[5]

The model that separated medieval society into the three estates of peasants, princes, and priests no longer held. The priesthood of all believers meant that the priestly estate was not an external one, but needed to be internalized into the others, into all the estates. In a sense, then, the finite: the people of the secular, temporal, or civil estates were showing that they had the capacity to grasp, to contain, to hold the infinite, the ultimate, the holy.

At the beginning, of course, it was a monk, Martin Luther, who turned into the layperson, who guided them. But he became a layperson with a very certain “justification,” which also characterized the new believers in the Gospel who followed him, that is to say, who followed Christ, to whom Luther was pointing.

In terms of the externalism of the old medieval paradigm, the priests engulfed in the Corpus Christi mode of worship, were into a “visuality” of the body, a voyeurism, not in the sense of the sexual, but nevertheless in an outside-of-one-another way. Thus the cultural flow of the Church of Rome tended more into the visual – painting, sculpture: the plastic arts. The oral sermon becomes de-emphasized. A more intense hearing, out of which faith comes, is not possible. Faith and sight reach a point of breakdown. In the Reformation a new internalization of the faith entered into the body once more. It was paradoxical: from the extra nos it became pro nobis in the new “imputation.” The Word from outside, from the Other, came to those who reformed the Church in a new immediacy.

The ubiquity of mediation in medieval life,[6] especially ecclesiastical mediation, now comes under assault. The reformers proclaim that the Mediator is Christ alone, who is human and divine. But for the medieval mind, although God in Christ is divine in the blessed Trinity, his God-Manhood extended to Mary, all the saints, and even to the Church and its government. This mentality comes to a sudden stop before it reaches the common people, for whom the mediation of the priests and the hierarchy becomes necessary. In the words of the anti-clerical St. German of fifteenth century England, the clergy “undoubtedly make not the Church for the whole congregation of Christian people maketh the Church.[7] That the laity were not even considered by the priestly estate to be part of the Church is a charge that rings out in the Reformation again and again. To overcome this sense of exclusion makes the laity demand that they too should receive the sacrament in both kinds and not only the priests. Thus the laity were hardly considered part of the Church proper by the clergy estate, let alone an extension of the divine incarnation of Christ.

The Reformation, therefore, spelled a drastic reduction of the priestly and ecclesiastical mediation of medieval life. This historical process is also evident in terms of the reduction of the number of sacraments, the by and large replacement of the whole penitential system with a life lived according to the Gospel, and the dismantling of the ecclesiastical courts, and the subjection of the clergy under the civil law. With that the mediation of the spiritual estate decreased and no longer was there priestly involvement in every aspect of life.

Relinquishing external mediation required a greater internalization of the faith in order for it to take hold. Lay people are praying, understanding worship, [because it is in the vernacular] reading the Bible themselves, for example; and priests are subsumed into the burgher communes or cities with all the duties and responsibilities implied. In many of these same cities the councils secularize formerly ecclesiastical institutions: the civil courts, to mention just one example, begin to takeover marriage issues from ecclesiastical courts, which are closed. With this minimizing of ecclesiastical mediation, the outside-of-each-other is replaced by a new possibility of internal immediacy.[8]

The word “imputation” has been controversial, in Lutheran orthodox versus Pietistic debates, because the former see justification only in a forensic sense: one is acquitted, one is counted righteous or innocent, to continue the juridical metaphor; while the latter see it in an ontological sense: the new Christ rises in the believer after the dying of the old Adam or the old Eve.

But the word “imputation” can conjure up another range of meanings. In sociology, for example, I believe that Emile Durkheim’s thought can be aptly described as transcendental sociology. According to him, religious forces are really social ones experienced by individual believers from outside themselves, influencing, and impinging upon them. This could be called social imputation. This could be a sociological description of “extra nos issuing into pro nobis.” In other words, social forces work upon the individual believers, also from without, and for or against them.

While an immanent transcendence seems like an oxymoron, it is not, when one realizes that one can speak about the transcendental in terms of conceptual space in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant or the transcendence of the individual by sociology in Durkheim’s thought, and Reinhold Niebuhr would add, the transcendence of the society by the individual. Such creaturely transcendence should not be confused with ultimate transcendence of the Word becoming flesh in Jesus Christ.

Some illustration may be of help. When the church is filled with priests considered ontologically superior, who are ordained to receive the power to transubstantiate or confect the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ; priests, who are celibate, who not only speak a strange language [Latin], but can read and write it, who have great wealth and power to enhance their estate – then this church can appear to be divine and their words and actions can seem transcendent to those completely outside. A peasant who has never been able to rule, has no notion of deliberations and decisions taken in privy council with a king, when war is declared, may consider such a war the will of God, an act of God. The decrees of this government transcend his human experience and therefore he cannot distinguish them from divine ones. To a medieval peasant’s mind, the Church and government seem divine. When the government and Church are suddenly seen to be creatures, with social transcendence, to be sure, but without ultimate transcendence, a crucial step in history has been taken. The government can still unleash social and political forces and the Church can hopefully still unleash moral forces that impinge upon individuals from the outside,[9] but both now stand in the critical light of ultimate transcendence, making reform possible.

Introducing transcendental sociology can help unravel and understand the controversial nature of the issues that the opposing sides of the Reformation take. For example, the extra nos – pro nobis can be understood in a purely social way, or in a purely religious way, that actual transcendent grace is involved for people of faith, and not merely social forces impacting upon individuals.

I believe that Luther argues for grace which is ultimately transcendent, and not merely transcendent social or moral forces. From this perspective, to repeat, reformation of the Church becomes possible. A sense of equality comes to light with Luther’s slogan of the priesthood of all believers. Luther does not demote the clergy, but he promotes the laity with a higher status. Thus not only those set aside as the most reverend clergy, but the common lay people also have the capacity for living holy lives. It is not a great step from this line of thinking to Max Weber’s description of inner worldly asceticism. So my argument for the greater internalization of faith brought about by the Reformation throws further light on the Luther’s principle of finitum capax infiniti.

To sum up the basic thought at this point, we are speaking of the Reformation as a new internalization of Christianity. Crucial to this description is the dictum that the finite is capable of bearing the infinite. That means the baptized believer was felt to be capable of being a priest, of bearing the Word. Thus the ultimately the transcendent can be within the society or within the individual. There are other kinds of transcendence, but we are speaking of the Word becoming a human being and dwelling among us in Jesus Christ our Lord. When Mary carried Jesus to term, it was also a matter of the finite bearing the infinite, because she was the Theotokos, the bearer of God.

The following poem about the finite’s capacity to bear the infinite illustrates this position quite well:

To see the world in a grain of sand

and a heaven in a wild flower,

hold infinity in the palm of a hand

and eternity in an hour.

(William Blake, 1757-1827)

The apparent oxymoron of the immanent transcendent speaks to the problem of the order of the Church as divine versus its order as adiaphora. The Catholic position maintains that the order of the Church is divine. To not accept the pope is therefore heretical. Philosophy might throw more light on the issue.

Nicholas Berdyaev in The Meaning Of History may be helpful when he states:

“The age-long [medieval] dispute between the nominalists and realists reveals an insufficient grasp of the mystery of the particular. Nor has the particular been revealed to Plato. The apprehension of being as a gradation of particularities does not necessarily imply nominalism, for the general can also be the particular.”[10]

In other words, a universal can be a particular. I note that Berdyaev’s point is slightly different from the one that the particular is capable of bearing the universal. The gradations of particularities can be differentiated within. That thought can be applied to an individual as a gradient of a society and a particular society as a gradient of the ultimate, also a creation of God. Granted Berdyaev is not saying infinitum capax infiniti here, but that the general or universal can also be the particular. But he finds a mystery around the particular, and that it can also be the universal. Part of its mystery, I submit, is that it can bear the universal. This then substantiates our theory of internalization, and the gradations throw light upon an internality which goes from individual to society to heaven, the divine; from individual strengths to social forces to spiritual forces or grace.

The question about divine order is one that separates the reformers from each other, as well themselves from the Catholic side. To place the Catholic Church on the outside as a divine institution, with “holy orders,” so to speak, is confronted by Luther’s new paradigm, placing the Holy Church, the Divine Institution on the inside, and making it not so much the “cause” of the Word, but the product of the Word. The church is not that institution with its Magisterium in Rome, the papacy, and curia, or residing in the bishops, but it is wherever the gospel is preached and the sacraments are duly administered. The Church is a creation of the Word.

Did Luther introduce a new paradigm or a new order? To say the latter would be controversial. But in his new paradigm, the community receives a new shape and the structures of the church, a new arrangement, but the latter only became necessary, because the whole church did not come into the renewal of the Reformation, but only a part of it did. But again the latter assertion is based on the assumption that order is adiaphora, i.e., form follows function, while Zwingli and Calvin, and Catholic thought would see order as divine, or at least, for Zwingli, a divine law can be posited.

The paradoxical oxymoron, immanent transcendence, first came to mind when considering that the finite was capable of holding or grasping the infinite. The baptized believer was capable of being a priest, of bearing the Word. Thus if the infinite is in the finite, then a transcendental society and transcendental individual or person (Reinhold Niebuhr) can be posited. Niebuhr argues that the individual needs to be free to transcend society in order to attain personal fulfillment. Thus the transcendent individual can grasp and contain society, therefore, and the society does not only grasp and contain the individual, because the finite has that capacity vis á vis the infinite.


[1]A. G. Dickens, The English Reformation, Second Edition, (University Park, PA: the Pennsylvania State University Press, 1964, 1989), p. 323.

[2]The priests concerned with the laity were also called secular in this time.

[3]Wolfgang Rochler, Martin Luther und die Reformation als Laienbewegung, (Wiesbaden, 1981). EG Vorträge 75.

[4]A. G. Dickens, p. 317. Note, his Second Edition.

[5]Finitum capax infiniti.

[6]Thomas Brady, Jr. noted after class on 10/29/96 that medieval life was everywhere mediated, while in modern life, the lack of mediation often makes us feel helpless. For example, what can one person do against a huge corporation?

[7]A. G. Dickens, page 119. (second  edition).

[8]Luther’s dialectical theology gives more evidence for the internal dimension of the Reformation. Dialectics are used to get at the infinite number of nuances and distinctions necessary to make among those within, who are the insiders. Logical linear discourse is needed for those who are without and need clear and distinct argumentation so that they do not misunderstand the basics which insiders can take for granted. Dialectics therefore reasons internally, while linear logical discourse is for those who are outside-of-one-another.

[9]Durkheim of course argued that religious or moral forces were merely social ones misconceived as religious by believers. But for those of faith, it is necessary to distinguish between grace coming from the Creator and forces issuing from society, which is part of creation.

[10]Nicholas Berdyaev, The Meaning Of History, Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Company, 1936, p. 25.

Written by peterkrey

April 20, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Posted in 1, Luther, Reformation, Theology

Robert Pound: “The Way He Thought Was Slower and Deeper.”

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New York Times April 20, 2010 page A-17. Obituaries: “[Robert Pound, the physicist,] did not strike you immediately as being brilliant” said David Griesinger, one of his students. “The way he thought was slower and deeper.” This insight into his way of thinking helps me understand the way I think.

I remember in Cincinnati working inner-city ministry, we did not try to be fast thinkers and talkers, like the cerebral university types. The point was to slow our thinking in order to also comprehend and account for our emotions. Like, does every thought contain a feeling and does every feeling contain a thought? How does that relate to Spinoza who calls a feeling an inadequate idea? Or to Bergson with the question, does that refer to a primary or secondary feeling? The latter is reactive while the former can initiate a work of art and can produce thoughts, actions, and a whole career in a person’s life. Obviously, that kind of a feeling does more than just contain a thought.

Detaching one’s thinking from one’s feelings gives flight to one’s ideas, which brings some gain, but what becomes lost? Relinquishing the feelings, subtracts the “emotions,” out of which the motion for motivations and actions – personal and movements – social derive. Thus Plato’s chariot remains cerebral, spinning its wheels, if detached from its horses. So hold your horses: hold your feelings in your thoughts and your thoughts inside your feelings. That way of thinking is slower and deeper.

Written by peterkrey

April 20, 2010 at 4:51 pm