This may look too abstract and blah. I find it etched in the following images: 1) WW I was such an abomination far surpassing all the wars since then, insightful people see it as the end of the mediaeval culture as well as modernity and ushering us into what they call postmodernity (which could be called pagan (Ratzinger ‘ 58 “The New Paganism” arising from within a Christianity of performances (pelagian). Notice that the protagonists of WWI were Catholic nations. 2) The majority of the fathers of Vatican II had come out of the experience of WWI which had decimated the extant culture. There wer e three canaries in the coalmine suggestthat something was ups. The new physics transcended the established Newtonian physics, the unbelievable atrocities of a world war protagonized by Cathoic Christian countries, the collapse of the world economy of the 20s and thirties, the Jesus Christ superstar status of Charles Lindburgh for his solo crossing of the Atlantic, and ultimately a loss in the hope that reason and technology would bring us world peace. Instead, what loomed before all was a loss of meaning, a burgeoning nihilism.
Vatican II began a slow buildup in the next 40 years. Wojtyla wrote his metaphysical phenomenology of the acting person. All trends pointed to the emergence of the human person, the “I” and the ontological legitimizing of the subject and relation to others without being a relativism or subjectivism. Espe rience became the intellectual keynote and the recovery of the “I” – with the philsophic discovery of phenomenology recovered the Absolute as ontological and real yet not reducible to Greek “substance.”
The “I” as imaging the Creating Son became the meaning of ” to be” and the access to that “I” was the act of faith as self-gift to the revealing Son of the Father. Reason revived by breathing the ontological air of the “I” as the meaning of “being” because it was a real experience in freely becoming gift to God and the others. Human reason breathed deeply of the being of the self – the “I” – in the act of faith which was the mimic of the being breathed forth by the Father. Since the Son was the meaning of reality as engendered and breathed by the Fa ther, the believer “knew” the Son by becoming “like” the Son, i.e. going forth itself. Greek episteimology taught us that knowing was a “becoming” of the known. This was/is true. The believer by converting away from self (being loved and affirmed by the Father: the sacrament of Bapism and human love) was enabling the bliever to do what the Son was doing: making the gift of self). Hence the believer, becoming “like” the Son, “knew” the Son. This is what Ratzinger calls the ” theological epistemology” that began to raise human reason from dead end Nihilism which was the denoument of 20th c. rationalism where everything was flattened into “object” and “number.”
I propose that the goal we are pursuing in all daily secular work, concomitant with a personal experience of the Person of Jesus Christ and our Lady, is a new consciousness as the well spring of a new culture. It will be secular insofar as it is generated precisely in the world, and because of the world since work is the giving of the self in this place at this moment in the transformation of created matter into a gift to God for others. If the self is given, work and ordinary life become a supernatural event and the presnece ofhe giftedness is the beginning of the “enchantment” in created matter caused by the presence of the Son of the living God. How could it be otherwise when the Second Person of the Creating Trinity associates an individual human nature to His divine person and dynamizes it with the personal Esse as the God-man, Jesus Christ. All physical reality becomes enchanted insofar as it is connected to the material humanity of the Son of God Who is its creating and ontological center, and toward Whom it all tends by attraction for its fulfullment. Ratzinger was forthright in affirming that the parousia had already taken place when God became me and that the kingdom of God is now present in the Incarnation. Heaven is not a place beyond the stars as a kind of Utopia, but now in the immediacy of secular ordinary life where one is capable of becoming another Christ by radical giving of the self to God and the others.
The “Inklings,” particularly Tolkien, were gifted to sense it and portrayed that immediacy of the parousia in what is truly the realism of myth and poetory – the mythopeia. The enchantment is caused by “imaging”as well as the incarnational presence of God in Jesus Christ All matter is somehow affected by God having become man. It is this action of self-giftedness in the here and now that generates the consciousness of this enchantment. I offer this consciousness is the warp and woof of the true culture that is in the process of emerging
The culture we are living through now is a medley of life and death. The bright line of its death was World War I which was perhaps the end of the mediaeval culture which was suffocating from the breakdown of Christian unity at the turn of the first millennium. Christian culture began and rose from the time of Christ to 1000 and then turned down after so called 1058. That is, there was a rising consciousness of the dignity of the human person and then a down turn when the Christian experience split between east and west. Soon after that there was a split in the Church as Catholic and Protestant and then the split in the way the person knows, i.e. subjectivity and objectivity. From Descartes (1640) to the present day, subjectivity is considered by and large as untrue and objectivity, true. The difficulty with that obviously is that God reveals Himself to be “I Am Who Am” and the imaging of God as “I.” Christian culture, again by and large, comes to be lived as objective performances and dogmatic doctrines and the split and ambiguity continue. Vatican II comes to the rescue for those who can hear it by proclaiming Jesus Christ (again), God-man, as the New Testament had always proclaimed Him: totally transcendent and totally immanent. He is totally spirit and totally matter: (“Feel me and see that a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” [Lk. 24].
What I am angling toward is this work of Carol and Philip Zaleski, “The Literary Lives of the Inklings, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams” published by nothing less than Farrar Straus and Giroux (2015), Carol Zaleski being no literary slouch being Professor of Religions at Smith College. The Prologue reads: “the Inklings as ‘a circle of instigators, almost incendiaries, meeting to urge one another on in the task of redirecting the whole current of contemporary art and life… By the time the last Inkling passed away on the eve of the twenty first century, the group had altered , in large or small measure, the course of imaginative literature (fantasy, allegory, mythopoeic tales) Christian theology and philosophy, comparative mythology, and the scholarly study of the Beowulf, of Dante, sense, Milton, courtly love, fairy tale, and epic; and drawing as much from their scholarship as from their experience of a catastrophic century, they had fashioned a new narrative of hope amid the ruins of war, industrialization, cultural disintegration of hope amid the ruins of war… “