jeremy.blackwood AT marquette.edu
When I started my graduate work here at MU (fall 2004), I met a fellow student who has since become one of my best friends. He once made an off-the-cuff comment that has remained with me and serves as a very good indicator of the issue that tends to occupy my attention lately. In discussing the varying theologies in the Catholic world, he noted that “everyone’s concerned with orthopraxis and orthodoxy, but no one ever talks about orthopathy – right feeling.” At the time, I thought his comment interesting, but I didn’t give it much weight (I should note here that he is very interested in the thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar). Even as I began to become more familiar with Fr. Doran’s own elaborations and developments of Lonergan’s work, which themselves are deeply involved with notions of affectivity, it wasn’t until recently that it really began to sink in just how important that observation may have been.
Human knowing and action are subject to the transcendental imperatives: Be Attentive, Be Intelligent, Be Reasonable, Be Responsible. They thus depend on experience that lends itself to proper understandings that are really true and can be valuably acted upon. Failure to Be Attentive stunts experience; data can be ignored, and then the insight that could arise from them will not occur. Unfortunately, it is commonly the case that we never become conscious of such ignorance.
This, in very brief terms, is the issue to which Fr. Doran addresses himself in discussing psychic conversion. It is the mechanism of the ‘censor’ that determines preconscious ignorance, and Doran sees psychic conversion as the change in the role of the censor from repression to construction: rather than holding back images that might be painful, the censor brings forth images that are needed for proper insights.
Connected with psychic conversion but distinct from it, I think, is the issue of the cultivation of our feelings. If, after all, “values are apprehended in feelings” (MiT 30-31) (giving proper due to Fr. Doran’s more recent relating of this to Ignatian discernment), does not the proper apprehension of values demand a proper development of feeling, just as the proper grasp of intelligibility requires a proper development of intelligence? And further, if ‘mystical experience’ is to be conceived as the experience of the fulfillment of the transcendental notions, then should we not note as well that the authenticity of this experience demands a cultivation of feeling?
Enter my other major interest: Eastern Christian mystical theology. Fr. Alexander Golitzin is our primary expert on this area here at MU. An Orthodox Christian who studied under John Meyendorff at
However, this is not necessarily an easy position for contemporary theology, inside or outside the Lonergan community, to accept. It is something of a commonplace in Western theology to see a rift between devotional reflection and theological rigor. It is the difference Doran has pointed out between scholars working out of a ‘Lonerganian’ horizon and those working out of a ‘Balthasarian’ horizon. Essentially, this is the past conflict between monastic theology and the theology of the universities, and it continues to be a dividing element both within Western theology and between Christian East and West.
To return to my own biographical illustrations, my interests in both Lonergan scholarship and Eastern Christian mystical literature are not the forcing together of oil and water. In fact, I don’t want to force them together at all. In no way should a project such as I envision result in the reduction of one type of theology to another. I want to maintain their distinctiveness; I want to let Eastern monastic theology be monastic, and I want to let Western systematic theology be Western and systematic. If they cease to retain their differing characteristics, I have nothing left to do!
As a final brief note, I expect there to be a long-term benefits in another direction. Fr. Doran has remarked both in and out of classes that a major pressing need for theology in the 21st century is pneumatology. I, for one, suspect that any pneumatology developed without reference to both the intellective and affective dimensions of theology and Christian life will be far less fruitful than it might have been, and I hope my own work might contribute to that endeavor.