The human person

Discussion in 'Theology' started by Thomas, Jan 23, 2009.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I am currently working on notes for a post and discussion on the topic of anthropology. I will be submitting from the traditional Christian perspective, and invite posts from other viewpoints.

    Thomas
     
  2. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    I look forward to it.
     
  3. Nick_A

    Nick_A Interfaith Forums

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    What you mean is Catholic perspective. Don't confuse the two.
     
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Nick —
    By 'traditional Christian' I mean that of the Latin West and Orthodox East. I will also point out the major schisms that occurred along the way as a philosophy of the person developed, such as Nestorianism and Oriental Orthodoxy, which, although primarily Christological, do impact on the understanding of the human person as such.

    By 'traditonal' I tend to imply Christianity before the Reformation, which sought to refute 'tradition' as such (although the reformers were happy to refer to it when it suited them).

    It is my hope that the voice of Orthodox Patriarchy would be represented on IO, (there's issues I'd like to explore) but I must admit it's unlikely at the moment.

    There is a growing consensus between East and West that whilst we share a common faith, it's theological expression differs — Bishop Kallistos Ware of the Greek Orthodox Church has spoken of the differences that once divided East and West as being more in the eyes of the beholder than in reality.

    Many of the orthodox churches, such as the Coptic Orthodox, are actually now in communion with Rome ... I defy anyone to explain the technical point upon which we fell out (again politics was behind the schism).

    The big issues remain with the Greek Orthodox and the Russian Orthodox, and tragically the underlying current there is also political rather than theological.

    Thomas
     
  5. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Will your paper include comment on Jesus as a human person?

    Just curious. We were discussing the humanity and divinity of Jesus in my seminar today. The Incarnation is just fascinating and it seems like we learn a lot about ourselves, each other, the Church, and our relationship with God when we explore it together.

    And it is interesting that the earlier heresy (falling shortness) was strongly docetic, while today we have the opposite POV.
     
  6. TealLeaf

    TealLeaf Soul Adventurer

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    "The Human person"?

    Is there any other kind?
     
  7. greymare

    greymare New Member

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    oh, i dont know. I know of a few Id call sub human. And others that think they are "more than" human.
     
  8. Paladin

    Paladin Purchased Bewilderment

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    Well, there was that little experiment that Seattlegal was working on a few years back... but we all vowed never to speak of it again.
     
  9. greymare

    greymare New Member

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    guinea pigs??? did I hear someone volunteer???
     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Yep.

    Christianity focusses on the person as a concrete reality, whereas Buddhism for example, as I understand it, sees the 'person' as all part of the illusion.

    Thomas
     
  11. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The idea of Person in the Christian Tradition

    The idea of the person combines many strands of ancient thought, so before looking at the Christian model, it's worth looking at some of the streams of thought that fed into it.

    Among the Etruscans, the term 'person' has its roots in the word used for the mask, Phersu, in the Cult of Persephone. Under the Romans the term was used to designate the mask through which the actor spoke any character; it referred to that which represented the character and at the same time was the device through which the actor sounded the character's spoken words (Lt: per-sonare).

    In Roman jurisprudence the term was being used with regard to something actually existing in its own right. The dignity of the 'person' was possessed only by those who possessed full civic status, that is, male adult citizens. Children, slaves, women and (generally) foreigners were not held to be persons in the law, and thus could not bring a case before the courts.

    With Cicero however, the term took on a more immediately metaphysical meaning, denoting what is distinctive in each individual, as contrasted with a nature shared in common by all. In the short period of three centuries or less, the Latin term had acquired an unusually rich contextual meaning.

    +++

    Meanwhile in Greece a term (prosopon) with a different etymology began a career that would merge with that of the Latin persona to name this distinctive reality in the European languages. The Greeks placed the emphasis upon a direct face to face visual encounter (pro-, ops-, on: 'to see and be seen'), so that a highly charged aspect of intimacy came to the fore (in the I-thou relation). The term was associated with the face which, as Aristotle said, is more than a physiological structure insofar as it is the expressive bearer of a distinctive inner (i.e. personal) meaning.

    +++

    Scripture played a role as a third source and decisive source in the development of the idea of the person. The Fathers, although by majority Greek, took their primary data from Scripture (not philosophy), and so saw the person not as a bilateral entity but as a single holistic corporate entity of body and soul.

    The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew bible into Greek used the term prosopon, when the Lord spoke, and the Latin translators naturally enough rendered that word as persona, so that both the Greek and Latin usage converged to introduce the term respectively into the Eastern and Western European languages.

    +++

    The next development occurred in the context of theological doctrine.

    The doctrine of the Incarnation necessitated a new vocabulary towards which the Fathers groped. Christ was both God and man — "fully God and fully man" (Chalcedon 451AD) — possessed of both divine and human natures, yet he was also singularly one, individual and unique — a person. The formula arrived at is still confessed by most churches that call themselves Christian: One person of two natures. This Christological definition is by no means a dry, technical and theological event. There were riots, bloodletting and schism.

    The Church insisted upon this definition because in uniting humanity with divinity in such an intimate way, that is, by drawing human nature and the human being in the closest possible way into the very being and nature of the divine person, the whole of humanity was called to an unprecedented dignity.

    +++

    Notes distilled from:
    Towards A Contemporary Anthropology of the Person
    Kenneth L. Schmitz
    Professor of Philosophy at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family;
    Fellow of Trinity College;
    Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Toronto.
     
  12. TealLeaf

    TealLeaf Soul Adventurer

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    With regards to Buddhism I do not believe that is necessarily true. I am no expert but I believe it depends on the particular school of Buddhism.
     
  13. Nick_A

    Nick_A Interfaith Forums

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    The human person is in the image of God which means man is a "mirocosm." Fallen man doesn't express the wholeness of the microsm but rather the diversity of reacting parts, However man has this potential for a conscious wholeness that would be in the image. In Christianity, the process of the change of being from diversity into wholeness is re-birth.

    From Jacob Needleman's book "A Sense of the Cosmos" chapter one:

    Part Five

    Microcosmic Man
    At this point it is necessary to introduce the idea of the microcosm, which will guide much of the thinking in this book.
    [​IMG] Many statements of this ancient idea are so literal-minded as to make it seem incredible that people ever took it seriously. On the other hand, most contemporary attempts to make use of the idea of man as a universe transform it into something so metaphorical and commonplace as to make it equally incredible that anyone could ever doubt it.
    Yet the mystery, that is to say the energy, of the idea of the microcosm has somehow survived even to this day. Of all the fragments that have come down to us from the ancient teachings it alone has resisted capture by either science or religion.
    How to approach it? Were I to attempt a historical presentation I would have to summarize the metaphysical and psychological teachings of every great tradition that has exerted influence throughout recorded history. For, this idea in one or another form resides at the core of all traditions. In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, we are most familiar with its expression in the teaching that man is made in the image of God--God, the Creator and Preserver of the Universal Wholeness in all its gradations and levels. The traditions of India speak of the Divine Cosmic Man whose dispersal into fragments constitute the creation of the world and whose re-collection is the sole essential task of human life. In Buddhism we find the doctrine that all the levels of being, from mineral up through the gods, are contained in Man--Man, the center and Man the all-embracing Void. The traditions of China revolve around the idea of the King, the Great Man who governs the parts of existence. One could go on with this listing--through the teachings of Egypt, black Africa, the American Indian; in Plato and in the Stoic philosophers; throughout the great tapestry of alchemy in all lands. The idea is everywhere.
    Yet for all the force that this idea still contains, and despite the record of its presence in all cultures and times, it is obvious that the key to our understanding it is missing and needs to be rediscovered in our own experience. Otherwise, it could never have happened that of all the civilizations that we know, ours is the only one in which this idea not only does not occupy a central place, but is so far from the center of our thinking that when people--scientists or otherwise--make use of it, they do so as though they were coming across a "new image" or a "new slant."
    [​IMG] Man is the universe in miniature--such is the bare statement of the idea of the microcosm. But as our conception of the universe is dictated to us by the scientific world view, the idea in this bald form adds nothing to our self-understanding. In this form, the idea tells us only that the same laws and substances that govern and constitute the stars also govern and constitute the human organism. But what kinds of laws? And what kind of substances?
    Our understanding of the microcosmos is thus severely constricted by our preconceptions about the cosmos. For, when we think about the universe, what do we picture to ourselves? Simply repeating that it is unimaginably vast and great has the inevitable effect of allowing our thought to come to rest, which is equivalent to the illusion of having grasped something about the Whole. The idea that the universe is in man therefore leaves us untouched.
    But it is enough actively to imagine the little we know of what takes place on this small planet earth for us to glimpse the power in the idea of the microcosm. One thinks of both the long, slow formation of the continents and the instantaneous eruption of a volcano; the birth and death of species that inhabit the earth for millions of years compared with the minute life span of a single celled organism; the constant movement everywhere of the winds and the stillness of rock and ice. There is the internal harmony of the ecosystem which is yet composed of conflict, mutual killing, fire and storm; there is gradual, subtle growth constantly in process in all things and the sudden destruction brought by earthquake, climatic change and disease; there are all possible movements upward and downward, collisions of fate every where at every moment.
    But more than that, there are the laws that govern all these processes, the intelligence that adapts, reacts, creates and destroys within ever larger and more fundamental scales of intelligence and law. Is this intelligence, this all-penetrating hierarchy of purposeful law, something that is only of the earth? Or does it not pervade the whole of reality?
    We must remember that these few examples are of processes and patterns among which we ourselves live and which we have more or less actually experienced. But if we now move in our imagination beyond the earth toward the complex life of planets and moons, and toward the sun, the stars and the galaxies. . .
    [​IMG] At this point the question becomes serious: What does it mean that all this is man? And not only in man as separate processes in all their variety, but as a cosmos, an ordered whole under the rule of a ladder of governing, lawful intelligence? The response seems clear: In whatever sense and whatever way all this is in man, it is not in my awareness. I, this individual person, pursue my life nowhere near an awareness in myself of this incredible spectrum of time, force and structure, not to mention the intelligence that governs it from without and within. This realization is the key to the idea of the microcosm. And it is precisely this key that is missing or unemphasized in almost every account of it that we may come upon: Man is a microcosm, but I am not that man.
    With this key in hand, we may now admit the idea of microcosmic man into our thinking.
     
  14. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Nick —

    I owe a huge debt to Needleman, who introduced me to the Philosophia Perennis in "The Sword of Gnosis" (which I think is in reprint). It's a brilliant general introduction to the subject and its foremost spokespersons.

    I tend to regard him as a good populariser, a point from which to start off and go deeper. Whilst he does sterling service in highlighting the commonalities between traditions, he makes too light of the differences, and thus the reader (and perhaps himself) misses the essence of the tradition in question. Of course for many, that's not their interest. For that you have to go to the tradition itself, and the reading is usually a lot more demanding.

    This is the kind of generalisation I'm not happy with. What traditions? Not the Hindu Tradition, which I would have thought was pretty fundamental, as the above statement renders the Absolute as relative, whereas Hindu metaphysics assets the 'absoluteness' of the Absolute as a first principle. Once you've got that, statements such as the above can be appreciated in their proper light.

    Are we not still at the level of a 'relative absolute'? Is there an Absolute in Buddhism? The quote implies not.

    Yes it is, but it is also surpassed, the later neoPlatonists, Plotinus for instance, talk of 'beyond-being' ... perhaps I'm being unfair, perhaps this is an early stage in Needleman's thesis, but be that as it may, it does not apply to Christianity, any more than it does to Middle and Later Platonism, to Judaism, to Islamic Philosophy ... they all go beyond the points made here.

    In Christianity, the Divine is immanently present to man, but is not intrinsic to his nature, else he would be himself divine. The main point is that in Christianity, in the Holy Trinity, the Absolute Transcendent is present in an absolutely immanent manner.

    Thus God in Himself is 'absolutely absolute' whereas God in relation to man is 'absolutely relative' — the point to remember, and this is where the Perennialists go wrong (Schuon, who coined the terms 'relative-Absolute' and 'Absolute-relative' especially), is that the Immanent Presence is that of the Absolute God, not some secondary, intermediate and relative principle (as the Arians insisted). What is relative then, always, is man, in relation to God.

    1 Corinthians 3:16 "Know you not, that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"

    1 Corinthians 3:17 "But if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which you are."

    1 Corinthians 6:19 "Or know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own?"

    In the Christian Tradition, we find the teaching that man is the apex of the created and natural order, with a soul receptive to the supernatural in its formation, as St Augustine says (De Trinitate), man is capax Dei, made to know God.

    +++

    I could not agree more. A condition that is the direct result of a raft of errors that was condemned under the general title of 'modernism'.

    René Guénon's masterful "Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times" is widely acknowledged as a scathing attack on modernism, which he regards as anti-traditionalism — in effect a blanket rejection of spiritual wisdom in favour of material comfortability — in the modern era.

    Alleluia! For were we that man, we would be gods unto ourselves.

    ... which is, of course, where Adam went wrong, and in whose weary footsteps we've been treading ever since ...

    Thomas
     
  15. Nick_A

    Nick_A Interfaith Forums

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    Cosmology and its levels of reality suggest that God exists as the Absolute, as ONE, and is "being." Being is "isness" We cannot get beyond being since it is God. Existence is an expression of God as THREE, which devolves into creation in the process of involution and yet returns to its source as evolution. The "Breath of Brahma is an expression of this process:

    http://www.sssbpt.info/vahinis/Sutra/Sutra11.pdf

    Buddhism expresses this idea of a universal cycle in its concept of time as kalpas.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalpa_(time_unit)

    I am not referring to pantheism where God and creation are relative but rather levels of reality that begin with God the Absolute being intentionally creating existence by dividing initially into THREE.

    Man as a microcosm within the great scale of being exists in a fallen state that can evolve in the direction of it origin.

    Part of the question of what the human person is contains the question what it is for:

    http://www.jacobneedleman.com/The True Human Body.pdf

    [FONT=XEGJOR+GalliardLT-Roman][FONT=XEGJOR+GalliardLT-Roman]
    [/FONT]​
    [/FONT][FONT=XEGJOR+GalliardLT-Roman]
    [FONT=XEGJOR+GalliardLT-Roman]So conscious evolved humanity is capable of enableing "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" through connecting these levels of reality.[/FONT]

    [FONT=XEGJOR+GalliardLT-Roman]Man may be a microcosm but we are not that man so incapable of human potential that creates the real human person.[/FONT]
    [/FONT]

     
  16. Bandit

    Bandit New Member

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    The 916,560,623,478,743,178,979,856,132,564,297,564,993,925th godhead debate.
     
  17. Nick_A

    Nick_A Interfaith Forums

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    There are of course Men and there are men. This is a politically incorrect notion since it implies that there is a scale of objective quality to human existence so appears elitist and worthy of PC growls. But here is an interesting account from the Buddhist perspective. Take from it what you will. A true human person may be more rare then you think

    http://www.jacobneedleman.com/Books/Time and the Soul new intro.pdf

    ..........My friend had lived a long time in North America and was a frequent visitor to the United States. He was a layman, married and a father; he did not hold religious office and was not materially supported by a religious community. He had to make his way in the same world as the rest of us; he wore neither the robes, nor the social "armor," of a lama or guru. One sensed in him the depth of Asian wisdom uniquely joined to the raw experience of the conditions of modern, Western culture with all its shocks and temptations, all its psychological, social and financial pressures, its tempo, its brilliance and its darkness. He was outwardly and inwardly a man who lived in and between two worlds—one an ancient, spiritually determined society and the other our own culture with its progressively diminishing understanding of the being of man.
    We were discussing the Buddhist idea of what it means to be a human. One of the most compelling expressions of the Buddhist notion of humanness concerns the rarity of the event of being born into the world in human form, in contrast to the other forms of existence that Buddhism recognizes: animals, plants, denizens of hell, "gods," "goddesses," "angels" and demons of all kinds. In the symbolic realism of the Tibetan tradition human beings occupy a uniquely central place in the whole cosmic scheme, precisely intermediate between the "gods"(who themselves are victims of "higher" illusions) and the ghosts and denizens of the lower worlds. In this central cosmic place, containing within himself all the impulses and forces of all the worlds, man alone has the possibility of working to escape from ​
    [FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman]samsara, [/FONT][/FONT]the endlessly turning cycle of illusion and suffering.

    I was asking my friend about one of the most striking ways that the Tibetans express the uniqueness of the human condition. Imagine, they say, that deep in the vast
    ocean there swims a great and ancient turtle who surfaces for air only once every hundred years. Imagine further that floating somewhere in the ocean is a single ox-yoke carried here and there by the random waves and currents . What are the chances that when the turtle surfaces, his head will happen to emerge precisely through the center of the ox-yoke? ​
    [FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman]That [/FONT][/FONT]is how rare it is to be born as a human being!
    In the middle of our conversation, I pointed to the crowds of men and women rushing by on the street and I gestured in a way to indicate not only them, but all the thousands and millions of people rushing around in the world. "Tell me, Lobsang," I said, "if it is so rare to be born a human being, how come there are so many people in the world?"
    My friend slowed his pace and then stopped. He waited for a moment, taking in my question. I remember suddenly being able to hear, as though for the first time, the loud and frenetic traffic all around us. He looked at me and very quietly replied:
    "How many human beings do you see?"

    In a flash, I understood the meaning of the story and the idea. Most of the people I was seeing, in the inner state they were in at that moment, were not really people at all. Most were what the Tibetans call "hungry ghosts." They did not really exist. They were not really
    [FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman]there. [/FONT][/FONT]They were [FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman]busy, [/FONT][/FONT]they were [FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman]in a hurry. [/FONT][/FONT]They—like all of us—were obsessed with doing things [FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman]right away. [/FONT][/FONT]But [FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman]right away [/FONT][/FONT]is the opposite of [FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman]now—[/FONT][/FONT]the opposite of the lived present moment in which the passing of time no longer tyrannizes us. The hungry ghosts are starved for "more" time; but the more time we hungry ghosts get, the more time we "save," the hungrier we become, the less we actually [FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman][FONT=AIHAKF+TimesNewRoman,Italic,Times New Roman]live. [/FONT][/FONT]And I understood that it is not exactly more time, more days and years, that we are starved for,......................
     
  18. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Nick —

    Will reply later, but can we keep the quotes to a minimum? It's better all round to make a concise point and reference the source, rather than quote the source at length, which invariably introduces a whole raft of other points.

    Thomas
     
  19. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Nick —

    And, actually, that long quote is an anecdote about someone somebody met, it doesn't really tell us anything beyond that.

    Thomas
     
  20. Nick_A

    Nick_A Interfaith Forums

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    It is a description of a human person. To make it more understandable, I had to put it within a larger context which is why I posted the excerpt. otherwise it is hard to appreciate what is meant by the Buddhist parable

    If someone asked you to define "la" it could not be done without first recognizing the musical scale between do and do. La exists in relation to it rather than as an isolated entity. To appreciate the human person, we have to appreciate it within the scale of humanity from hungry ghosts to conscious humanity
     

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