Part one can be found here.
NB: I have been giving some thought as to just how “excellent” this conversation was; time and reflection have a way of filtering. I think I am downgrading it to a very good conversation, but one lacking a couple of very important points – and, perhaps, the single most important point. But I will come to all of this at the end, in the Epilogue of this post.
In this post, I continue with my review of a conversation held by Jordan Peterson to include Bishop Robert Baron, John Vervaeke, and Jonathan Pageau. This portion of the dialogue begins here. The first topic is the use of psychedelics, with Peterson asking, given the failure of the Church to attract people, what about it?
Now, before continuing, a different conversation between Jonathan Pageau and two authors of a book about Peterson just posted a few days ago, and they discussed this topic of psychedelics. The two men, Christopher Kaczor and Matthew Petrusek, are Catholic professors at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, and, also, Word on Fire fellows. Word on Fire is the outreach of Bishop Baron.
The discussion regarding psychedelics begins here. Pageau introduces it by noting that in the last few months, Peterson has been talking a lot about psychedelics. Following are comments in response to this:
Psychedelics put feeling before love. A proper ordering places love before feeling – if we properly love, we will develop proper feelings for that which we love. It is the difference of experience in a passive way and an embodied experience.
“It’s cheating!” “You want the Resurrection without the Cross.”
Pageau describes a discussion Peterson had with “a couple of mushroom guys.” For two hours, they just talked about the experience. After two hours, Peterson asked, “so what is it about?” And one of the guys answered, “you realize that God doesn’t exist, and it’s just you.”
Pageau: Yeah, that’s it. Solipsism. The flip side of that ecstasy is despair, and the difference is paper thin. You end up alone, and that’s terror. Like the lowest level of Dante’s hell, each one frozen, alone, in ice.
Given that my experience with psychedelics is limited to listening to early Pink Floyd, Yes, and Sgt. Pepper’s, I won’t say much. However, it sounds like religion for the atomized individual – an extension of libertarianism individualism taken to places for which it is not designed.
In any case, returning to the reaction in the subject video, neither Pageau or Baron reacted favorably on this topic. Bishop Baron replies:
I would be more at home using the wisdom tradition, as you [Peterson] have been doing. We have our problems, certainly. Some of it came from the scandals, and some of it came from an exaggerated attempt to be relevant to society and dumb down our language to echo the culture.
How many times in church has dialogue been cut off – just believe, don’t ask questions. It seems to me that this is the opposite of what the Apostle Paul did on Mars Hill, where he engaged the philosophers. We are to be prepared to answer with reason regarding the hope we hold. Continuing, Vervaeke offers:
I will ask my students: where do you go for information? The internet. Where do you go for knowledge? The classroom, etc. Where do you go for wisdom? There is deafening silence. And wisdom is not optional.
And this ties back to the move toward nominalism. The words; propositions. Pageau (the opposite of a nominalist) offers:
We have had several centuries in Christianity to focus on proving the history. But this wisdom tradition is all there – we just need to go back and get people to connect to these experiences.
Bishop Baron then owned that this was the case in the Catholic church and his young training, that the focus was on the words, on propositions. And then, a real zinger from Pageau:
In the Orthodox Church, they say, if the sermon is more than fifteen minutes, it’s pride. Keep your sermons as short as possible.
Which pretty much counts every Protestant service I have attended. (To be clear, I am not advocating Pageau’s view, but I understand the sentiment.)
Propositional understanding is fine, but it is to be participatory. You enter into the church, you have a space structured as the ontological hierarchy of being, and then you see these images that are patterns and are revealing to you these mysteries that are beyond words.
I have described my feelings in such a church before. Just the space is worshipful, with Christ Pantocrator on the ceiling of the dome, and surrounded by the icons of a hundred saints and prophets, all joined by the parishioners – a real image of the Kingdom of God. But, I keep in mind…there are many words in a liturgical service, and the words are rather important…even propositional.