Carrol, one of the sins that require Roman Catholic confession is that of "impure thoughts," a multitude of transgressions against God all of which involve fantasizing about physical pleasure. Diana


From:  Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:  "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
To:  [log in to unmask]
Subject:  Re: Fearing death by water
Date:  Mon, 13 Aug 2007 10:29:05 -0500
Diana Manister wrote:
>
> Robert, mortification of the flesh is fundamental to Roman
> Catholicism. One could say it is not the body that is the problem, but
> rather the body's needs and cravings, but since they only exist in and
> of the body, your argument seems a bit specious. Diana

Being an atheist by birthright more than merit, I have no dog in this
race. But the RC, like other human institutions, is a historical process
and complex of relations, not a metaphysical essence. Thus it is
misleading to let any one particular strand of the process define the
whole. In fundamental theory, at least, the doctrine of incarnation (as
Nancy has mentioned) not only forbids contempt for the body but dictates
positive cherishing of it. Dante puts sexual lust amongst the lesser
sins  after all. So while mortification of "the flesh" (which,
incidentally, is not in principle identical with "the body") is
certainly endemic in RC practice it is by no means fundamental to its
theology or its institutional structure. And what one might call
"principled hatred of the body" is certainly heretical.

To explain the practices which lead so many to perceive "mortification
of the flesh [as] fundamental" to RC requires historical and social
rather than theological analysis. I'm rusty on this, but "the flesh"
cannot be equated with "the body." And the sadistic or merely stupid
practices of parochial school faculty have other grounds than any
theological contempt for either flesh or body.

Now a separation of thought and action, with a corresponding valuation
of mental rather than physical activity is fundamental to class society
as such -- look up "villain" in the OED. You can see this, for example,
in the stress on "knowing oneself" in Plato and in the aristocratic
ethic of ancient Greece. To know oneself was to know one's _place_ in a
social (and implicitly 'moral') hierarchy. Thus in the Republic, the
mouthpiece Socrates can acknowledge that it will not be __too_ bad for a
farmer to become a carpenter, all is brought into chaos when carpenters
presume to military or political positions. It is misleading to ascribe
the source of this to Plato, however, for it has manly roots. Here is
Mencius on the same topic:

***Why then should you think...that someone who is carrying on the
government of a kingdom has time also to till the soil? The truth is,
that some kinds of business are proper to the great and others to the
small. Even supposing each man could unite in himself all the various
kinds of skill required in every craft, if he had to make for himself
everything that he used, this would merely lead to everyone being
completely prostrate with fatigue. True indeed is the saying, "Some work
with their minds, others with their bodies. Those who work with their
minds rule, while those who work with their bodies are ruled. Those who
are ruled produce food; those who rule are fed." That this is right is
universally recognized everywhere under Heaven.***

[Not quite _everywhere_; it was challenged by the peasantry and artisans
of Attica in the 5th century, and it was in response to that threat of
total chaos that the Platonic philosophy with its hatred of the _demos_
and its deification of the division of labor arose.]

To bring this back to Eliot. Shakespeare, Austen, Pound ....write so
well as to justify almost any content; in TWL and 4Q (at least in part)
Eliot belongs to this company. But he simply does not write well enough
in The Cocktail Party to make palatable the moral, social, and political
cesspool of that work.

Carrol


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