Symposium Introduction

The Rhythm of Metaphysics


The words ‘metaphysics’ and ‘rhythm’ are not frequently found in the same sentence, let alone the same title. As most attendants of the average undergraduate philosophy lecture can attest, the study of Being is not usually associated with interesting tempo or timbre, nor does it inspire much in the way of dancing. At face value, then, metaphysics and rhythm seem a rather unlikely pair. I would contend, however, that such a creative combination could not be more fitting for the subtitle to Erich Przywara’s Analogia Entis: Metaphysics – Original Structure and Universal Rhythm. The interplay of such unexpected elements is essential to Przywara’s project, as he draws the dissonant and diverse into dialectical interplay, improvisationally advancing multiple motifs into a harmonious whole. Likewise, in employing the universal rhythm providing Analogia Entis with its title, Przywara’s writings resonate with a nuance, patience, and erudition that is, unfortunately, uncommon in the often-contentious universes of philosophy and theology.

Despite its influence upon thinkers including Hans Urs von Balthasar, Karl Rahner, and Joseph Ratzinger, Analogia Entis’ potential applications in contemporary philosophical and theological discourse have gone largely unexplored. This is regrettable, as Przywara’s writings provide a welcome alternative to the reductive categorizations and classifications dominating contemporary conversation. Pryzwara is empirical without being an empiricist. He is conscious of historicality and historicity without falling into relativism. He is intimately familiar with the philosophy being written in his time, yet he is not swayed by appeals to novelty. He draws from the history of metaphysical thought, but he is seemingly immune to any tendencies toward nostalgia or stagnation. He has universal aims, yet he does not totalize or violently systematize.

Although he eludes classification along typical intellectual party lines, Przywara falls quite clearly within the categories of ‘philosopher’ and ‘theologian,’ living up to the fullest sense of each term. The central question of Analogia Entis relates to the simultaneous similarity and dissimilarity between God and creatures, and Przywara grounds his response to this tension in both an impassioned pursuit of knowledge and a respect for the teachings and traditions of his faith. In fact, he sees the latter as the culmination of and condition for the former. In his preface to the first edition of Analogia Entis, Przywara points to the formal unity of philosophy and theology, describing his desire “to comprehend the individually diversified fullness of things: a differentiated universalism of the ‘unity-in-tension between individual and community,’” while always maintaining “a radical humbling of every (ontic) end-in-itself of self and community and of every rounded (noetic) calculation under the sovereignty of God: a theocentrismrelativizing all things human–of ‘God in Christ in the church.’”1

In this quotation, we are given a glimpse of Przywara’s dialectical dynamism, as well as his insistence on understanding all of creation as both oriented toward and ordered under God. This theocentric sensibility places Przywara firmly in continuity with the Christian intellectual tradition, and the creativity and craft with which he can approach the question of the analogia entis puts him in the company of the church’s most masterful minds. Mapping and navigating the tensions between ontology and phenomenology, object and subject, being and becoming, essence and existence, a priori and a posteriori methodologies, etc., Przywara suggests that analogy ought to be understood as “the formal principle” of metaphysics. (191)

According to Przywara, analogy is rightly defined as a suspended relation, a tension between two poles, not reified as its position, but always pointing beyond itself. Just as this principle is operative in the doing of all metaphysics, so too creatures reach beyond themselves toward fuller realization of their being, and “[the] liveliness within the ‘self-transcending’ of perpetual becoming is that of Augustine’s ‘restless till it rests in Thee.’”(217) As the source of Being toward which all beings strive, as well as the origin, ground, and condition for the possibility of all that is, God is perfectly in all things, but “it is precisely here, within this greatest proximity, the ‘ever greater dissimilarity [within a similarity between God and creatures]’” becomes most obvious.(426, citing Lateran IV.) The analogia entis is the principle by which the movement of this relation inheres, pointing all creatures toward and situating all things relative to the God in-and-beyond-creation. Despite the similarity inherent in this relation, its rhythm illuminates the primacy of the difference between God and creation, as God alone is first cause, “the creative primordial ground of all being.” (292) Creaturely being is always participatory, dependent, and secondary, so there is a very real sense in which it is “set apart” from its source. (292–93)

The prioritization of difference between creature and Creator may seem at odds with a project so intent on maintaining humanity’s orientation toward God (or, for that matter, philosophy’s orientation toward theology), but it is precisely in the asymmetry of these relations that Przywara highlights the beauty of God’s self-gift. As self-revealing, God offers a theological correlate to philosophy’s orientation from the immanent to the transcendent, a movement matching the rhythm described above, “for the essence of God, from which theology comes and towards which philosophy goes, [is] already the apex.” (189) Although we are never capable of autonomously attaining the end toward which we strive, God traverses this gulf on our behalf, freely giving the revelation culminating in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. The divine is always infinitely beyond the creaturely, providing the very possibility of any and all essences, all existences, and all analogies. And yet, through a gratuity beyond limitation, we are invited to know the composer of the universal rhythm by and in which all things live, move, and have their being.

This movement is dynamic, and Przywara’s work exemplifies the corresponding vitality of the tradition from which he draws. His Analogia Entis resources the Church’s teachings, the philosophical developments of his era, and a profound reverence for the person of Christ, drawing them into a powerful polyphony. A robust principle of analogy provides Przywara with the precision to enter into nuanced engagement with diverse thinkers and theories, promoting and transposing a tradition that is always actively reaching in-and-beyond-itself toward the Beautiful, the True, and the Good. As we begin the present symposium, I look forward to the opportunities Przywara’s Analogia Entis will afford our efforts at continuing this dynamic movement, improvising within this universal rhythm.

  1. Erich Przywara, Analogia Entis: Metaphysics – Original Structure and Universal Rhythm, trans. John R. Betz and David Bentley Hart (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2014), xxiii, emphasis Przywara’s. All subsequent references are in the parenthetical citations.

Anne Michelle Carpenter


Why Analogia Entis?

Erich Przywara (1889–1972) is quite dead. It is a strange decision, then, to feature a work of his at Syndicate Theology, which has spent its efforts exclusively among living authors thus far. And yet, when asked what new book I was most excited about, Analogia Entis, first written in 1932 and revised in 1962, translated into English for the first time in 2014, was the book that came to mind. It was also the one that would not let me leave it aside for the sake of something else. This is a Syndicate symposium on a book written by a dead author, on an old book that is new in English. This is, rather fittingly, a symposium very much about the delicate pairing of apparent opposites.

This symposium is in many ways a ressourcement: we look upon someone who deeply affected the path of Catholic thought in the twentieth century—most notably in the figure of Hans Urs von Balthasar—and whose influence needs to be remembered for a more authentic sense of our own recent history; at the same time, we look upon Przywara not only for an understanding of the past, but more importantly, to help us think in new ways about present problems. I wanted to have this symposium precisely for its collision of opposites, and I wanted to feature Przywara precisely for his ability to navigate them. It is my hope that this symposium can help us to see how Przywara is important to contemporary theological thought both because he profoundly influenced it, and because the elemental form of his thought is decisive for how contemporary thought could be.

Przywara himself is so little known, especially in English, that I asked my friend and colleague Brian Bajzek to provide readers with a brief summary of Przywara’s main work, Analogia Entis. This essay is designed to help readers familiarize themselves with Przywara and to help them participate in the symposium. His essay is available through a link on this page.

John Betz, one of the primary translators of Analogia Entis, has been kind enough to provide an overall response to the panel and its contributors, and his first note to us sets the tone for what is to follow.

The symposium proper consists in several contributors, each of whom—save a couple of exceptions—writes a primary response to Analogia Entis and also writes a response to one of the other panel members. They speak on their own and to one another. It is meant to imitate what a conference panel on Przywara might look like, or to imitate the dialogue of voices Przywara himself employs, and each set of responses is meant to incite further discussion beyond what panelists themselves have arranged ahead of time. Syndicate readers are encouraged to contribute their own responses at each successive turn. Though Przywara himself cannot respond to what each scholar says, his “silence” is meant to be filled both by his text and by contributors.

The symposium’s contributors focus in various ways on “re-sourcing” Przywara, bringing him to bear on problems new and old. Lexi Eikelboom places Przywara in dialogue with the metaphysics of Radical Orthodoxy, presenting Przywara’s version of analogy as the richer and more effective alternative. Ryan Hemmer writes on Przywara’s method, uncovering both its inner logic and its rich potential. Jonathan Heaps takes Przywara to be a major example of a way to go about the project of theology itself, in a method Heaps calls “dialectical traditionalism.” Finally, Gregorio Montejo writes as a specialist in the thought of Thomas Aquinas, and he examines Przywara’s work from the perspective of the theologian Przywara himself gives highest honor.

I want to thank each of the contributors to this panel for their care and effort, for their thoughtfulness and dedication. I greatly look forward to the discussion we have now that the symposium begins.


Lexi Eikelboom


Analogy and the Furrows of Imagination

The analogia entis has a PR problem. As a metaphysical principle, the analogy of being has been rejected by almost all theologians and philosophers of religion since Barth who are not Roman Catholic or associated with Radical Orthodoxy. However, if this problem was sparked by Karl Barth’s rejection of Erich Przywara’s initial articulations of the analogia entis, then the new translation of his mature Analogia Entis by John Betz and David Bentley Hart emerges into a different world in which the conversation has slightly shifted and the players have changed. No longer primarily a Catholic vs. Protestant issue, the cause of analogy has been taken up by a trans-denominational group of thinkers who nevertheless share certain theological and ideological tendencies. They call their theology “Radical Orthodoxy” and they often defend analogy over against, not only Barth, but also philosophers in the continental tradition, which in turn have defended their own immanent ontologies by attacking metaphysical analogy.

Both sides are in part responsible for the current standoff. Certainly, its critics sometimes reduce analogy to a caricature. However, this caricature is in part derived from some of the ways proponents of Radical Orthodoxy describe analogy. They tend to describe it either in quasi-mathematical terms, as a two-tiered system in which God and being have their own proper mode of being with little relation indicated,1 or, in accordance with Neoplatonism, creation appears as the finite expression of God’s self-realization, a lesser form of God’s eternity.2 Words like “order” and “hierarchy” suggest a static relation that keeps creaturely dynamism in check. Even when the significance of motion is suggested, it is as a circular motion that preemptively determines legitimate movements through a top-down structure rather than as new creative expressions.3 This ontology then spills over into a concern for social consensus through political hierarchy,4 and in accordance with this conviction, the objective of Radical Orthodoxy is to “reclaim the world.”5

Whether or not this is an absolutely fair depiction of Radical Orthodoxy, it is the impression shared by many, and it is certainly aided by RO’s own rhetoric. Unfortunately, metaphysical analogy is now almost exclusively associated with this movement and consequently with concepts like hierarchy, order, emanation, mathematical form, and the rejection of time and history.6 Critics object that the analogia entis is a “metaphysics of presence” that denigrates history and the created world, prevents the irruption of the new by holding everything within a system of preestablished possibilities, and closes over cracks and disagreements by forcing a premature eschatological harmony.

This is the reason that the new translation of Erich Przywara’s Analogia Entis is so timely and important. The recovery of this articulation of analogy furnishes us with new ways to imagine analogy. I emphasize imagination because I suspect that many objections to analogy are not in fact objections to the doctrine as such but to the particular ways that the idea is presented to the imagination. When we hear “analogy,” the image just described has already formed in our minds according to the repetitive ruts of description that have been given to us.

Przywara breaks these conventions open, and this is appropriate to his belief that one of the functions of analogy is a sort of iconoclasm. As a creaturely construct, the analogia entis is a form that always points beyond itself (190–91). It is not the basis of a finished system, but enables one to see beyond all systems to the ever new (312). For Przywara, this is the implication of “similarity in ever-greater dissimilarity” or “intimacy in alterity,” which is the heart of analogy. These phrases indicate the nature of the relation between God and creature, in which “every closed system of mutual relatedness is exploded by an ‘above-and-beyond’” in accordance with the ever-greater-dissimilarity (287). Analogy thereby frees the imagination to anticipate the new.

So, how can the relationship between God and creature be imagined in a way that explodes closed systems and invites the ever new?

Przywara achieves this by conceiving of analogy, not as a relation between two things—God and creature—the nature of which is known in advance, but as an interplay of movements between two analogies that are themselves in motion. If this sounds complicated, it’s intended to be. Reading the Analogia Entis, it can feel like one is being tossed about on the waves. Przywara’s descriptions of the various movements, orientations, oscillations, and intersections becomes very complex, and one is carried along by these motions, not quite able to grasp onto a solid perch from which these movements could be seen from the outside and articulated as some sort of whole. Analogy is not a static principle; its aim is to indicate the dynamism of the relation as experienced by the creature.

Here is how Przywara uses analogy to indicate this dynamism, best as I can describe it: First, intra-creaturely reality is already, in itself, an analogy, by which Przywara means an oscillation of the creature in its essence-in-and-beyond-existence. The creature is not a circumscribable thing unto itself, but a taking-place that is only held together through an encounter with something beyond itself. Second, the implication of beginning with this intra-creaturely analogy is that the second analogy between the intra-creaturely and the beyond, which Przywara calls the theological analogy, cannot be thought independently of the oscillating, creaturely perspective and therefore also has the form of an oscillating tension, this time between intimacy and alterity: God-in-and-beyond-the-creature. Finally, the encounter between these two analogies—the intra-creaturely and the theological—is the analogia entis. Przywara describes the movements of God’s relation with creation from the perspective of the creature, rather than attempting to directly grasp the internal life of God and then extend this form to creation. The two analogies are not held together in a principle that could be observed at a remove, but through movements in which the human creature is always already a participant.

Rather than a system of preestablished possibilities that denigrates time, Przywara’s analogy is a creaturely, temporal principle. For the creature, it is not possible to grasp the whole of history, truth, and reality at once, but only to move with the current and to allow oneself to be ever more deeply grasped by it. To know is to open oneself to being known (151). The function of the analogia entis is therefore soteriological; it sets the creature free for the movements appropriate to it (310), which in turn opens the creature to the divine, and is not primarily a mechanism for enabling the creature to grasp the nature of reality as a whole. According to Przywara, this means that there is a plenitude of configurations of analogy (310). It is a current that swells into different waves through the tradition of its articulation, always recognizable as a wave but always slightly different in form. Analogy does not grasp the whole of the current but rides it faithfully.

According to the way that Przywara describes it, then, the analogia entis is not a metaphysics of presence. In fact, I think it has more in common with Jean-Luc Marion’s Christian phenomenology than with a metaphysics of presence. In a footnote in his book In Excess, Marion praises Przywara’s Analogia Entis, “despite its title,” for indicating the ever-greater dissimilarity “in an exceptionally strong fashion.”7 Marion associates the ever-greater-dissimilarity with a “pragmatic theology of absence” which is “opposed to the ‘metaphysics of presence’ at least as much as deconstruction is.”8 This pragmatic theology of absence is neither a positive nor negative theology, but “a radical apophasis which, precisely as radical, opens—by means of a paradox that is to be taken into consideration—onto knowledge of another type.”9 Marion here intends to associate his own approach to revelation as saturated phenomenon with this pragmatic theology of absence. Revelation saturates the horizon of creaturely experience, meaning that it is encountered by the creature as an experience, but only as an experience that re-shapes the conditions and contours of experience itself. A pragmatic theology of absence is the attempt to open the creature to an event that cannot be contained within the conditions of knowledge of experience but that nevertheless has an impact on the creature by making possible a new sort of knowledge and experience.

I think Marion is right in suggesting that Przywara does something similar. In the analogia entis, relation at its peak reveals the alterity between God and creature and vice versa. Intimacy—an encounter with God in experience—is the same point at which the confines of experience itself are exploded. The analogia entis can only indicate the movements through which the temporal creature participates in this paradox, movements of harmony, oscillation, and interruption, for the same purpose as Marion, namely to open up the creature to a knowledge of God that is a knowledge of a different sort. The relation between God and creature is primarily experienced and performed, rather than primarily conceptualized (365). It is not a static, logical form, but a dynamic, lived rhythm (308). The rhythmic movements in which humans are always already embedded make up the horizon of experience in which God is encountered, but this encounter manifests as a productive interruption to those everyday rhythms, forming those rhythms in new ways.

So, rather than imagining analogy according to the furrow of a preestablished structure of correspondence between eternity and time, in which created reality is merely a lesser manifestation of the form of eternity, Przywara invites us to imagine analogy differently and in the process, to imagine the role of imagination itself differently. The analogia entis is the rhythm generated by the encounter between the movements of the creature’s relationship to itself and the movements of the creature’s relationship to that which is beyond itself. While it indicates a metaphysical situation, it does so only provisionally, as if indicating a paradox, and always for the purpose of opening the creature to this encounter. Przywara’s expectation is that in the course of this encounter, as it unfolds through time, the ways in which the creature indicates this metaphysical situation will change, as the creature occupies different perspectives. In the end, then, Przywara gives us not just a particular vision of analogy, but a way of imagining doctrine differently. Rather than attempt to articulate a doctrine as a discreet circumscribable object, he approaches doctrine rhythmically, articulating it as a process of moving between perspectives because one can never see the whole from a single position. The “full concreteness” of participation is not a given reality, but achieved only at the eschaton (367). The relationship between theology and imagination is such that theology is always responsible to incite the imagination to reach beyond its habitual furrows, something sorely needed in the current conversation surrounding analogy.

Przywara thus attempts to adopt for theology what Virginia Woolf embodied for writing in general, namely that a piece of writing is a manifestation of the rhythm of a particular person as he or she moves between ideas. In her book The Waves, published only one year before Analogia Entis, Virginia Woolf uses wave imagery to describe how various persons experience and interact with the rhythms of surrounding reality and their own inner experience. These characters are personifications of the diverse and variable meanings that surround rhythm, arising out of the intersection of large cosmic and social movements with individual experience. What Woolf reveals is the difficulty involved in talking about rhythm in any direct way due to the multiplicity of its meanings and manifestations, and its inextricability from the roots of human perception. She writes, “With intermittent shocks, sudden as the springs of a tiger, life emerges heaving its dark crest from the sea. It is to this we are attached; it is to this we are bound, as bodies to wild horses. And yet we have invented devices for filling up the crevices and disguising these fissures.”10 Erich Przywara’s contribution is his using the doctrine of the analogia entis to understand how, in being bound to the wildness of life, we might resist filling crevices and disguising fissures and yet patiently open them up to something beyond themselves.

  1. Stephen A. Long, Analogia Entis: On the Analogy of Being, Metaphysics, and the Act of Faith (University of Notre Dame, 2011), 24–33.

  2. John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), 295, 410, 429; Adrian Pabst, Metaphysics: The Creation of Hierarchy (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), xxviii, 90–91.

  3. Simon Oliver, Philosophy, God and Motion (Abingdon: Routledge, 2005).

  4. See, e.g., the previous Syndicate symposium on Milbank’s Beyond Secular Order:

  5. John Milbank, Graham Ward, and Catherine Pickstock, eds., Radical Orthodoxy (London: Routledge, 1999), 1.

  6. The most recent version of which is by Daniel Colucciello Barber, Deleuze and the Naming of God: Post-Secularism and the Future of Immanence (Edinburgh University Press, 2014).

  7. Jean-Luc Marion, In Excess: Studies in Saturated Phenomena, trans. Robyn Horner and Vincent Berraud (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002), 158n68.

  8. Marion, In Excess, 157.

  9. Ibid., 154.

  10. Virginia Woolf, The Waves (London: Vintage, 2004), 40.

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    Jonathan Heaps


    Response to Lexi Eikelboom

    In the furrows of the ancient Near Eastern imagination, the sea embodied chaos. At the same time, some ur-principle of life hid in the chaotic waters, and so the sea could never be counted pure nemesis. The stability of land, by contrast, provided that on which the vanquished waters could give up their secret life for the ordered regularity of agriculture, husbandry, family, and polity. The God of Genesis gathers the water and bounds it with land by speaking and by naming (Gen 1:10–11). The name-giving and dominion-bearing Adam is literally made of soil. In each case, the tehomic 1 force of watery chaos opposes an orderly “standing still” (stasis) upon the earth and the divine “naming words” that establish it.

    Lexi Eikelboom points out that the analogia entis has a PR problem and I would add the problem evinces, if not the persistence of this ancient cosmological imagination, then at least a contemporary (White Euro-American) imagination haunted by its root anxieties about order and stability. This may be one respect in which the “Orthodoxy(s)” to which Eikelboom attributes this problem are “Radical.”2 Eikelboom finds in their theologies a handful of authoritative (and, she implies, possibly authoritarian) “naming words” that ostensibly take their stand on the metaphysical terra firma of the analogia entis. “Words like ‘order’ and ‘hierarchy,’” she says “suggest a static relation that keeps creaturely dynamism in check.” The motion allowed, she says, is cyclical, structured, legitimated. Orthodoxy(s) radical in this sense seem to find in proper religious (cultus) language authorization to have-the-say about cultivating (colere) a good polity.

    Though these root anxieties persist, the contemporary cosmological imagination has in some fundamental ways been transformed. Chaos and order are not at one another’s throats in the same way; we understand better how matter, life, polity, and culture develop rhythmically through their cooperation. Przywara stands among a handful of European and American philosophers who first began to think from within the rivulets of this new emergentist current of thought: Maurice Blondel, Charles Sanders Peirce, Henri Bergson, Bernard Lonergan, Alfred North Whitehead, Jean Piaget, to name the handful that come immediately to mind. We might say that the waters have taken renewed significance, as Eikelboom’s thematic reference to the rhythm of the waves suggests. This too is biblical enough: even in the dark, before the land, the breath (ruach) of God was felt on the face of the deep (Gen 1:2). God does not vanquish the chaos water, but creates a cosmos in which it and its Leviathan remain in play (Ps 104:26).

    And yet I can’t help notice in Eikelboom’s account that she still, in some ways, opposes the waters to the land. Her account of Erich Przywara’s Analogia Entis regularly (though not at all exclusively) privileges the dynamic against the static, the new against the already-so, the irruptive against the established. Przywara “breaks . . . conventions open” and analogy “explodes closed systems and invites the ever new.” Occasionally, her iconoclastic enthusiasm flips connotations inside out, as when she denies that analogy is a “static principle.” How a principle could be static and still a genuine principle escapes me, although I’m open to examples.

    Am I being hypersensitive? Probably, yes. But the better part of my appreciation for Przywara’s Analogia Entis rests on how the various movements of his argument chasten both totalizing systematizers and historicizing iconoclasts into a more creaturely “between” (metaxu). It is for this reason that I find Eikelboom’s comparison of Przywara with Jean Luc Marion’s “pragmatic theology of absence” . . . well, not quite right. I recognize, of course, the purpose this comparison serves: to pry the analogia entis in general (and Przywara’s Analogia Entis in particular) from the clutches of the orthodoxy(s) radical and their PR nightmare. From that angle, I agree that it is helpful to highlight how the analogia entis, on Przywara’s view, cannot be simply a measuring stick with which to take the proportions of a single Christian culture and polity. But that the analogia entis is not a “metaphysics of presence” does not quite imply a “theology of absence.”

    Marion’s “pragmatic theology of absence” manifests anxiety about what I above called “naming words,” specifically as they pertain (or not) to God. For Jean-Luc Marion, the Name (haShem) of God “designates what one does not name.” 3 God cannot be comprehended, and so God is known “only as not being known.”4 He calls this approach to God “de-nomination”:

    In the case of God, knowledge cannot rise up to itself except by transgressing itself until it becomes an unknowing, or rather until it becomes one that is capable of acknowledging the incomprehensible, and thereby respects the operative, pragmatic, and endlessly repeatable de-nomination of God as that than which nothing greater (better) can be thought.5

    When we appreciate adequately the unknowability of God, “this shift from the theoretical use of language to its pragmatic use is achieved in the finally liturgical function of all theo-logical discourse.”6 From within the liturgy (and so up from within our submersion in the waters of baptism), “it is never a matter of speaking of God, but always of speaking to God in the words of the Word.” This then is the sense in which his theology of absence is “pragmatic”—it is liturgical.

    Fellow phenomenologist Jean-Yves Lacoste troubles the “radical apophasis” of Marion’s liturgical approach:

    If the world is the measure of every presence, we would be obliged either to deny that God participated in any sensible way in an economy of presence or to propose that his participation is possible only if he puts himself in place in the world (which only the theology of the incarnation or the theology of the sacraments can think). . . . (Must) God therefore be thought of as absent? Would he come to be known as “the Absent” in the same way as he has come to be called “the Other”?7

    Lacoste thinks these presuppositions carry a problematic implication: “that non-Parousia is identical with nonpresence.” Can’t we—mustn’t we—unite an affirmation of God’s omnipresence to our liturgical hope for the coming of the eschaton? Prayer thus takes the form of epiclesis: “The [one] who prays . . . calls for the eschaton by asking that the already present God ‘come’ into the chiaroscuro order of the world.”8

    On Lacoste’s account, though, liturgy can only reveal the closure of the world as “a closure that can be broken through.”9 Making oneself present to God’s omnipresence expectantly cannot compel God to condescend. Lacoste writes,

    In the chiaroscuro of the world and of history, liturgy . . . is that experience in which consciousness encounters a veiled Absolute and cannot take leave, if not from perpetual ambiguity, then at least from the necessity of a perpetual interpretation that is by no means infallible. No one enters into liturgy without wishing for God to visit him. But no one experiences liturgy without comprehending that God is never there present to consciousness in an entirely obvious way. We know God to be present.10

    For Lacoste, liturgy’s ownmost possibility is an “inexperience.” Because God is present, but as veiled, we enter into liturgy with genuine hope for the unveiling of the already present God, though we lack any agency over such disclosure. This inexperience of God is not nothing and its significance has to be posited, ventured in a hermeneutic wager on the basis of what we know—namely, that God is present to us in a world that cannot keep God’s Parousia at bay; “experience must in this case always take knowledge as its measure.”11To knowingly enter into prayer, into liturgy, is to refuse to silence this inexperience of the present God.

    I would offer, then, that Lacoste’s epicletic phenomenology of liturgy more fully expresses the self-showing of the analogia entis between human creatures and God as Przywara articulates it. This lengthy summary passage merits quotation:

    In this analogy [between God and creature] we begin with the “positive relationship” of a “similarity, however great” (tanta similitudo). Hence we begin with an “attributive” analogy (analogia attributionis): insofar as the divine Is (Truth, etc.) appears as the primordial ground from the vantage of the creaturely “is (valid).” But in this—secondly—the “negative alterity” is made manifest: the “ever greater dissimilarity” (maior dissimilitudo) in the negative sense. The “attributive” analogy is thus intrinsically overcome—by virtue of the ever new above-and-beyond of God, beyond even the greatest possible proximity to him—an illimitable “suspended” analogy (analogia proportionis secundum convenientiam proportionalitatis). . . . And yet—thirdly—what is peculiar to the creaturely hereby stands out positively, against the background of the Deus semper maior, in its relatively distinct autonomy or proper causal agency (causae secundae). The illimitable “suspended” analogy (analogia proportionis secundum convenientiam proportionalitatis) establishes a new “attributive” analogy (analogia attributionis), but one that proceeds not, as in the first moment, from below to above, but rather from above to below: from the Deus semper maior, the creature’s “realm of service” is attributed to it. The “ever greater dissimilarity” (maior dissimilitudo) here has a positive sense: that of the delimitation of a positive realm into which the creature is “sent forth” for the “performing of service.” (Przywara, Analogia Entis, 235)

    The analogy between God and creatures begins from the mutual attribution of being (“is”) to both God and creature. Nonetheless, the second moment of analogy “suspends” the analogy of attribution, rebounding with recognition that the even the attribution of great similarity manifests “ever greater dissimilarity.” Though this echoes Marion well enough so far, note that the second moment only suspends the first, and does not negate it. Still, Przywara pushes a step further (as with Lacoste) to allow the inexperience of God to speak positively. In Przywara’s third moment, we find the analogy turned around, proceeding from God to the creature. It posits an order of secondary causes with a “relatively distinct autonomy” and a delimited practical “realm of service” to the power that established them—established us. “‘Longing’ (in the ascending analogia attributionis),” Przywara writes, “becomes a ‘blinding rapture’ (in the analogia proportionis), in order to become ‘service’ (in the descending analogia attributionis).”12

    So what? In brief, poetic terms: the analogia entis means that, at least as far as creatures are concerned, the water and the land lie down together. We approach the mysterious beyond of God from within God’s presence in a world we know. We return from the inexperience of God not knowing less about the world, but more. Namely, we know better its creatureliness and its fluid stability. Our authority to name—that is, to order—the world has a relative autonomy and a delimited power that is nothing compared to God’s—and yet is, as “sent,” not nothing. We know that God is present to our creaturely making, but we never quite see exactly how, and so every interpretation of God’s veiled presence is made at once in knowledge and in risk. While orthodoxy(s) radical evade the up and down, back and forth rhythm of the surf upon the shore, I worry that a “theology of absence” might bury its talents in the sand.

    1. Though I side with so-called “classical theism” and its doctrine of creatio ex nihilo against Catherine Keller’s notion of creatio ex profundis, I find her notion of the tehom—primordial, chaotic “implexity” fecund with the possible—a helpful category for making sense of the ineluctable non-systematic elements in the creaturely. For more on tehom and Keller’s use of it, see Catherine Keller, Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming (New York: Routledge, 2003).

    2. I confess that I found Eikelboom’s suggestion that Steven A. Long could be categorized among Radical Orthodoxy’s ranks perplexing. However, there is a certain plausibility in grouping Long with Milbank et al., and it’s one I’m exploring in my own research at the moment. Both deploy “fall” narratives about modernity to justify repristination projects whereby—adapting a phrase from a teacher of mine—(Anglo-)Catholics would rule. In Milbank this means (re-)founding a Christian culture. In Long, it means reading the “theonomic” character of nature and legislating accordingly.

    3. Jean-Luc Marion, In Excess: Studies of Saturated Phenomena (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002), 157.

    4. Ibid., 154.

    5. Ibid., 155.

    6. Ibid., 157.

    7. Jean-Yves Lacoste, Experience and the Absolute: Disputed Questions on the Humanity of Man (New York: Fordham University Press, 2004), 45.

    8. Ibid., 46.

    9. Ibid., 43.

    10. Ibid., 63, emphasis added.

    11. Ibid., 49.

    12. This concluding aphorism is preceded by this elucidation of Przywara’s notion of “service”: “‘Sent forth’ is to say that the creature receives its essential groundedness from the supereminent divine Is (Truth, etc.). To say ‘performing’ is to underscore the active autonomy of the creature thus sent forth (causae secundae). To say ‘service’ is to make clear how this active positivity is simply another and more acute form of the above-and-beyond of God (in the maior dissimilitudo): the mysticism of rapture is humbled by the distance between Lord and servant. . . . ‘Longing’ (in the ascending analogia attributionis) becomes a ‘blinding rapture’ (in the analogia proportionis), in order to become ‘service’ (in the descending analogia attributionis)” (ibid.).

    • Lexi Eikelboom

      Lexi Eikelboom


      On balance

      Despite the suggestion, I do not think I have any more wish to completely overturn the established than does Heaps. In fact, if I may be so bold, I think Heaps and I want the same things: balance and nuance, which means both tradition and challenge, both fluidity and stability, as he puts it. It is the way in which we envision the relationship between them, the way that we envision what balance means, that is different.

      Heaps claims that chaos and order are no longer at one another’s throats in the same way as in antiquity. I wish this were true, but I struggle to see the source of his optimism. Theologically, it seems that those who defend chaos and those who oppose it are more at one another’s throats than ever. And one need only look at our current political situation to recognize ourselves as part of a people trying desperately to carve out a space of order by slashing at the throat of some real or perceived chaos.

      Regardless, I think that both Heaps and I intuit that the opposition between the two in which each makes a caricature of the other is unsatisfactory, and that in some way Przywara does not fall prey to this stand-off and therefore perhaps offers a way through it. Thus, while I may privilege the dynamic against the static (and I do not see how it could be otherwise since these are opposites), this does not mean that I privilege the dynamic against the stable, or the already-so, or the established since for Przywara it is this dynamic (and be careful here not to conflate dynamism with Keller’s chaos) that is the most primordial already-so, the most established, the most stable or reliable.

      So, Heaps is right – Przywara does chasten both totalizing systematizers and historicizing iconoclasts. But that last part is hardly remarkable. The doctrine of analogy has been used against historicizing iconoclasts quite frequently. The accusation, as far as I know, has never been that analogy insufficiently chastens historicizing iconoclasts. But what we see with Przywara that is very remarkable is that despite all of the postmodern (for lack of a better word) suspicions and accusations of analogy as a totalizing system, Przywara shows us how analogy itself, perhaps even inherently in his view, opposes attempts to totalize and thus it is capable of assuaging the important and legitimate fears of its critics.

      In fact, it is not my account that describes Przywara in terms of exploding closed systems, but Przywara himself: “every closed system of mutual relatedness is exploded by an ‘above-and-beyond’” (287). Whether or not one likes the interpretation that I have offered of this dimension of Przywara, it is a dimension of his work nevertheless, yet I have not seen Heaps give an alternative account of it so much as avoid this dimension.

      Indeed, even in Lacoste, whom Heaps proposes as an alternative interpretive lens to Marion for understanding what Przywara is getting at, there is the suggestion of an interruption to presence, to systems, with which we must reckon. While liturgy in one sense opens for the creature a kind of presence and knowledge, this is always on the condition of a greater separation from the parousia and the pain of our provisionality that the inexperience of God points to.[1] In this sense, it accords well with the particular point about Marion that I was attempting to make. The relevant point about Marion is not that he puts forward a negative theology, not absence for its own sake as an ontological category, but that he uses “radical apophasis” as a pragmatic tool for indicating the opening of the creature in its encounter with God onto knowledge of another type, which is also “not nothing.” Lacoste’s “inexperience” could arguably be thought of in similar terms: as a radical apophasis (for what is more radical than the suspension of the terms of experience itself) which enables a “knowledge of another type.” In other words, I do not take Lacoste to be suggesting something contrary, at least to the particular point by Marion to which I was referring (though it may be that Heaps has identified a different point at which they diverge).

      And this is again compatible with the very quote by Przywara that Heaps cites. First, the attributive analogy is not a “mutual attribution of being (‘is’) to both God and creature” as Heaps suggests, but “the divine Is (Truth, etc.) appears as the primordial ground from the vantage of the creaturely ‘is (valid).” Przywara is not speaking here as if this is a metaphysical view from nowhere. The attributive analogy is an attribution to God that the creature makes from its vantage, extrapolating from its own situation as it were. This is the reason that it is “intrinsically overcome” (again, Przywara’s own words), as with Lacoste’s “inexperience.” No attribution takes place on the basis of experience.

      The third movement likewise, is this gift of something, what Marion and Lacoste call “knowledge” and Przywara calls “a realm of service.” I do not necessarily want to suggest an absolute equivalence between these, but the interesting thing to me about this is that “service” is first (for the sake of keeping with the same language) a “pragmatic” or “dynamic” principle. What is given is a kind of movement, a kind of operation, a kind of performance. It is only then, secondarily and derivatively, an ontological principle.

      And this is ultimately the difference between Heaps and I. It is not inconsequential that Heaps uses an eschatological image in concluding. His understanding of how Przywara moves between land and water is that the two simply lie next to each other. However, from the perspective of the creature (and I argue that Przywara always speaks from the perspective of the creature) the water and land do not lie down together yet, if by this we mean that we can see the whole coexisting in perfect harmony. This is a divine or eschatological perspective not one that the creature should claim prematurely. Przywara’s creature is one that is always oscillating. Land and water are both encountered, certainly, but only in and through time, as different moments along the way.

      [1] Lacoste, Experience and the Absolute, 143-45.

    • Avatar

      Jonathan Heaps



      The above reply does much to assuage my confessed hypersensitivity.

      In fact, Eikelboom’s reply evinces its force in that it leaves me oscillating. On the one hand, she is so very right that Przywara’s work is remarkable for showing a way past many Protestant and post-modern critiques of the analogia entis as metaphysically occlusive. On the other, Analogia Entis does not move past these critiques by simply agreeing with them, but by calling them into question as well. It was this latter part that I sought to underline in my response. It is true also that the analogia entis has been used more to chastise those on the side of irruption and novelty than those aiming at fixity-by-system. But Eikelboom was also right that, anymore, those who adopt the analogia entis are viewed as an idiosyncratic, even anachronistic minority by the larger anglophone philosophical and theological conversations. But, to oscillate across to the other pole again, this plainly owes to so few remarking (as Eikelboom has) on Przywara’s remarkable clarification of the analogia entis’ double import. And to yet oscillate further, one wonders if, having taken in its full import, its present despisers would be able to accept it anyways.

      Eikelboom is also correct to note that these days the relationship between chaos and order remains fraught, both in theology and in politics, not to mention our psyches. But I also acknowledged as much, indicating that the root cosmological imagination has changed only so very recently and in a handful of figures who, at least in English, are not very much read anymore. To say—in a dual voice, at once ontological and eschatological, as all talk of the analogia entis must be—that chaos and order lie down together is not necessarily to claim that their peace is the mere absence of violence. After all, not all who share a bed are sleeping. But this is neither optimism nor pessimism, only a hopeful exhortation to those who might bother to read Przywara or the others I listed. To that particular end, I can now see that I was manifestly too hard on Eikelboom’s initial comments. Perhaps those who avoided Analogia Entis because of its PR problems may well be convinced by Eikelboom’s comments that Przywara need not inflame their intellectual allergies.

      But I am still left with a certain dissatisfaction by these many clarifying back-and-forths. There is in Przywara’s ontological vision something that calls the extant spectrum of contemporary philosophical, theological, and political mentalities into question. I am not at all sure it can be easily subsumed within the horizons of concern that dominate theological and philosophical discourse today. There is some new mentality to be embodied that at once looks forward by retrieving the 20th century’s emergentist moment in a “post-modern” way—in a way, especially, that avoids the myth of automatic progress that Przywara himself so thoroughly trounces (145–7) but still keeps in view the inescapable temporality of creaturely being and the promise of self-transcendence it holds. It may find its ontology in Przywara and those like him, but I sense it wants for its own rhetoric yet. Eikelboom’s language of “rhythm” and “oscillation” may prove better PR than what I have proposed with a technician’s fluency in my essay appearing later: Dialectical Traditionalism.

    • Anne Michelle Carpenter

      Anne Michelle Carpenter


      A reply to the replies (“Analogy and the Furrows”)

      I’ve been ruminating on this conversation between Eikelboom and Heaps for a bit now, and my instinct tells me that I am failing to grasp something important that is at risk in the disagreement between the two. I am curious, then, if you could each articulate what is “at stake” when you part ways from one another, if you have time.

      To assist any replies, I will try to be concrete. An example from each of you:

      “What is given is a kind of movement, a kind of operation, a kind of performance. It is only then, secondarily and derivatively, an ontological principle. … And this is ultimately the difference between Heaps and I.” (Eikelboom, Reply #1)

      “But I am still left with a certain dissatisfaction by these many clarifying back-and-forths. There is in Przywara’s ontological vision something that calls the extant spectrum of contemporary philosophical, theological, and political mentalities into question. I am not at all sure it can be easily subsumed within the horizons of concern that dominate theological and philosophical discourse today.” (Heaps, Reply #2)

      Thank you for any response(s) you have the time to offer, and for the discussion so far.

    • Lexi Eikelboom

      Lexi Eikelboom



      Ah, great question! It seems to me that this question actually picks up what Heaps was saying at the end of his last response (that is, if I understand him correctly). The back and forth of clarification is helpful, but ultimately the important questions are ‘What’s at stake?’ ‘How is Przywara moving beyond current horizons?’ ‘What’s the vision?’

      From my perspective here, what’s at stake is the creatureliness of the theologian. Theology has a responsibility to not only make statements about God, and theological philosophy has a responsibility to not only make statements about the nature of reality, but to do so always with one eye on what it means that it is a creature making those statements. It is important that we do not slip into making observations about the nature of God, ourselves, and reality either from nowhere or from a God’s-eye-perspective. The reasons that it is important that this not happen are, first, that forgetting what it means for a creature to identify principles about the nature of reality out of the nature of its particular sort of relationship to that reality leads to the sorts of problems associated with analogy that I mention above. As such, what is also at stake here is the degree to which analogy is understood as in fact a compelling vision. The critiques of it as either authoritarian or irrelevant seem to me to be the result precisely of the lack of creaturely perspective – the lack of acknowledgement that this is an articulation of reality in response to the creature’s relationship to that reality and for the good of the creature as creature.

      Such creatureliness is indeed “at stake” because we do not always think very well about what it means for creatures to make theological statements. While linguistic analogy understands itself as a doctrine about how creatures make statements about God, my impression is that once this becomes a metaphysical principle the question of what it means for the creature to identify and interact with such a principle in the first place is not considered until the principle is already fully developed in the abstract and then applied to the creaturely realm as a mold to which it must then conform.

      Przywara’s analogy is the best articulation that I have seen of the creaturely dimension as inherently part of analogy rather than as a realm to which it is simply applied. I think that this is in large part due to Przywara’s beginning from within the dynamism and temporality of the creature, namely the form of his own thought and being as creature, so that we can see the significance of analogy for a creature that moves in this particular way. While I do not necessary think that this is the whole of Przywara’s “calling the extant spectrum of….mentalities into question,” I do think it is part of what gives it this quality. Heaps helpfully points out that Przywara cannot be subsumed under the horizons of yesterday or today though he relates to them both, and it seems to me that this may be directly related to his creaturely perspective as one that moves through time. An important thing about this articulation of the doctrine at this particular moment in time is that it avoids the kind of premature eschatology in which reality as it ought to be is already known and so the only work left to do is to make everything conform to it. Instead, as something more like a form of moving through the world as a creature in relationship to something beyond itself, analogy becomes a form for meeting the as yet unknown and even the unexpected faithfully.

    • Avatar

      Jonathan Heaps



      Eikelboom and I seem in agreement about the importance of the question of facing the new, the irruptive, or the ‘other’ without artificially and/or tyrannically closing off one’s horizon. And though we perhaps miscommunicated at first, I think we also agree that the analogia entis ought not be seen as a strategy or resource for doing so, and even should be among the philosophical starting points for cultivating what, in a Gadamerian idiom, we might call “conversational openness” in our creaturely theologizing. Moreover, I think it must be said that it is exceedingly strange the way in which the analogia entis has been deployed to any other purpose. The analogia entis is only an analogy at all if it harbors some dissimilarity, and if it is to be a theological analogy, this dissimilarity has to always be “still greater.” But I think where Eikelboom and I disagree is not so much in our construal of Przywara’s ontology of analogy, but as to which moments of analogical being should be accented looking forward.

      My initial…let’s call it “discomfort” …with Eikelboom’s articulation arose because I feared appeal to Marion’s pragmatic apophasis suggested an account of creatureliness before God that, instead of qualifying our power to establish orders, condemned them. This was why I invoked Przywara’s description of the creaturely, “not nothing.” I was anxious that Eikelboom’s initial post suggested an account in which we return from the inexperience of God as skeptics because of our incapacity to take the God’s eye view. As I said before, Eikelboom’s follow up clarified for me that this was not the direction in which things were headed. We can, with any authenticity, no more bristle as skeptics in the rhythm of the creaturely than we can recline in stoic resignation, but we have to learn how to live in the distention of the in-and-beyond.

      I think more than Eikelboom, however, I am concerned not just with the liminal oscillations of analogical finitude, but with the essential determination(s) of my existence within those limits-on-the-move. It is a kind of “deep question” for me how to become, from within the here-and-now of my creatureliness, not conversationally open in general to the new, irruptive, or other, but open in the particular and determinate way or ways that my historicity affords. But then I face an existential paradox (or, Balthasar might say, the “theo-dramatic tension”) in my effort to be authentically a creature. For insofar as I make myself determinately this kind of something/someone for the sake of meeting the new, irruptive, or other, I at once realize my potential as the new/irruptive/other’s interlocutor and close off (by making myself determinate) myriad other ways in which I might have been an interlocutor. I can only be concretely liberated to this encounter by imposing upon my own being some order. Moreover, because of my historicity, I am to some extent at the mercy of my circumstances in that task. Only God can welcome everything into reconciliation without restriction. I, at the very least, will eventually run out of time. In light of all of that, I suspect I am more intellectually and existentially mobilized by the moment of ordering determination in our creaturely being than Eikelboom, who has expressed more concern with (it appears to me at this point) the end to which this determination is a means: a creaturely mode of holding-open before the new/irruptive/other.

      But my account of the tension above is not, on its own, entirely true. Philosophically I think it stands up, but theologically we confess that in God reconciling us to God’s self, we are also reconciled to one another and indeed to every other creature. On the one hand, as Eikelboom pointed out, this is an eschatological hope that cannot be imported into our present state without ideological violence or otherworldly utopianism. On the other, God’s grace has also begun this good work in us, such that the proportion of our essence has been dilated and the power to realize its existence in time has been augmented supernaturally. Consequently, even in the in-and-beyond of my creatureliness is itself in-and-beyond in the created communications of the divine nature by which we have faith, hope, and (God willing, in our lives as much as in our dialogues) charity.



Przywara on Aquinas’ Analogy of Being


It would be difficult, if not impossible, to give an accurate account of Erich Przywara’s notion of analogy without reference to Thomas Aquinas. Przywara himself traced the beginnings of his interest in the analogia entis to a reading of certain Thomistic texts that emphasize the contingency and sheer gratuity of creaturely being in distinction from the self-subsistent existence of God. A radical differentiation between created and uncreated being that Przywara ultimately grounds in the dogmatic formulation of the Fourth Lateran Council: “No matter how great the similarity of God to creatures, the dissimilarity is always greater.” According to Przywara, the analogia of Lateran IV is elaborated by Thomas as both a theory of predication—or a means of coherently thinking and speaking about God—and as an ontological model of how God as creator relates to his creation. God-talk is regulated along analogical lines because God’s transcendence undermines any simplistic correspondence one may assume to hold between creaturely forms of predication and God’s divine attributes.

Created beings participate in the perfect esse or act of existence of God in various gradations of derivative perfection which all ultimately fall short of the fullness of the divine paradigm, yet this partial participation nonetheless allows for a certain measure of conceptual relationality to be established between the necessarily perfect and contingently imperfect. Long before the Middle Ages, in Metaphysics IX Aristotle had already explored the possibility of that relative relation which also forms the basis for a linguistic comparison that would establish the sort of similitude within the greater ambit of dissimilitude that is analogous predication; a measure equilibriums that delineates how we may say that various things exist in a distinctive yet nonetheless corresponding manner to other things. When addressing this problem of how being can be predicated alike to a plurality of existential modalities, Aquinas similarly responds by pointing out how diverse things that share a common denomination are related to one thing—that is, to a primary ontological referent from which their distinctive existential modalities may be subsequently derived. Accordingly, analogousness designates a similarity of relation—a relational unity-in-difference—which in the case of substances, of things that exist, accounts for both their ontological sameness and differentness by positing an analogy of being predicated on categorization, since when something is said “to be” it is always said in combination with a predicate that catalogs the distinctive existential mode of that being. In other words, one not only can say that an existing entity shares in a common notion of being, but also indicate the particular nature of its distinctive manner of participating in existence.

Aquinas developed this understanding of analogousness beyond the realm of Aristotelian epistemology, since unlike the Greek philosopher, Thomas must account for the metaphysically discontinuous relation of the Christian creator to his creation. For Aquinas, God is not merely the highest or most powerful instance in the order of essences, nor the greatest and most perfect exemplar of being among other beings, but rather the transcendent first universal principle of existence itself, to which the created order, which participates in being precisely by dint of its creaturely status, must relate as to the first cause or prime analogate in a transcendental analogy, an analogia that nevertheless preserves the ever-greater ontic difference-in-unity between divinity and the universe.

This Thomist insight was developed by later thinkers, but perhaps most fruitfully by Erich Przywara, who expands upon Aquinas’ insight that analogicity has both noetic and ontological applications, so that analogy becomes a singularly rich and inclusive principle that enables us not only to predicamentally relate diverse types of experiential realities to each other, but also indicates that our full apprehension of esse is directed beyond itself, since our knowledge of objects within the continuum of existence is never complete, but looks beyond itself to the fullness of reality. As Przywara explains, the analogous nature of human cognition manifests itself in our experience of the multiform plurality of things that participate in being, but which can never be captured by univocal language, since this surpassing diversity of entities exceeds all our attempts to capture the commonality of the actus essendi—the act of being—which ultimately binds the multiplicity of existent things together. Hence, the sheer fecundity and dynamic process of becoming that characterizes the things of this world cannot reduce speech to sheer incomprehensibility, because such linguistic confusion utterly fails to account for the reality of likeness within difference of creation.

Even more fundamentally, the inherent tensions between being and becoming that are apprehensible at the very heart of existence points toward a transcendent unity beyond contingent existence that serves to explain the commonality-in-plurality of the world. In this regard, the other crucial Thomistic insight which Przywara develops in conjunction with predicamental analogy is a profoundly creative understanding of the Thomistic real distinction between essence and existence. A notion he takes up in order to describe the metaphysical condition of the human being as created in relation to a Creator who is at once both intimately immanent to the creature yet also utterly transcendent. Indeed, it is the basis for Przywara’s absolutely central yet somewhat cryptic notion of Sosein in-über Dasein (essence in-and-beyond existence), which stipulates that the human person as an actually existent being is not identical with his essence (essentia), but only tends continually to become identical to that essence during the course of its existence.

As Aquinas memorably postulated, the quiddity (that which answers the crucial question “quid est”—what is it? That is to say, a thing’s essence) is always distinct from its act of existence. In fact, one can think of the quiddity of a horse without knowing whether that particular horse actually does exist. This is because esse is accidental to the quiddity of a horse or any other contingent being, which may or may not exist. The actus essendi of God, on the other hand, is not accidental to his essence, for God’s divine quiddity is identical to his divine act of existence. This entails that in the created order a thing’s quiddity does not cause that entity’s existence.

Building upon this Thomistic breakthrough, Przywara will contend that the fundamental character of the human person may be described according to the analogous formulation that the essence of the human being is some both “in” and “over” existence (Sosein in-über Dasein). In order to explicate this notion Przywara posits two basic tensions or polarities within humanity’s esse, which conforms to the esse/essentia distinction in Thomas. As Aquinas had argued, Przywara contends that the human person is not identical to its human quiddity, a state of affairs that derives at least partially from the irreducible distinction between the act of existence and our specifically human mode of being. As a consequence, humans are never in full possession of their own personal esse; as contingent and created entities, they need something which transcends their limited quiddity to complete their essence.

Unarguably, this crucial definition of the human person as intrinsically incomplete, and hence the locus of dynamically developing event of becoming, thereby derives in part from and builds upon Aquinas’ pivotal observation regarding the fundamental discontinuity between being as such and our particular mode of participating esse. Since we are never in total possession of being, the realization of our quidditative finitude necessitates an ontic reference point beyond the limits of essence to a trans-categorical notion of existence itself, to esse as a transcendental. In point of fact then, the culmination of Thomas’ metaphysical intuition is that relation between essence and existence in the human person is analogical; the realization that our distinctively human mode of being is itself an analogia entis.

For Przywara, this indicates that as humans we perdure as an oscillating tension between two poles, noetic and ontological, that stays precariously open to that which is beyond itself. It is precisely this expansive adumbration of Thomistic analogicity, of existence as comprised of a plenitude of entities, each of which actively presents itself to other real beings through its own distinctive esse, with its own set of characteristic self-manifesting and self-communicating actions, and which in turn receives the actions of other objects upon itself, so that collectively they belong to that almost infinitely interconnected structuring community of actualized things that is the analogically intelligible cosmos; and at its center the human person held in creative tension, balanced analogously between the creator and our creaturely givenness, a suspended middle between two analogical relations, not as a separate tertium quid, but as a description of an intersectional structure of rhythmic motions at both the epistemic and ontic levels of being, which makes Przywara the authentic recipient and expositor of Aquinas’ analogy of being.

  • Avatar

    Ryan Hemmer


    Response to Gregorio Montejo

    Readers of this symposium are in Professor Montejo’s debt for his clear and incisive summary and evaluation of Przywara and the subtleties of Przywara’s retrieval and transfiguration of Thomistic analogy. I confess that I read his concluding sentence with a great sigh of relief. I know enough to trust Montejo’s understanding of Thomas, and I find Przywara’s presentation of analogy convincing and compelling, so it is comforting to have Montejo’s assurance that there exists no fundamental antagonism between Thomas and Przywara. The clarity of his presentation is a welcome orientation to Przywara’s thought that lets familiar Thomistic loci (e.g., analogical predication, the real distinction between essence and existence, etc.) and their transformations invite readers into the world of Analogia Entis.

    What is clear in Montejo’s essay is the dynamic interaction between the dogmatic and the speculative that structures the Analogia Entis as a whole. He highlights the importance of Lateran IV’s dogmatic formulation (“No matter how great the similarity of God to creatures, the dissimilarity is always greater”) without eliding the exploratory efforts of theologians and philosophers to understand what such a doctrine means. The result of the collaboration between dogma and theory, Przywara shows us, runs contrary to modern expectations. Rather than suppressing speculative energies, Lateran IV’s assertion, premised by faith in the Creator God, functions to unleash the analogical imagination of philosophers and theologians.

    “According to Przywara,” Montejo writes, “the analogia of Lateran IV is elaborated by Thomas as both a theory of predication—or a means of coherently thinking and speaking about God—and as an ontological model of how God as creator relates to his creation. God-talk is regulated along analogical lines because God’s transcendence undermines any simplistic correspondence one may assume to hold between creaturely forms of predication and God’s divine attributes.” These two aspects of analogy—as predication and as ontological model—seem too often pitted against each other in various arguments between different receptions of Aquinas, with Przywara’s retrieval of the analogy of being viewed as the standard bearer of a deeply ontological approach to analogy over against a supposedly and one-sidedly linguistic approach of Ralph McInerny, Herbert McCabe, and David Burrell.

    If you’ll allow me a standard Lonerganian objection, the opposition between the centrality of “being” and the liminality of “meaning” betrays a persistent confusion about the noematic contents of human knowing. It privileges immediacy, even a seemingly contradictory analogical immediacy that treats of meaning as something extra, secondary, and something ultimately excisable from the procedures of analogy. If one attends to meaning, the objection runs, one is not attending to the meant. Yet, such a privileging of the immediacy of the real overlooks the simple fact that, for human beings at least, meanings are not linguistic adornments to the naked facticity of the “there.” Meanings are the mediators of our world, and, more importantly, the materials from which our world is made. Whatever form the analogy takes, meaning is no secondary affair, because it is human meaning—as both real and really constructed—that is capable of bearing the weight of divine self-disclosure.

    Montejo’s presentation moves beyond this impasse, in part, by showing how Przywara’s approach to analogy is not simply a restatement of Aquinas’s doctrine—not simply a position taken on a disputed ambiguity in Thomas’s presentation—but a major advance that builds from a Thomistic base, but that expands toward a notion of creatureliness of Sosein in-über Dasein. He writes,

    This Thomist insight was developed by later thinkers, but perhaps most fruitfully by Erich Przywara, who expands upon Aquinas’ insight that analogicity has both noetic and ontological applications, so that analogy becomes a singularly rich inclusive principle that enables us not only to predicamentally relate diverse types of experiential realities to each other, but also indicates the our full apprehension of esse is directed beyond itself, since our knowledge of objects within the continuum of existence is never complete, but looks beyond itself to the fullness of reality.

    Creaturely metaphysics entails the permanence of the twofold valence of meta-ontic and meta-noetic abstractive viewpoints for analogical thinking. One does not simply side with one pole against the other, because to do so would be a failure to think and to be in an authentically human way. Instead, one lives and moves within and as the tension between them, a tension that organizes creaturely esse and intelligere.

    By connecting Przywara’s conceptuality to Aquinas, Montejo indicates the transpositions the former made of the latter. I would be curious, though, to hear Montejo’s evaluation of what is gained and what is lost in the transpositions. Przywara’s rigorous engagement with idealism and phenomenology evident throughout Analogia Entis is not a simple exercise in demonstrating the superiority of the medieval thought to the modern. Analogia Entis is not a repristination piece. What, then, is occurring in this conversation between the medieval and the modern? What is positional in subsequent philosophy that enables Przywara’s retrieval and allows the meanings of the past to engage the questions of the present? How does this work situate Przywara relative to other dominant strands of Thomism that emerged in the wake of the Leonine program? To what franchise of Thomism does Przywara belong? Again, I thank Prof. Montejo for his illuminating essay, and recommend it to others as a welcome Thomistic entryway into the Analogia Entis.

    • Avatar

      Gregorio Montejo


      “Hidden in the abyss of the ipsum esse subsistens”

      I want to thank Prof. Ryan Hemmer for his extremely thoughtful response to my essay on Przywara and Aquinas.  I think he rightly locates what I take to be Przywara’s greatest inheritance from the Thomistic tradition to be his retrieval and extensive development of the analogy of being in its twin intersecting gnoseological and metaphysical registers. As Hemmer indicates, a misleading bifurcation of the ontic and the epistemic dimensions of esse can result in a false dichotomy, one that bases the mind’s grasp of being in the movement of the mind towards God as the ground of being, and thereby ultimately located in the mind’s act of judgment, and another that grounds that noetic grasp in a mind-independent concept of being beyond subjective human cognition, or as Hemmer puts it, an “opposition between the centrality of ‘being’ and the liminality of ‘meaning’” which betrays a “persistent confusion about the noematic contents of human knowing.”

      As I attempted to delineate in my essay, this distinction is held in creative tension in Thomas’ own mind when he postulates that the analogicity of being is analogous in a dynamically two-fold manner. At the creaturely level, the very plurality of ways in which the perfective existence of things in the world may be analogically predicated points towards the proportional way in which entities participate in some one thing—that is, in a primary, non-analogical instance of esse, or common first cause. It is this crucial Thomistic insight—often misunderstood or simply ignored even by followers of the Angelic Doctor themselves—that Bernard Lonergan begins to expresses with admirable clarity even in his earliest work on Thomas, such as when he argues that the “concept of being cannot but be analogous; being is always conceived in the same way—as the expression of intelligibility or intelligence in act;” but, as Lonergan goes on to explain, “the content of one act of intelligibility or intelligence differs from the content of another; it is the identity of the process that necessitates the similarity of the proportion, and it is the diversity of the content that makes the terms of proportion different.” (Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, p. 58)

      The corollary to this analogous relation results in a further insight: The ontic perfections in which creaturely entities participate, and attributed analogously in a supereminent manner to the Godhead, are possessed not merely notionally but indeed truly by God as the transcendent principle of being. Yet, even though such transcendental predicates as goodness or oneness authentically signify God’s existence, because as contingent beings we cannot fully grasp how these qualities exist in God, they remain a mystery—“hidden in the abyss of the ipsum esse subsistens,” as Reinhard Hütter memorably expresses it, not an exhaustive description of God, but rather an ineradicably incomplete “circumscription of the first principle in its pure, subsisting actuality.”

      The plurivalence of being, then, is finally located in the sheer alterity of a God whose esse can only be obliquely yet faithfully indicated from creaturely being, who are nonetheless utterly dependent upon and thus radically open to the source of that being. In his response Prof. Hemmer asks what unique attributes Przywara brings to his retrieval and development of the medieval analogia and to how Przywara’s analogy of being can be related to other modern movements in Thomistic thought. I would point to this adumbration of an “apophatic” Thomism as good initial response to both queries. In their opening exchange on the Analogia Entis, Lexi Eikelboom and Jonathan Heaps already touched upon a kind of negative theology at the heart of Przywara’s project, with Eikelboom drawing a parallel to Jean-Luc Marion’s “pragmatic theology of absence.” In his response, Heaps I think rightly takes some exception to this comparison, but both ultimately agree, and I fully concur with their agreement, that Przywara posits a rhythmically dynamic analogy that harmonically encompasses the interrelations of contingent and divine, an ever greater dissimilarity-within-similarity that culminates in a creaturely ‘blinding rapture.’ I take this to be a true retrieval and novel development of Aquinas’ mystical theology.

      Likewise, Przywara’s Thomism hovers uncomfortably yet creatively between and beyond any Thomistic schools or ideologies.  He has some obvious points of Contact with the Existential Thomism of Jacques Maritain and Étienne Gilson, with its emphasis on the centrality of esse for Thomas, and it also touches upon some of Lonergan’s primary concerns, yet in the end of the day it transcends these movements as well. Certain key aspects of Przywara’s though were of course taken up by Hans Urs von Balthasar, but even here the fullness of Przywara’s creative retrieval of Aquinas is not fully articulated.  Perhaps we must await a kind of Balthasarian Thomism, such as we see promised in the work of Anne Carpenter, to bring Przywara’s—and Aquinas’—work to fruition.

    • Anne Michelle Carpenter

      Anne Michelle Carpenter


      The Radically Contingent Creature

      If that isn’t an invitation to step in, I’m not sure what is.

      First, I want to thank my fellow scholars, Hemmer and Montejo, for their fine contributions so far. It is interesting to look at Przywara from the perspective of Thomas, to see him as an inheritor of a developing idea. Thomas’s basic but marvelous insight into the distinction between esse and essentia enables not only a creative understanding of God, but also a renewed understanding of human being. I am wondering at this point if we can look at a couple of excerpts from Analogia Entis that emphasize Thomas, and that will – I hope – broaden out to include our other panel members (Eikelboom and Heaps).

      There are a couple of points where Przywara focuses on Thomas’s achievements in particular. For Przywara, one of Thomas’s major contributions is an account of the creature that attributes to the creature its own, integral powers – even its own subjectivity (that is, agency and consciousness). He writes, “This is the crown that Thomas Aquinas places atop our entire discussion of potentiality: the doctrine of secondary causes (causae secundae): the doctrine that the creaturely “is (valid)” is so very much something produced from the divine Is (Truth, etc.) as to have its own power of operation (prima causa ex eminentia bonitatis suae rebus aliis confert non solum quod sint, sed etiam quod causae sint)” (229). I find it helpful to simplify Przywara’s delicately balanced sentences. So, to blunt his sword a bit: This is the crown that Thomas Aquinas places atop our entire discussion of potentiality: the doctrine of secondary causes: the doctrine that the creaturely “is” is so very much produced from the divine Is as to have its own power of operation.

      Przywara’s discussion of potentiality is, at least in part, an attempt to work out large aspects of what is creaturely, since only what is created has potency at all. But to speak of potency is already to invoke the distinction between esse and essentia that Montejo and Hemmer have been working through, and it is already to aver to the openness and contingency that Eikelboom and Heaps discussed. If – as Montejo has said – really only the divine “is” at all, then all creaturely being, all creaturely existing and becoming, gestures toward that which enables it to be. In potency, Przywara says in a midrash on Thomas, “[t]he measure lies decidedly beyond the creature, in the incomprehensibility of the measure of divine giving” (222). Notice how, even in sharply distinguishing between Creator and creature, the relationship between the two is still profoundly intimate. That my measure lies outside of myself draws me near to God, who is my measure.

      This sort of assessment at the same time makes God radically other, a “Thou” (to borrow Martin Buber’s preferred description) that is, even in any similarity to us, ever-greater in difference. It also highlights certain “Dionysian” tendencies in Przywara, which Przywara also sees in Thomas. He directly links Thomas’s system – so often derided as closed and rigid – with the “dazzling darkness” of God in Pseudo-Dionysius (see 283). Montejo seems to support such a reading of Thomas.

      In bringing forward the dazzling darkness of God, I do not think Przywara loses sight of the creature. I wonder, however, if we might ask this question of him more incisively: how do we understand the profound contingency of the creature in Przywara, in light of his Thomist radicalization of God’s (immanent) transcendence? How might he – or might he not – succeed in such an endeavor? I have tried to sketch the beginnings of what I think Montejo and Hemmer are helping us to see. I hope that, here, we have a point of convergence between our panel members, that any of them might contribute. I do have some further thoughts on what Balthasar might do with this, but for now I want to follow the insights Hemmer and Montejo have so deligiently provoked.

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      Ryan Hemmer


      Balthasarian Thomism

      I want to thank both Montejo and Carpenter for pushing this conversation forward. I’d like to respond briefly by reflecting on what I take to be the neuralgic points foregrounded in their respective responses.

      I think they have identified a nexus of topics that shed a valuable light on the unitive themes in Thomas, Przywara, Balthasar, and Lonergan (not to mention Gilson, Rahner, and any number of others). It is striking to me that the real distinction between esse and essentia is a philosophical doctrine (first articulated, correct me if I’m wrong, in Ibn-Sina) that undergoes a series of theological intensifications (to borrow Przywara’s term). It is transformed in Aquinas owing to his rejection of the emanationist scheme as an adequate account of free creation (see David Burrell’s comparative philosophical theology). And—it seems to me—it undergoes further intensification in the context of a renewed focus on Chalcedonian Christology. Lonergan himself often remarked that it was a class on Christology (taught by Bernard Leeming) that convinced him of the necessity of the real distinction between essence and existence. For without it, Leeming argued, there could be no hypostatic union.

      It is this same Christological context that Balthasar foregrounds in his explicit efforts to explain Christ as the “concrete analogia entis” (see Theology of History, 74n.5; Theo-Drama III, 220-229). And it is primarily in Christology that Robert Sokolowski disengages his notion of “the distinction,” a speculative articulation of the discovery of the relationship between God and the world embodied concretely in the Word made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. A similar connection can be made with Gilson’s famous argument that the historic meeting of Greek philosophical method and Hebrew revelation allowed for the development of both new lines of philosophical inquiry owing to the content of revelation (namely, that the ultimate principle of unity might also be a person), and the methodical tools for speculative understandings of revelatory affirmations.

      These various theses evince William Desmond’s notion of the “porosity” between theology and philosophy. Philosophical conceptuality is deployed in order to make intelligible the Christian belief about Jesus. Yet, in its specification to a revealed mystery, the particularity of that mystery occasions the emergence of new, formally philosophical questions, and allows the theological context of that emergence to serve as materials for the development of the philosophical doctrine.

      This same mutual self-mediation is the context for Montejo’s citation of Lonergan’s Verbum. The analogicity of the concept of being owes to the invariant structure of the human act of understanding. Objectives of understanding differ from one another, but are known through the same operations, and so even as regards finite noema, their “thisness” and “thatness” are analogically related to each other through a shared noetic structure. But this very analogy obtaining between the various objectives of finite acts of understanding is itself analogically applied to the disproportion between a discursive act of human intellect and the actus purus that is the unrestricted act of understanding. The philosophical doctrine of cognition that Lonergan is retrieving from Thomas is itself the fruit of Thomas’s exploration of the Trinitarian processions, and the theological conviction that the imago Dei invites the development of formally analogical understandings of the Creator through apt features of the created.

      When we pay attention, as Przywara does, to the way in which philosophy and theology interact in the context of a created order, I think we find much common cause between the explicit intentions of Przywara’s project and subsequent retrievals and expansions of Aquinas that define so much of Catholic theology over the last many decades, even if, as Montejo notes, we cannot neatly assign Przywara to a single Thomistic constituency. And if there is a Balthasarian Thomism (and I think there is), a Christological interpretation of the analogy of being is perhaps a good place to start.

    • Anne Michelle Carpenter

      Anne Michelle Carpenter


      Balthasarian Thomism II

      There is this section in Bernard Lonergan’s Ontological and Psychological Constitution of Christ where he considers the controverted 20th century question of Jesus’ consciousness. Does Jesus have one consciousness, or two? Theologians have answered the question variously, and here Balthasar and Rahner notably (though perhaps not irreconcilably) parted ways. Lonergan answers that it depends on how we are asking the question. If we ask the question with respect to Christ’s natures, then he had two consciousnesses, human and divine. If we ask with respect to the union of the two natures, then Jesus had one, divine-human consciousness.

      I bring this up for a couple of reasons. One is that we can see in it a careful and precise application of “Chalcedonian” logic, with the assistance of Thomas’s habit of parsing meanings. The question is quite modern, but the thinking is patterned after a longer tradition. Another reason to look at this because, even without a direct connection to Przywara, Lonergan exhibits similar insights into the delicate distinctions and relations between what is created and what is eternal (in the Incarnation). We have a mutable nature united – without confusion, without separation – to an immutable nature, and Lonergan has thought through how this must in some way mean that Jesus did have a mutable consciousness (and, as God, did not). Thomas wrestled with similar problems when, early in his career, he sided with Peter Lombard and the tradition by saying that Jesus did not learn; and when, later in his career, he explained that it is a perfection of Jesus’ humanity to learn.

      These interplays between what is mutable and what is not, what is finite and what is infinite, and determining how to speak of the two is at once a question of language and a question of ontology. In other words, we can see the dynamic previously outlined in our conversation playing out again in questions of the Incarnation. That means that the distinction between esse and essentia also play out in a Chalcedonic interpretation of the Incarnation, since we have a nature that becomes united to a nature that Is.

      Earlier thinkers such as Maurice Blondel intuited how the consciousness of Christ would be an important question in modern theology (see History and Dogma). One of the primary reasons he makes this argument is because of another puzzle in theology: what to do with history. If Jesus is the “concrete analogia entis” (as Balthasar says), then we need to recognize how the one and only God taking on flesh also means that God has entered, has “taken on,” history. This is something different than a “pure” metaphysical problem, but they are not unrelated. Consciousness very much has to do with an awareness of human being in history, that is, consciousness is involved in an understanding of the creature as developmental and diachronic, yet united over time. Husserl and Augustine haunt us here: we are contiguous selves in time, and yet we also endure change, and arguing for some kind of consistent person requires at least a burgeoning awareness of a “self” and a consciousness. In other words, I am arguing, not without precedent, that questions of consciousness and questions of history are related to one another. Not as cause and effect, and not at some proportion, but as questions that emerge in a similar horizon.

      This brings me to a question that has been asked in the “Discussion” section below this thread, and I want to bring it into the main conversation:

      Dr. Carpenter, a question arises from your final paragraph here: given the current interest in creatureliness and finitude in contemporary theology, is there a something especially helpful about Przywara rooting analogy and theological anthropology in Thomas, while engaging (and conscripting?) Heidegger on questions of the particularity of human existence? Does Pryzwara’s use of phenomenology, similar to Balthasar, make him an especially helpful dialogue partner in questions of embodiment? If Przywara does not lose sight of the human, what does he add to the conversation that perhaps other don’t have?

      The question itself leads us in some helpful directions, but I would like to take a moment to answer some implicit concerns. In a Balthasarian register, we might be worried that the turn to the subject obscures the centrality of God in the universe. We might, as Balthasar points out occurs in the transition between Medieval thinking and modern, be concerned at how the human being becomes the central organizing point of thinking about the universe instead of God (cf. Apokalypse, GL IV-V). In this sense, Thomas’s achievement might in fact be a problem, since he so firmly establishes the relative – emphasis on relative – autonomy of created operations. Umberto Eco makes this kind of argument in The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas. So, we should indeed wonder what Przywara adds to a conversation that seems to have already established what he does.

      I have argued, so far, that one of the elements that unites the 20th century Catholic thinkers we have studied is the “problem” of history (Blondel, Lonergan, Przywara, Rahner, Balthasar, etc., etc.). This means at least in part that all of these thinkers are acknowledging how things like context and subjectivity play fundamental roles in human understanding, and in theological reflection. Our “starting point” cannot but be with ourselves, and we exist in history – and indeed, God entered our history. Here we threaten to slide into a narrative whose broadness conceals something very, very important.

      Przywara says, in a section quoted previously, that Thomas’ doctrine of secondary causes “crowns” potentiality. At the same time, for Przywara, the center of potentiality is not “in” the being that “has” potency (here, the human being). It has its center in the one who gives being, which is God. So, the relative independence of creatures in Thomas gives way to a radical theocentrism without surrendering the essential insight.

      If we consider the matter more broadly, it means that in Przywara we have an account of the subject (even a “turn” to the subject) that is nevertheless theocentric. I would argue that this is an essential contribution on Przywara’s part, one echoed in theologies like Lonergan’s, Balthasar’s, Rahner’s. (Indeed Rahner’s!) It means that Balthasar, for example, begins with the “subjective evidence” of faith in Glory of the Lord, despite thinking that beauty is quite objective. Or perhaps because he thinks this.

      As a final note, I would like to recall Pseudo-Dionysius, who has appeared yet not received much exploration quite yet. Balthasar will ever prefer Maximus’s Dionysius, and for Przywara Thomas is deeply aware of Dionysius. In both cases, though, the supra-rational excess of divine being receives expression and remains central to understanding not only God, but also the world. I would suggest that we have not quite done careful enough metaphysical work if we lose sight of this undercurrent, and that it helps to make sense of – yet relativize – the strong systematic leanings of metaphysical reflection.

      Thank you for your patience, and I look forward to the rest of our conversation.

    • Avatar

      Gregorio Montejo


      Towards An Ecstatic Christology

      The manner in which Anne Carpenter and Ryan Hemmer have carried this discussion forward is quite exhilarating, they have opened up the initial topic in many fruitful ways.  I would like to narrow the focus of my response by going back again Thomas as a source form which not only Przywara, but we ourselves can continue to draw in our engagement with these issues.  My response will draw inspiration from a Przywara passage on the nature of the contingent creature brought to our attention by Jonathan Heaps:

      “‘Sent forth’ is to say that the creature receives its essential groundedness from the supereminent divine Is (Truth, etc.). To say ‘performing’ is to underscore the active autonomy of the creature thus sent forth (causae secundae). To say ‘service’ is to make clear how this active positivity is simply another and more acute form of the above-and-beyond of God (in the maior dissimilitudo): the mysticism of rapture is humbled by the distance between Lord and servant. . . . ‘Longing’ (in the ascending analogia attributionis) becomes a ‘blinding rapture’ (in the analogia proportionis), in order to become ‘service’ (in the descending analogia attributionis).” (Przywara, Analogia Entis, 235)

      Anne Carpenter perspicaciously calls our attention to the Dionysian element in this rhythmically ecstatic rapture, that “supra-rational excess of divine being receives expression and remains central to understanding not only God, but also the world,” and to which the creature that is constituted as radically open to the transcendent is continuously called.  and in his latest response, Ryan Hemmer foregrounds the crucial issue of Christology, and Balthasar’s view of Christ as the “concrete analogia entis” who grounds the “relationship between God and the world embodied concretely in the Word made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth.”

      I would like to begin to respond to these responses by giving an extended digression into Aquinas’ reading of Dionysius’ explication of the God/world relations, that ecstatic status of contingent humanity, and which concludes with an explicitly Christological telos. As Thomas explains, for Dionysius the goal of creation is union with a thoroughly transcendent God who is nonetheless the Supreme Good.  As the Areopagite explains in the Divine Names, the good by its very nature is not grasping or ungenerous; on the contrary, it possesses a magnanimous desire to share its goodness. So, if goodness is communicative then the Supreme Good, God, must be supremely self-communicative and self-giving. Dionysius explicates this self-communicative inclination in God in Divine Names 4 in terms of Eros or yearning. God’s goodness cannot be contained, it is effusive, because Eros prevents the lover from remaining within himself; it forces him out of himself to the beloved, yet without losing his transcendent deity. God, Dionysius explains, creates because He is ‘‘beguiled by goodness, by love, and by yearning and is enticed away from his transcendent dwelling place and comes to abide within all things, and he does so by virtue of his supernatural and ecstatic capacity to remain, nevertheless, within himself.’’ (DN 4.13)  Another characteristic of Eros is its desire to be united with the object of its love.  So, the very love of the good that prompted God’s magnanimous creation is also the motive behind God’s plan of salvation whereby creation in all its manifold goodness is drawn back into union with God.  Dionysius’ protology is thus mirrored by his soteriological eschatology, whose goal is the ultimate reunion of the Divine Creator and fallen creation.

      This is the self-same exitus/reditus model of procession and return that Thomas explicates in his Commentary on the Divine Name of Dionysius, but which also informs and indeed structures not only the Summa Theologica, but arguably almost the entirety of the Angelic Doctor’s theological project. As he writes in the Commentary, “God, who is the cause of all through the beautiful and good love by which God loves all things, according to the abundance of God’s goodness by which God loves things, is outside of Godself in so far as God provides for all existing things through God’s goodness and love or desire.”  (In de div. nom. IV, lect. 10) Therefore “God is in all things through the effects of God’s own goodness according to a certain ecstasy, which God makes it to be in all lesser things in such a way that God’s transcendent power does not go out from Godself; for God thus fills all things that God is in no way evacuated from God’s own power.” (Ibid)  Moreover, just as God goes out of himself, those who seek to be re-united to the divine must undergo a corresponding ecstatic abandonment of the self, one in which they become more truly themselves in becoming more Godlike. A process of re-imagining and transformation in which those who desire union with God must learn how to yearn to such an extent that they suffer ecstasy, that is, they become beside themselves for God just as God goes out of himself for the sake of the beloved.

      For Dionysius in the Divine Names, and later for Thomas in his De divinis nominibus, but also in the Summa, the very model for this divinizing union is the Apostle Paul. As 2 Corinthians 12:2 relates, the Apostle was raptured and caught up to the third heaven. “Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.”   For Dionysius, everything that the Apostle preaches, endures, comes embodies the radical truth that he ‘‘was truly a lover and, as [Paul himself] says, was beside himself for God, possessing not his own life but the life of the one for whom he yearned.” In the words of 2 Corinthians 5:13, ‘‘If we are beside ourselves—that is, ‘‘if we are in ecstasy.’’ I would point out that here the Apostle Paul seems to embody for Thomas was Przywara would later characterize as that ecstatic longing which becomes a ‘blinding rapture.’” On this topic, Galatians 2:20 represents, in the minds of both Dionysius and Thomas, the single most important text in the entire Pauline corpus, for it is precisely in this verse that Paul identifies himself as the model of the ecstatic lover of the divine beloved when he writes “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  For Thomas, these words personify the Apostle’s Christophanic existence as an enraptured lover.  As the Angelic Doctor explains, Paul’s ecstatic “love does not permit the lover to be of himself, but rather of the beloved … and by going out of himself he projected himself entirely into God, as a true lover and as suffering ecstasy, living in God and not living by his own life, but by the life of Christ as the beloved, which life was to him intensely lovable.” (In de div. nom. IV, lect. 12)

      Thomas then relates this loving transport to God’s own ecstatic self-giving in the economy of salvation, that is, to the kenotic enfleshment of the Son, that self-emptying of the incarnate Word as related in the ancient Christian Hymn preserved Philippians 2:5-11, which states that Christ “being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for his own advantage; instead, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,” that is, “being born in human likeness.” It must be pointed out that Thomas is quite adamant on the radically apophatic nature of the divine condescension evinced by God’s Incarnation.  For Aquinas, the enfleshed Word is “supra-human but also fully human, beyond being yet also assuming a human mode of existence,” a hypostatic union which is “ineffable to every word and unknown to the mind,” so that every affirmation regarding Christ’s kenotic love for humanity in his assumed humanity is part of those theological mysteries which point towards the transcendent, unspeakable love of God precisely because they are located “above all things, above all mind and above all substance and above all cognition.” (In de div. nom. II, lect. 4) Regarding the Incarnation, then, Thomas will argue that even though it “seems most manifest, nevertheless the composition by which Jesus was divinely composed according to us, that is, in that he has our nature, cannot be sufficiently spoken by any word nor can it be known by any mind even of a supreme angel itself.” (ibid)

      Needless, to say, Thomas finds ample warrant for this apophatic characterization of the kenotic self-abandonment of the Word in Dionysius. As the Areopagite explains in Divine Names II, 10: “Since that Supra-Divine Being has in loving kindness come down into the natural world and truly took substance and assumed the name of Man, we must speak with reverence of those things which we utter beyond human thought and language,” nonetheless, “even in this act” the enfleshed Son “possesses His Supernatural and Super-Essential Existence.” Not only, Dionysius goes on to explain, in that “He has without change or confusion of Attributes partaken in our human condition while remaining unaffected by that unutterable Self-Emptying”—note here the clear allusion to Philippians 2—“as regards the fullness of His Godhead, but also because He passed in His Supernatural and Super-Essential state through conditions of Nature and Being, and receiving from us all things that are ours, thereby exalted them far above us.” (DN 2.10.) More concisely put, Christ did not merely keep His Godhead parallel, as it were, with His humanity, but brought it into His humanity and so exalted the humanity.

      When he comes to comment on this passage from the Divine Names, Aquinas similarly emphasizes that God through his own love condescended to comes down to our natural level and was truly made a substance, that is, a hypostasis of our nature, and while he remained the transcendent God, he was made a man, a human being—in other words, he is very much akin to the “concrete analogia entis” of Balthasar’s reading of Przywara. As a consequence, this assumption of a human nature by God “ought to be praised above mind and above reason.” (In de div. nom. II, lect. 5)  This exalted praise is necessitated for Thomas, much as it is in Dionysius, because in receiving the properties of our nature, nevertheless these human traits themselves have retained something divinely transcendent, something super-substantial. Thus, Aquinas goes on to say in his Commentary, “through an ineffable emptying, concerning of which the Apostle speaks in Philippians” 2, nothing was suffered in his transcendent fullness, nothing was diminished of the plenitude of his deity; for it is not called an emptying through the diminution of divinity, but rather through the assumption of a deficient nature. (ibid) And, Thomas concludes, what is “even more novel and wonderful,” God came to be “in our natural things supernaturally and in our substantial things super-substantially, having all human things, which he received from us, above us.” (ibid)

      This analysis, with its direct allusion to Philippians 2, brings us finally to what I take to be the most significant manner in which Thomas develops what he found in Dionysius’s Christology as presented in the Divine Names, and which I believe is also pertinent to our Present discussion. In his exposition of the Philippians Hymn, Thomas takes special note of the personal unity of the kenotic human and divine natures, what Dionysius in his Fourth Epistle referred to, somewhat infamously, as the theandric interrelation of the natures in the divine person, writing that “[Christ] did not do what is divine as God, nor what is human as man, but instead [as] God having become man, He has administered for us a certain, new divine-human activity.” (PG 3.1072 B) Aquinas then expressly links this kenotic life of God in creation to the salvific process whereby we become progressively more Christ-like by our sanctifying conformity to that divine-human nature, that is, by our ecstatic imitation and participation in the actions of that humanity which the self-abandoning Christ united to himself. Thus, according to Thomas, through grace the believer come to participate in Christ’s divine nature through the mediation of the incarnation. It is by conforming ourselves to Christ’s exemplary ecstatic love by which he emptied himself by assuming our human emptiness, that we in turn will be made worthy to receive the fullness of the Son’s divinity within our own humanity. Transformed, re-imagined if you will, in such a manner that in the end we will come not only to see the divine glory hidden in that humanity, but indeed become more glorious, in the process. As Thomas points out in an early passage from In de div. nom. (I, lect. 1), Paul himself describes that very process in 2 Corinthians 3:18 when he writes, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another.” The Son’s kenotic assumption of humanity establishes the means whereby our own bodies will eventually be glorified, as the Apostle promises in Philippians 3:21: “He will change our lowly body so it is like his glorious body.” And as always, in his elucidations of these various passages from the Pauline corpus, Thomas is once more deeply inspired by Dionysius emphasis on the Apostle’s ecstatic confession in Galatians 2:20 that ‘‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

      Indeed, for Thomas this is the very crux of Dionysian Christology: the ecstatic Paul of Galatians in effect becomes the re-imagined apophatic form of Christ that the Apostle encourages his Philippian interlocutors to embody when he counsels them in the prologue to the Kenotic Hymn that they should put on the same ecstatic mindset of the God who humbly assumed human form.  The apophatic love of God’s embodiment is thus the ecstatic basis for our own sanctifying conformity to the kenotic divine-human unity of the enfleshed Word. Building upon the Areopagite’s reading of the Pauline corpus, Aquinas posits that we are united to God through a process of loving kenotic reciprocity. Our ecstatic imitation and participation of that human manner of living and acting which Christ united to Himself is the very means by which we are divinized.  Indeed, as Aquinas writes, with “regard to the full participation of the Divinity, which is the true bliss of man and end of human life, this is bestowed upon us by Christ’s humanity.” (ST III, q.1, a.2, c.) By ecstatic love we are re-imagined in the ineffable image of the transcendent God who makes himself knows precisely through his incomprehensibly loving self-emptying.

      I hope that this much-too-long excursus away from Przywara has not taxed my reader’s attention beyond the breaking point; rather, I hope that is has gone some way in showing how many of the issues that we have touched upon in our discussions, a fair number of which hover about the perennial problems of the Creator/creation relationship and the paradoxical notion of the human creature as a Sosein in-über Dasein, an oscillating tension between two poles which remains perilously oriented to the transcendent, can be clarified by a ressourcement of Thomas and his reception by Przywara. Moreover. I will reiterate that the foundations for a renewed Thomistic mystical theology resides in a deeper and more sympathetic reading of the Analogia Entis and its ‘blinding rapture.’ And finally, and perhaps most importantly, in inaugurating the sort of Christological interpretation of the analogy of being that Prof. Hemmer calls for.



Creatures at Hazard: A Brief Introduction to Dialectical Traditionalism

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Erich Przywara does not introduces his notion of tradition alongside the Analogia Entis’s treatment of theological metaphysics. In light of Przywara’s exchanges with Karl Barth (which John Betz’s fine introduction goes a long way to illuminate for even the relatively uninitiated reader), one might expect the topic to arise there in section 4, on the field where reason and revelation would meet. Instead, he introduces it in the prior, third, section, on the tensions between the a priori and a posteriori. Now, the intervening wranglings between Gadamer, Habermas, Ricoeur, and Foucault on questions of understanding, history, authority, critique, and difference might have tempered my surprise. Instead, I found myself flipping to the early pages of Betz and Hart’s translation several times, verifying that in fact this work was first published in 1932. One must admire—even marvel at—such philosophical prescience. But why was my surprise pleasant? Przywara’s anticipation of those later developments in philosophy go some way to confirm my own suspicion that the problem of theological tradition is a special case of a more general, philosophical notion. Przywara has helped me articulate how that notion of tradition is grounded in our creatureliness.

In what follows, I intend to register my appreciation of Przywara’s account of creatureliness, of tradition, and of critical reflection upon tradition as a method. And yet my appreciation radiates from the vantage of our present cultural, philosophical, and theological circumstances, and not Przywara’s. I approach his work not as a historian, but as a fellow philosopher, inquiring after the ground, end, and definition of (our) being through the character of (our) being as established, directed, and determined. Accordingly, I will acknowledge differences between how he formulates the problematic of truth and history, and how the tension of the question is felt in me today. These differences press me, in turn, to press Przywara’s thought on tradition in some directions he himself did not take it. I hope in this way my reading of Przywara on the philosophical notion of tradition can be seen as at once an effort to embody his method of critical reflection and to enrich that method by integrating it with an incipient mentality I have taken to calling “Dialectical Traditionalism.”

Creatureliness, Tradition, and Critical Reflection

Przywara’s formal account of metaphysics can be understood on analogy with Kierkegaard’s formal account of the self in the opening pages of The Sickness unto Death. Any particular metaphysics will be an object within its own philosophical purview, and so will be an account of the ground, end, and definition of being, and that must include its own. Considering metaphysics as an object in this way, it is “a relation that relates itself to itself.” With metaphysic’s self-knowledge (of itself as object) comes cognizance of itself as “giving an account,” and so as produced by an intellectual operation. Considering metaphysics as an act, it is “the relation’s relating itself to itself in the relation.”1 On the first side, then, we have what Przywara calls meta-ontics. On the latter, we have what he calls meta-noetics. (119–24.) But as a being among beings, metaphysics is established, directed, and determined by the ground, end, and definition of which it seeks to give an account. The relation that metaphysics is in itself, to return to Kierkegaard’s idiom, is derived from another. And so, while it has the ground, end, and definition of its being as its prius, as its goal, and its ultimate meaning, it cannot leap away from this more fundamental relation to reach its goal. It strives to give its account from the vantage of what is first (the “a” in a priori, Przywara says), but that it must strive indicates that it begins always already after what is first. (133)

Thus is the creatureliness of metaphysics: that it cannot be itself without both an objective and conscious relation to the ground, end, and definition of being, but at the same time it cannot take full compass of that to which it is fundamentally related. That which is superhistorical cannot be excluded, but neither can one bracket out that which is intrahistorical, nor can the two be completely synthesized, for this would lead “either to a historicism of truth . . . or to a logicism of history.” (149) Between the Scylla of radical historicism and the Charybdis of totalizing logical system, Przywara sails his reader on a philosophical current he calls “tradition.” History, in his estimation, cannot be subsumed under a single logical system, nor even sublated within some fundamental dialectic or aporetic, precisely because history is never simply a steady progression. “History displays originary moments,” he says, and what originates attains a qualified superhistoricality. It establishes, directs, and defines not everything about everything, but a course of history that unfolds from its disclosure. But what originates is, because superhistorical, in itself ineffable. As we’ve already intimated, to give an account is already to be ineluctably intrahistorical. Nonetheless, the boundary between what originates and history is not impermeable, or there could be no origination at all. Instead, these originary moments take their historical course, “to some extent” declaring themselves in an intrahistorical development.

Lest we too quickly associate this “original appearing” and its historical unfolding with theophany and its religious responses (Christian or otherwise), Przywara reminds us that the reason he has invoked the notion of tradition is explicitly not to unify the historical manifestations of Truth under a single genealogy. Przywara writes,

By contrast [with an Enlightenment-style notion of progress], “regressive” tradition means an intensified limitation: the limited “thus”—the “So”—of a particular truth (of, say, the Peripatetic system), which unfolds itself not only gradually, but also always only within the limits of its originary form. It is precisely a sober historical account of these “traditions,” however, that shows very clearly that here no inner synthesis between history and truth actually comes to pass. (149)

Invoking tradition pluralizes truth in history. Originary moments are multiple, irrupting through the eventuality of history, and changing its course. Traditions, then, develop those moments, vitally declaring their form “in ever new ways.” (148). Przywara’s notion of tradition, in other words, is an effort to name the creatureliness of truth in history and of the historicity of the creaturely relation to truth. Because metaphysics are formally traditional, there cannot be only one tradition in metaphysics.

This inescapable plurality means that metaphysics cannot rest on the aspiration that, if only it could maintain impeccable genuineness, it might in C. S. Peirce’s infinite long run take being’s full compass or close the gap between history and truth. Instead, Przywara acknowledges that history is not even just perspectival, but is—in the Augustinian sense—distended (distentio) across three perspectives: past, present, and future. 2 Przywara writes:

For the retrospective view of historically conditioned thought, [the historically conscious medium of knowledge] means that [knowledge] must grow out of the tradition, positively and consciously. For the contemporaneous view (looking at the present), it means that this outgrowth of the tradition must be one that is fecundated by being made to live as universally as possible in community with the intellectual motifs of the present. For the prospective view, finally (looking into the future), it means the anticipation of a creative thinking that will not obstruct the flow of historically enduring thought (of a living philosophia perennis) with the unyielding rock of the latest “infallible systems.” (150) 

In light of this intrahistorical temporalizing of knowledge, Przywara proposes a method that bands together temporality’s threefold avenues of distraction into a more creaturely aspiration: “to live the life of the sources now, today, in the current that flows from them.” He calls the method that emerges from this effort “Critical Reflection,”

Critical, insofar as one remains conscious of the difference between the way one formulates the question today and the ways in which it was posed by the authors of the tradition. Reflection, insofar as such discriminating critique nevertheless has the positive purpose of making contemporary life sensible to the force of the current of the one tradition. (151)

One shares with the flow of a tradition the memory of an animating, ineffable glimpse at being’s luminosity and from its glint arises each generation’s nexus of questions. “Critical reflection on the original tradition,” Przywara writes, “cannot be prosecuted without an inner knowledge of the objective problems that lie at its foundation.” But in addition to the singularity of each glimpse, there is the compounding uniqueness of each age’s effort to name the tension felt between the Truth and our creatureliness. “[A] treatment of these objective questions,” he continues, “. . . [will be] already intrinsically determined by the thinker’s historical position.” As a tradition develops, then, we can move with its current and get a better sense of its “fundamental law,” at once comprehending something of its truth, but always also “being comprehended” by its source and unfolding. (152)

Dialectical Traditionalism

I’ve gone to the trouble of articulating Przywara’s philosophical notion of tradition because it skirts a number of philosophical and theological disjuncts that seem to have persisted from his age to our own. Still, there remain some correlations implied by Przywara’s notion of tradition he leaves unstated and unexplored, two of which I will mention here. One such correlation is between the received determinations of a tradition’s unfolding and the metaphysical thinker as him or herself an originary source. Another is the correlation between the determinations of a contemporary metaphysics and the mass of future, as-yet-undetermined metaphysicians it faces from behind the opaque veil of inescapable temporality.

Earlier, I mentioned “Dialectical Traditionalism,” a mentality complementary to Przywara’s method of Critical Reflection. With friends and colleagues (several of whom are participating in this symposium), I have been kicking this label around out of dissatisfaction with the present binary on offer. On one side there exists what Bernard Lonergan called “a solid right that is determined to live in a world that no longer exists.” On the other, “a scattered left,” captivated by now-this and now-that vision of unquestioning and unquestionable “progress.” 3 Often, these camps see in those who voice dissent only agents of their opposition, witting or otherwise. The binary is exhaustive in its own self-understanding. In a climate dominated by “right or left,” I’ve wondered if there isn’t anything else. Dialectical traditionalism is one effort to name those efforts (in theology especially) that subvert this binary. Part of its charm consists in that, for now, no one can assume they already know what it means. I want to conclude with some preliminary introductions on Dialectical Traditionalism’s behalf.

In one sense, Dialectical Traditionalism is a species of traditionalism, but in a primarily philosophical rather than theological sense. The traditionality I have in mind for Dialectical Traditionalism is consonant with (if not nearly identical to) Przywara’s account as described above. However, I would want to balance his account by placing a greater accent on the critical side of Critical Reflection. Przywara sketches tradition’s unfolding as a current with which one tries to swim, at once laboring under one’s own power, but foremost being carried along with its originary force. To be traditional, it seems primarily that one must surrender. Now, I am convinced enough by Gadamer’s and especially by Ricoeur’s account of tradition that, at some fundamental level, I don’t think this element of being “carried along” can be avoided. However, this treatment can elide the respect in which each person, in his or her intellectual being, is also a participation in the intellectual light glimpsed in the tradition’s origin. This light is the source of both the objective problematic of a tradition but also of the creative and determinate forms of questioning that give rise to the motifs of an age and the philosophical projects of each thinker, each school.

Dialectical Traditionalism, then, is “dialectical” in the sense that it is mobilized by the dynamism of questions. The greater part of being “carried along” involves active and critical appropriation of the tradition’s intra-historical self-declarations. In one respect, this must be a ratification of the tradition’s current. As metaphysicians work to appropriate their tradition, they find their way of living and thinking calling into question. The sovereign common sense of his or her age becomes doubtful. Its meanings and values are relativized. At the same time, the very process of inquiry that brought the tradition to light can call aspects of the tradition itself into question. Our forebears wagered their finite intellectual being to give account of the originary source in a manner meeting the level of their own times. Some of these risks fail. We feel intellectually and morally obligated to point out those we judge to be (at best) blunders. To make such judgments is not to set out on a witch hunt through the tradition, puritanically disqualifying figures or schools or epochs for their various misdeeds. It is instead to carefully sift that to which should still say “yes” from that to which we must, if we would retain our intellectual and moral integrity, say “no.”

If we remain faithful to Przywara’s account of our creatureliness and traditionality, this saying “yes” and “no” cannot be a critique from beyond our tradition(s). Inasmuch as we referee the risks taken by our forebears, we share their precarious footing. On the one hand, we stand just as blindly facing the future and its judgments. Our intellectual descendants may judge our judgments in the stark light of historical reflection foolish, hasty, immoral, etc. Indeed, were we privy to the unfolding of history, we might share their estimation. But we are not, and so we too risk. And in making judgments about us, they too will risk. Dialectical Traditionalism is thus triply dialectical: our received tradition(s) call us into question, we interrogate them in return, and the results of our inquiry will in turn be called into question by generations to come.

The way in which Dialectical Traditionalism is dialectical also suggests the respect in which it remains a form of traditionalism. That we are called into question by our tradition(s) is, perhaps, a readily recognizable traditionalist trope. On this view, however, our critical interrogation of the tradition is equally traditional. After all, not only is the deposit of the past that which occasions our critical questions, but its effective history (wirkungsgeschichte) constitutes the material resources we can marshal in defense of both our affirmations or our condemnations. An emphasis on our responsibility to appropriate and be formed by our tradition(s), and so to be faithful to them, is also a readily recognizable traditionalist trope. But for Dialectical Traditionalism, this responsibility to the past includes an exigence for critique. Here and now, our traditions’ past places upon us a demand to be (and so think as) some particular, finite, determinate, and historically located person, to be that person in the current that flows from the luminous original source of our tradition, and thus open ourselves up to the “yeses” and “nos” of future judgment. But offering these judgments is a self-concretizing before the other, and so is a risk. But it is a risk we share. It can and should be accompanied by compassion, and so also by a requisite humility—the very humility proper to our creatureliness.

  1. Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness unto Death: A Christian Psychological Exposition for Upbuilding and Awakening, trans. by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton University Press, 1980), 13.

  2. See Paul Ricoeur’s excellent exegesis of Augustine’s philosophy of time and the soul’s dialectical play between intentio and distentio in Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, trans. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer (University Of Chicago Press, 1990), 1:5–30.

  3. Bernard Lonergan, “Dimensions of Meaning,” in Collection (University of Toronto Press, 1967), 245.

  • Lexi Eikelboom

    Lexi Eikelboom


    Response to Jonathan Heaps

    As Heaps rightly identifies, perhaps Przywara’s greatest contribution is thinking about a host of things, including tradition, in terms of creatureliness. Following Przywara, Heaps here addresses tradition from the perspective of the creature, which strikes me as addressing “tradition” as a verb—how does one “tradition?” For Przywara, the nature of creatureliness is oscillation. Metaphysically, the being of the creature is not self-sufficient and at rest, like that of God, but is an oscillation between essence and existence. Noetically, the creature must oscillate between perspectives since it cannot simply circumscribe the whole of reality into a single system. The creature can only approximate the whole by moving between perspectives from within. Heaps uses the concept of “dialectic” to describe this oscillation with respect to tradition. However, I wonder at this appeal to dialectics since it is an approach of which Przywara himself is suspicious.

    Heaps refers to Kierkegaard in describing Przywara’s metaphysics. One might therefore assume that this is the understanding of dialectic with which Heaps seeks to associate his approach to tradition. In Kierkegaard’s Sickness unto Death, the poles of possibility and actuality, infinite and finite are objective dimensions of reality, however the dialectic between them by which they are held together takes place only through the creature’s experience and performance of that dialectic. However, it is not at all clear that this is an appropriate connection to Przywara. On the one hand, in his essay “Philosophies of Essence and Existence,” Przywara tells us that it is Kierkegaard, as opposed to Hegel, who gives us a genuine philosophy of existence in which thought is dynamically evolving and dialogical rather than systematic and monological. Metaphysically, Kierkegaard conjures a broken existence, the disquiet of original sin, as opposed to Hegel’s self-assured existence (319–20). In this sense, Przywara seems to affirm Kierkegaard.

    For Przywara, however, creatureliness is an oscillation between essence and existence. He is therefore suspicious of philosophies that fall too heavily on one side or the other, including Kierkegaard’s philosophy of existence. Indeed, he associates his objections to Kierkegaard precisely with “dialectic.” Przywara is suspicious of dialectic precisely because it can become another logical system that attempts to contain the flow of history, as Heaps himself briefly mentions. Przywara associates Kierkegaard’s dialectics with Heidegger’s particular existential phenomenology of becoming, in which the creature is “incurvated upon itself” (202). Dialectic in this case is a recognition of one’s in-between-ness as an aporetic impasse (194–95). The principle of non-contradiction is overcome because truth is arrived at through the identity of contradiction and the flux of opposites is held up in its own right, rather than as a means to identity. However, this eventually comes to mean that the Heideggerian Nothing is itself the principle of identity in which essence and existence coincide and the dialectic collapses into the univocal logic of identity (202). Thus, Przywara argues that “identity of contradiction” is simply a more complex version of univocity.

    Whatever one thinks of Przywara’s interpretation, it is clear that his assessment of Kierkegaard is mixed and his assessment of dialectic is not favorable. Heaps likely does not here mean a dialectic of the sort that Przywara critiques. He suggests something more like mutual influence from within the current of tradition, a pattern for moving forward in the current rather than an attempt to contain the flow. Still, aligning his understanding with that of Przywara would seem to require him to make this distinction explicit, particularly if he intends to invoke Kierkegaard.

    My larger point is that “dialectic” itself is tradition-ed. As a concept that has been used by so many thinkers with various inflections, it cannot be adopted unproblematically. Heaps would need to apply Dialectical Traditionalism to the tradition of “dialectic” itself if this is a stream in which he is swimming. If his thought has been grasped and formed by the tradition of dialectic, then he must also sift the dialectics of Hegel, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Barth, etc., for that to which he will say “yes,” and that to which he will say “no.”

    The true nub of the conversation between Heaps and Przywara may therefore be the question of whether or not “Dialectical” Traditionalism is truly what Heaps is after, or whether there might be a better way of expressing his vision. If, upon reflection, Heaps decides that dialectic is the best framework then he will have to do the sifting work I mentioned. If, however, he decides that this is perhaps not quite the right framework after all, then Przywara may in fact provide a helpful alternative.

    Heaps points out that tradition, as Przywara understands it, does “not unify the historical manifestations of Truth under a single genealogy.” There cannot be only one tradition. This suggests that while Heaps goes on to describe the intra-traditional conversation between past and present, and eventually future, there is also a second, lateral conversation going on between traditions. If truth is not unified under a single genealogy, then any given genealogy must be opened up to conversation with other genealogies as well. This will no doubt have an effect on how a particular tradition is performed. The challenge is therefore to develop a similar oscillation in the lateral direction, in which one sifts other traditions according to one’s own while also allowing those traditions to exert some influence on one’s own current.

    This is consistent with Przywara’s analogical form, in which two oscillations intersect one another. One axis is the oscillation between essence and existence and likewise between a priori and a posteriori methodologies. The other is the oscillation between the poles “in” and “beyond” (160). Przywara’s name for this form is of course “analogy.” Likewise, every intra-traditional oscillation is also intersected by an oscillation between traditions (and vice versa). Any given dialectic is thereby opened up beyond itself, interrupting attempts at self-enclosure, which are always a temptation for dialectic. The creaturely form of tradition that Przywara’s thought seems to imply is therefore not a single dialectic, but an intersection of oscillations which open one another up beyond themselves. This is part of what Przywara means in saying that analogy, rather than dialectic, is the appropriate form of creaturely thought—the oscillation between the two poles is open to something beyond itself.

    Therefore, while Heaps helpfully describes an intra-traditional oscillation informed by Przywara, I submit that an engagement with Przywara presents an opportunity to think about inter-traditional dialogue as well. This is perhaps particularly the case with respect to the dialogue between Protestant and Catholic traditions. Przywara himself exhibits this form. On the one hand, he exhibits precisely the sort of intra-traditional dialogue that Heaps advocates. His work on analogy is formed by the Catholic tradition of the Fourth Lateran Council even as he provides a unique understanding of the doctrine as a dynamic rhythm of intersecting oscillations, which is perhaps even implicitly critical of other approaches to analogy as merely a matter of language. Nevertheless, in the midst of this intra-traditional dialectic, Przywara also engages at least two other traditions—continental philosophy and Protestant theology. It is true that many of these engagements are critiques coming out of his Catholic tradition. However, there are ways in which Przywara allows his vision of reality to be shaped by these other traditions as well. Despite the legendary opposition between Przywara and Barth, Przywara emphasizes interruptive and event-like dimensions of the creature’s relation to God (see for example pp. 237, 287, and 592 of Hart’s and Betz’s translation), such as are typically characteristic of Protestant descriptions, particularly those of Barth. Indeed, although Przywara problematizes the dialectical tradition, he is nevertheless clearly in conversation with this tradition of maintaining poles in tension and his engagement with Kierkegaard is both affirming and critical.

    The creaturely question that Przywara opens up with respect to tradition is not simply “how does one perform tradition?” but “how does one perform a tradition even as one is formed by other traditions?” And as such, his response is not “dialectical” traditionalism but, as with all things for Przywara, an “analogical” traditionalism. And, following Przywara’s description of the analogical form as intersecting oscillations, I would venture that it is also a rhythmic traditionalism. My recommendation is not necessarily that Heaps must adopt this approach or discard his Dialectical Traditionalism, but I would like to see him engage Przywara’s alternative as either consistent with what he means by Dialectical Traditionalism or as deficient in some respect that his dialectical approach avoids without falling prey to Przywara’s critiques of dialectic.

    • Avatar

      Jonathan Heaps


      Sifting (With Thanks)

      Before thanking Lexi Eikelboom for her immensely helpful response (and defending the term, ‘dialectic’ a little bit), I need to confess something a bit embarrassing: the appellation, “Dialectical Traditionalism,” did not begin as the high-minded vision of an incipient mentality portrayed above. It began, instead, as a bit of a goof, meant to relieve the persistent tension of trying to explain this mentality that I have found somewhat bereft of its own rhetoric. It tickled me that it shares some verbal resonance with “Dialectical Materialism,” a philosophy it could not resemble less (and, on another occasion I might argue, with which it is patently incompatible). It also put a smile on my face to think that the conjunction of these two terms, “dialectical” and “traditional,” is sufficiently improbable as to stymie those who might assume they always already knew what it meant. At worst, I thought, people might assume it was a kind of warmed-over Catholic Hegelianism. There are worse things to be suspected of by strangers than Hegelianism.

      All of which is to say that Eikelboom is well within her rights to ask me just what I mean by it.

      Initially I feared Eikelboom had mistaken me for, not a Hegelian, but something like a Heideggerian. To my relief, however, she recognized that such quasi-stoic resoluteness in the face of our creaturely ‘between’ was not at all what I had in mind. More than just relieved, I find myself gratified—bordering on elated—that, even in the mode of critique, she took up my suggested mentality and carried it into precisely the wider horizon that I believe Dialectical Traditionalism leads. Eikelboom is exactly right to insist that, in addition to the intra-traditional oscillation I spelled out, “an engagement with Przywara presents an opportunity to think about inter-traditional dialogue as well.” Though I did not highlight it above, I am in full and fervent agreement that not only do we have a diachronic dialectic within our traditions, but between traditions too. Eikelboom is right to point out that there is always also a synchronic “lateral” vector of oscillation. I am convinced that, to borrow Sartre’s syntax, Dialectical Traditionalism is a pluralism and Eikelboom’s response above deploys Przywara’s account of analogy in strong support of that conviction.

      I found Eikelboom’s appeal to Przywara’s own philosophical and theological performance especially illuminating in this regard. I appreciate that she underlines how we can find in Przywara’s work evidence of continental philosophy and protestant theology raising questions unto new insights that occlusive fidelity—or, perhaps more accurately, “fidelity”—to the Catholic intellectual tradition at the time might not have otherwise occasioned. Even as I made his notion of “originary moments” integral to my account of tradition, I did not recognize Barth’s influence. Indeed, this dual-vector approach to interpreting a thinker’s place in the past has great promise for appreciating and appropriating the work of even great, originative geniuses. David Burrell’s studies of Jewish, Christian and Muslim theologies, for example, have advanced Bernard Lonergan’s studies of Thomas Aquinas’s place in the Christian speculative theological tradition in much this fashion. Looking into the future, I have to imagine that breakthroughs analogous to those made by Aquinas and by Przywara will be made by the continued combination of intra- and inter-traditional conversation. Indeed, global communications technologies and digital media (as evidenced by Syndicate itself) will only expand and compound this task, but also (we may hope) its promise.

      By the ambient light of this affirmation, then, I want to very modestly defend my use of the term “dialectical.” First, I ought to offer a clarification: my invocation of Kierkegaard was meant to illustrate not my notion of dialectic, but rather Przywara’s insistence on distinguishing within ontology the meta-ontic and the meta-noetic. And even then, I did not mean to invoke the entirety of Kierkegaard’s philosophy, nor even the entirety of The Sickness unto Death, but (with willful and flagrant disregard for my reader) only that first page or two explaining the modalities of relation at work in human beings as selves. To be very brief about it, I meant only to illustrate that ontologies are made by persons.

      That being said, Eikelboom is quite fair in turning my words against me to insist that I “sift the dialectics of Hegel, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Barth, etc. for that to which [I] will say ‘yes’ and that to which [I] will say ‘no.’” Dialectic is, as she says, tradition-ed and so to “give an account” of the dialectical aspect of dialectical traditionalism will require getting dialectical (in the sense I mean) about its tradition. Me culpa; this I did not do. To be comically brief: Hegel’s are too narrowly logical, Kierkegaard’s are (for my purposes) too anti-metaphysical, doubly so for Heidegger, and Barth’s too dogmatic—which is to say, too theological.

      But although I obviously did not say so, none of these were the notion of dialectic I’d intended. I had in mind instead some compound of Aristotle’s notion of dialectic and Bernard Lonergan’s. In my passing familiarity with Aristotle’s approach to dialectic, it seems the process itself (think especially of the first book of the De Anima) is proto-traditional. Received opinions are considered by calling them into question. More concretely, they are weighed by their ability to answer the philosopher’s questions. Those that can are allowed to be carried forward in the inquiry and those that cannot are discarded or, best case scenario, modified and augmented so that they can. Moreover, extant opinions are also allowed to call the positive contributions of the philosopher him or herself into question, and his or her positions are weighed on their ability to answer these or are modified when they cannot.

      Lonergan’s notion of dialectic, however, is more fundamental. Lonergan identifies an open, but still normative directionality to this process of asking and answering questions. He calls it, “cognitional structure.” Opinions that close off this open-but-normative directionality are counter-productive and need to be reversed. They have to be wrong because they run against the grain of the intelligence that generated them. Conversely, any opinion that is consonant with this thrust of intelligence can, to the extent that it reflects the genuineness of that thrust, be affirmed at the very least as intelligent. Moreover, it can also be cooperated with to advance understanding in at least some small measure. Lonergan’s notion of dialectic, then, is a matter of identifying when you and/or your interlocutors are being intelligent, reasonable, and responsible or, on the contrary, being obtuse, irrational, and irresponsible in thought or deed. The former is to be affirmed, assisted, and advanced cooperatively, and the latter is to denied, resisted, repented of, and reversed, though no less cooperatively. The tricky part, of course, is that not only do these opposed tendencies usually exist together in a given person, but they often exist together even in particular philosophical positions. Hence the sifting required to say “yes” or say “no.” As I think about it, a better word than sifting might be “discernment.”

      And so, while I think that “Analogical Traditionalism” is likely a better meta-ontic description of the mentality I have in mind (for the reasons grounded in Przywara’s work that Eikelboom cites), I want to yet hang on to my notion of tradition as “dialectical.” It captures, I think, the meta-noetic aspect of doing tradition—of ‘tradition-ing’ and especially of tradition-ing together. It maintains the implication of a mediated encounter with those who think differently-than, but also creaturely-with us. On this point I would reiterate my gratitude to my respondent for pushing my account from the intra- to the inter-traditional. There are many horizons, both within my own tradition and those of my others, that possess deep differences from my own but are still constituted intelligently, reasonably, and responsibly in their creaturely oscillations between thought and world, between history and truth, between self and God, and so with which I may come to not just converse, but also to cooperate.

    • Lexi Eikelboom

      Lexi Eikelboom


      Pushing Przywara (and Heaps, just a little)

      As Heaps has so kindly made clear in his response to my questions, I am very happy with and interested in the horizons into which Heaps would like to take his dialectical traditionalism. I think that the sort of dialectic that Heaps envisions, which pertains primarily to method yet is appropriate to an analogical metaphysics, is clearer and I thank him for this. If I understand correctly, dialectic for Heaps names primarily a framework for advancing knowledge through, and perhaps even as dependent on, together-ness. Particularly if the two impulses towards both reason, intelligence, and responsibility and unreason, stupidity, and irresponsibility coexist in the same person and the same systems of thought, then such a cooperative approach would indeed be necessary since it is very unlikely that one would allow one’s self to see the less flattering impulses in one’s self and one’s systems.

      So, if I continue to push a little it is only because I like Heaps’ impulse, the approach to thought and dialogue that he lays out, and want to see how far and in which directions we can push it.

      My first set of questions is perhaps a little cheeky. I continue to be interested in this question of Heaps’ applying his dialectic form to his own dialectical traditionalism. First, with respect to Aristotle and Lonergan, if these are two voices in a particular tradition of dialectic, then how does Heaps see himself engaging them dialectically? Are there certain dimensions of Lonergan’s own dialectic that ought to be resisted such that Heaps’ understanding of dialectic oscillates both backward to Lonergan but then also forward beyond him? Second, I am interested in who Heaps sees as his own lateral interlocutors on this question of dialectic. Is this the role that Kierkegaard, Hegel, or Barth play, perhaps? Or are there more contemporary explorations of dialectic that serve this function? On what basis are thinkers identified as part of one tradition or as part of a parallel one to be engaged laterally?

      As I say, I recognize these questions are a little mischievous, but I do also hope that they are stimulating in bringing out what I take to be some of the interesting potential of Heaps’ form for thinking through dialectic itself dialectically. But I will leave these cheeky questions here and move on to a second, more serious, set of questions that bring us back to Przywara.

      A piece of the puzzle that is still missing to me, at least explicitly, is how Heaps understands his Aristotelain-Lonergan-dialectic-as-method to be ontologically grounded. What is the relation between the analogical meta-ontic and Heaps’ dialectical meta-noetic? In this case, however, I think there are indications of a possible answer to this question already latent in Heaps’ response. I will lay out what I am seeing in this regard as an invitation to correct or build on it, in part because I think that doing so may open up an interesting conversation with respect to Przywara. It seems to me that in wanting to maintain a dialectical traditionalism alongside analogy, Heaps is both grounding this method in Przywara’s analogical form and is correcting for something too-little emphasized in Przywara.

      On the one hand, the differently-than/creaturely-with seems to resonate with Przywara’s own analogical form with respect to intimacy and alterity. Similar to the way in which God is the most interior to or intimate to the creature precisely at the moment that God is most other from the creature (231-32) (and here perhaps we have Pseudo-Dionysius again), Heaps suggests that the same logic holds between creatures in a way appropriate to them, namely that they are most properly with one another in their difference from one another. In engaging in the sort of cooperative endeavor that Heaps refers to in Lonergan, the creature would not only be advancing understanding but also simply being a creature well. Thus the dialectic meta-noetic would be an appropriate dimension of the analogical meta-ontic.

      However, if this is the case, it might also reveal a deficiency in Przywara (which after all is possible if, as Lonergan suggests, opposed tendencies may exist in the same system), although one that I think could be rectified by his own logic. This is something that I have wondered about before with respect to Przywara so I’m grateful to Heaps for the opportunity to explore it. In the same way that I wondered above about there being an inter-traditionalism in addition to an intra-traditionalism, I have wondered that there is little to no mention of an inter-creaturely oscillation in addition to the intersection of the intra-creaturely and the theological oscillations that make up the analogia entis. I have wondered, when Przywara describes his intra-creaturely analogy in the Analogia Entis, whether he is describing a kind of relationship within a single creature, between creatures, or somehow both. While I sometimes choose to take him to mean one of the latter two, it nevertheless seems to me that when he describes the relationship between the various potentialities and actualities that make up the intra-creaturely analogy, for example (210-231), he appears to do so in the mode of referring to a single creature.

      If this is the case, then this is perhaps a point at which Heaps’ dialectical traditionalism might be not only based on Przywara’s analogical form but also (dialectically?) pushes it forward to a new instantiation of that form, namely in its mediating between creatures as well as within the creature and between the creature and God.

    • Avatar

      Jonathan Heaps



      Dialogical cooperation of the kind we’ve been both discussing and engaging in enacts a rhythmic ‘between’. It wiggles between critiques of occlusive sameness and fragmenting difference. By developing a mutuality, it gives rise to surprises. I was surprised, for instance, to find my by-the-way formulation, “think differently-than, but also creaturely-with,” transformed into something like a full-blown principle: differently-than/creaturely-with. In her effort to understand what I had put forward, Eikelboom helped me understand better what I’d said. It helped me understand that the differently-than/creaturely-with is one way to answer to her question about the ontological ground of what I have described in psychological, phenomenological, and hermeneutical terms.

      When we turn to ask this metaphysical question about the being of dialogical cooperation, Eikelboom and I have already been invoking those classic metaphysical notions: similar and different. When diverse interlocutors meet, we may take stock of our meeting in ontological terms: You are different from me and I am different from you. In this way, we are the same; we are both different. The boundary of our difference is our finitude, that we are each an existing this, but furthermore we are “this” this. We are together in our being different-than and we are similar in our creaturely-with. The former grounds the dialogical character of our conversation, the latter its cooperative character.

      The analysis unfolds the other way as well. If we can come to recognize that we are similarly different, we can also take stock of the concrete ways in which we are different differently. The reciprocity of being differently-than should not be conflated with symmetrical being differently-than. Differences in culture, forms of rationality, power, etc. can all create ways of being differently-than differently. Taking stock of these and giving an account of them together, however, transforms us and so transforms our ways of being differently-than, as my back and forth with Eikelboom has transformed me. One of the risks of such dialogical cooperation is that one can become differently-than/creaturely-with (or, in Przywara’s idiom, in-and-beyond) one’s self. Lonergan talks about this as the self transcending and the self transcended. When this mutual self-mediation proceeds authentically, however, we may hope to non-violently draw more closely together with others.

      Authenticity, then, is not just a meta-noetic category, but can be seen down the line as a meta-ontic one as well. At the risk of sentimentality, we might say in the most profound metaphysical register that part of human becoming is becoming human together. But, as Eikelboom notes, not only do we face the limits of our finitude, but also the corrupting deficiencies of sin in ourselves and others. The dialectic with the other, if it will be authentic, needs to be open to dialectical transformations within myself. Dialectical traditionalism can scale in this way: while it can be a mentality for relating to millennia of cultural and inter-cultural history, it can also be a modality of discernment within the micro-history of one’s own biography.

      (Indeed, this may be the beginning of an answer to Eikelboom’s gently-needling questions about my own lateral partners in dialectic: the ones I have I’ve accrued through some mix of osmotic laziness and intellectual commitment, both occasioned by accidents of biography. Many of the major partners in my own scholarly conversations (Milbank, Lonergan, Gadamer) I picked up in undergraduate classrooms, at the mercy of the syllabi my professors authored. Some I have since said “no” to, like Hauerwas, and others I have turned to subsequently, like James Cone.)

      But the differently-than/creaturely-with of dialogical cooperation is, as Eikelboom also underlined, analogous with the differently-than/ontologically-with of the creature/Creator relation. The still-resounding consequence of 12th century advances in articulating divine transcendence is a more radical sense of divine immanence. God certainly acts as final cause, calling us into a new proportion of being differently-than/creaturely-with not just the Triune God, but all of creation in its reconciliation thereto. But God also acts efficiently, causing every cause and acting in every action. This includes the acts of meaning and commitment that constitute traditions and dialogical cooperation within and between them. Therefore, the authenticity of being-dialogical (differently-than/creaturely-with creatures) is also a participation in being-Godly (differently-than/creaturely-with the Creator).

      I’m not entirely sure that Przywara has a sufficiently modern account of meaning and culture to fully bridge the ontological and the hermeneutical in the way I have tried to suggest above. I’m not entirely sure he doesn’t either, but it’s on that suspicion I’ve dragged Lonergan into the conversation because I think he (perhaps uniquely) does. But I don’t think Lonergan had time (there are those accidents of biography again) to make explicit or concrete that link between the ontological and the hermeneutical in a way that present anxieties and controversies demand. And so while this is not exactly a sifting “no” to Lonergan, it is perhaps a way of pushing out into new conversations differently-than/creaturely-with him.



Method and Metaphysics

Erich Przywara’s Analogia Entis, it must be said from the outset, deserves every word of praise that it has courted in the eight decades since its publication, even if contemporary Anglophone readers are only now slowly showing up on the scene a little breathless and a little late (to borrow a phrase from Bernard Lonergan). The labors of John Betz and David Bentley Hart to bring this work at last into English makes possible nothing short of a reexamination of twentieth-century theology, both what actually transpired in the wake of Przywara’s work, and how that legacy might have been different had he more decisively won the day. This latter issue has been the one foremost on my mind while reading the text. For all the importance accorded Analogia Entis as a source for theologians like Barth, von Balthasar, Rahner, and others, what one finds in its pages is not a pre-conciliar artifact, whose discovery is of interest only to antiquarians. Instead, one encounters a mind that is somehow still ahead of us, a thinker to whom we are still trying to catch up. Perhaps nowhere is this clearer than in his methodological reflections on metaphysical analysis with which Przywara begins the work.

That Przywara writes of method at all may seem strange to modern readers. Having made the linguistic turn through Gadamer’s hermeneutical phenomenology, theologians and philosophers today have a well-worn mistrust of “method,” imaging it an a priorist project aiming to control the results of inquiry through axiomatic rules and logic or a misguided effort to recast Geisteswissenschaften into the mold of the more successful and respectable Naturwissenschaften. To even utter the word invites accusations of a nefarious Kantian contagion, a kind of modernist poison for which repristination to the pre-subjective is the only antidote. That so rigorously an anti-idealist philosophy like Lonergan’s should be so inaccurately portrayed as an effort of a so-called “transcendental Thomist” to make peace between the Angelic Doctor and Kantian philosophy simply because he uses the word method is a perennial cause of frustration.

Beyond all the suspicion surrounding this oft-vilified term, however, there remains an inescapable exigence at the heart of philosophy and theology, an exigence best described as methodic. It is with this exigence that Przywara begins his work, with metaphysics as a formal problem. Analogia Entis opens from the ambiguity that accompanies all metaphysics, the ambiguity of philosophical analysis. Does metaphysics—as a structured intellectual practice, as a tradition of philosophical reason—begin on the side of the subject, in his or her interrogative performance, or does it instead begin on the side of the object, in its concreteness and unity?

Przywara resists an absolute answer. He, in fact, shows absolute answers to be counter-positional. He does not privilege either a priori or a posteriori analyses as the proper posture of metaphysical science. He shows instead that there are hidden a posteriori elements in any a priori approach, and vice versa—in fact, doubly so. But recognizing that a pure approach does not yield a pure metaphysics does not proscribe of the methodic altogether. Instead, from the very beginning of Analogia Entis, Przywara shows that an adequate metaphysical analysis—one that has come to terms not only with Plato and Aristotle, but also with Hegel, Husserl, and Heidegger—will have to take the more difficult route that variously selects both the meta-noetic and and meta-ontic valences of investigation. With the ancient tradition, Przywara affirms that metaphysics is most fundamentally concerned with being as the meaningful unity of all that is, and from Hegel and Hegel’s phenomenological descendants, Przywara asserts that the consciousness of the philosopher is as much a site of philosophical reflection as any object of intentional consciousness.

In Przywara’s analysis, the consideration of twin foci of consciousness and being undergoes a series of what he calls “intensifications.” The initial problem of choosing between the meta-noetic and meta-ontic starting points, dilates into the consideration of the structure of the transcendental (in the classical sense of the True, Good, and Beautiful), and ultimately to the interrelation of an a priori and an a posteriori metaphysics of objects and acts. These intensifications have a sublating relationship, the earlier perspectives are maintained in the later ones, even as the latter go beyond the earlier. In the limit, though, the sublations reach a breaking point; they give way suddenly to the realization of the concreteness of the relationship between the finite and the absolute. And with the recognition of that relationship, new methodic problems arise, ones not confined to the problem of consciousness and being, but emerging from them in unanticipated ways.

Owing to the inescapabilty of the emergence of the question of the finite-infinite relation in metaphysical method, there is a philosophical temptation to immanentize the absolute by mapping the earlier relationships (e.g., the meta-ontic and the meta-noetic, the a priori and the a posteriori) onto the dynamics of finite and absolute. For Przywara, Hegel’s philosophy of absolute spirit is the most articulate attempt at this immanentizing. Despite its ambition, though, all such endeavors, even ones sophisticated as Hegel’s, are eventually refuted by their own contingency, historicity, and finitude, because in the concreteness of the relationship between them, one discovers that the absolute differs from the finite not in terms of degree, but of kind. The disproportion between these orders of being means that, at the end of metaphysics, the philosopher experiences a jarring short step, an impossibility and impracticability only discovered at the limits of the philosophical craft. “Hence,” Przywara writes, “the pure formal problem of metaphysics as such leads to the question of the relation between God and creature” (AE, 157).

With the posing of this question, it suddenly becomes untenable—for methodical reasons—to parse the relationship of the finite and the absolute in terms of the lower perspectives of the meta-noetic/meta-ontic, a priori / a posteriori, etc. Instead, “the only possibility that remains is that of distinguishing it from them” (157). The relationship between God and creation, then, is a philosophical question that arises through the intensifications of philosophical or metaphysical perspectives, yet, precisely because it asks after a super-mundane reality, it intends an answer unattainable through the concepts that provoked the philosophical form of the question. In methodical terms, the philosopher is compelled for philosophical reasons to ask a question whose answer transgresses the performative boundary between philosophy and theology. The relation of between God and creation, as Robert Sokolowski observers, is “glimpsed at the margin of reason” (Sokolowski, The God of Faith and Reason, 57). This liminality signals the need for both a way of speaking of this mysterious relation—a relation that is also a distinction—and a way of affirming the entitative disproportion between the relata. This way of speaking—both philosophical and theological—is analogy. I’ll leave it to other contributors to parse how and why Przywara does what he does with analogy, but it is important to recognize that his account of analogy follows upon his dynamic interpretation of the praxes proper to metaphysical analysis itself, to those performances involved in asking and answering the questions of being. There need not be a difficulty between advocates of analogy as principally “grammatical,” as a way of thinking and speaking “the distinction” (see David Burrell’s early work on the subject) and those that understand it as the structure of being itself. There is only a problem here if meaning is being’s adjunct, but Przywara’s entire approach reveals such a notion as fraudulent. In the wonderful introduction to the work, Betz suggests that Burrell’s later work on Thomas and Scotus evinces precisely this point, and he is certainly right.

Przywara’s ability to trace out the distinctions and linkages between philosophical and theological analyses corroborates the efforts of Maurice Blondel’s l’Action a generation earlier and Bernard Lonergan’s Insight a generation later. Both Blondel and Lonergan demonstrate how profoundly a formally philosophical analysis of human action or operation proceeds through a series of intensifications similar to those in Przywara’s account. This coincidence keys us into the fact that thinking is not something other than incarnate action. Blondel’s methodic commitment to a separated philosophy, and his focus on human action as a philosophical problem, even on a maximalist interpretation, leads to a philosophy of God, but not, it must be stressed, to a theology. The same can be said for Lonergan’s Insight. His philosophical moving viewpoint advances from an invariant cognitional theory, to an epistemology, a critical metaphysics, an ethics, and a philosophy of God. Yet, Lonergan is willing, in a way that Blondel is not, to move from one abstractive viewpoint to another. And so Insight closes with an appeal to special transcendent knowledge, to the supernatural gifts of the conjugate forms required for the healing and elevating of the human spirit, to the mysterious law of the cross that is the divinely originated solution to the problem of evil. Like Blondel and Lonergan, Przywara is sensitive to the demands of particular modes of inquiry, and while always keeping clear about the mode he is in, his account of meta-ontic and meta-noetic interplay of philosophical methods bring him to the precipice of a theology, and so takes him directly to the thorny issue of the relationship between theology and philosophy in general, and a distinctively Catholic account of that relationship in particular.

The need to clarify what is Catholic in the dialogue of faith and reason occasions Przywara’s engagement with controversial passages from Vatican I’s De filius especially the vexed “duplex ordo cognitionis.” Przywara goes so far as to claim that De filius (at least that anti-Hegelian chapter, “De fide et ratione”) is “the most precise formulation of the method we are here attempting to sketch out” (186). But while subsequent twentieth-century controversies over the meaning of the duplex ordo were couched within more perennial disputes about rationalism, fideism, natural and elicited desires, etc., Przywara calls attention to the intellectual polemics of the council itself, highlighting that the position on faith and reason it put forward is a response to Hegel, and Hegel’s growing influence in Catholic thought. In its Hegelian contestation, Vatican I affirms both the principiis and the methodo of the various distinct (but not separate) departments of human knowledge, especially philosophy and theology. What Przywara highlights, though, is that the stability of the objective principles and subjective methods of the various forms of human inquiry and insight rest on Trinitarian and ecclesial grounds, within the proceeding Word that is the act-from-act procession of the Son of God from the Father: “The profound significance of this, therefore, comes from Trinitarian doctrine: submission to the church is a being-formed-in-Christ, who as the Eternal Son of the Father is the Logos, the Intellectus Sui within the intra-divine life. Thus, what might look like ‘disciplinary cowardice’ is actually a noetic mysticism of participation in the intra-divine procession of Eternal Truth” (187).

Situating Dei filius’s position on faith and reason within a Trinitarian context transcends any interpretation of the duplex ordo that ruptures the theological unity of both reason and faith. But Przywara, by interacting with Husserl and Heidegger, also integrates developments in philosophy since Dei filius and Aterni patris that, as Kevin Hart has argued, subsequent papal reflections on the council and the Leonine program have largely ignored. There is a freshness to his meditations on faith and reason that can and should be instructive for theologians today. Analogia Entis is evidence that the predictable pendulum-swing between the poles of rationalism and fideism need not forever determine the conversation, that a critique of the modern subject need not be a retreat to a premodern subject, that ressourcement and aggiornamento go hand-in-hand, that a Catholic philosophy can be faithful to the past, conversant with the present, and yet remain in large part undiscovered until into the future.

  • Anne Michelle Carpenter

    Anne Michelle Carpenter


    Transcending Immanence and Indwelling Transcendence

    What Ryan Hemmer has done for us here is both significant and subtle, and I want to spend some time drawing out the implications of his thesis. I will do so by filling out his basic position on Przywara’s philosophical-theological method by relating it to what Przywara says about analogy, and by searching for its recognizable lineaments in the thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar. We will see the use in Hemmer’s insights both as they play out in Przywara and as they tectonically shift what we find in Balthasar, perhaps one of Przywara’s most significant—and most significantly affected—students.

    Hemmer asks us, “Does metaphysics . . . begin on the side of the subject, in his or her interrogative performance, or does it begin instead on the side of the subject, in its concrete mess and unity? Przywara resists an absolute answer.” Przywara’s resistance to siding with either subjective or objective metaphysics can be seen not only in his method, which Hemmer has laid out for us, but also in his working out of metaphysical analogy itself. Przywara speaks of metaphysical analogy as both movement upward (subjective, existential metaphysics) and movement downward (objective metaphysics). Przywara at one point calls this a “suspended reciprocity” (239). Earlier in the text, Przywara writes, “Analogy is, at this highest point, analogy as a dynamic back-and-forth between the above-and-beyond (of transcending immanence) and the from-above-into (of an indwelling transcendence)” (216, emphasis original).

    For Przywara, then, being—one of the central concerns of metaphysics—arrives to human thought as both immanent and transcendent. Analogy between what is creaturely and what is not means being confronted with what is familiar, and what is “ever-greater.” It is only known in what is immanent, yet what is immanent constantly refers to what is greater than itself. Przywara calls it an “oscillation of the ‘in and beyond’” (141). Here we can see a striking feature of Przywara’s version of analogy, which is the idea that analogy has no point of rest, conclusion, or termination. Rather than serving as a principle or an idea, in the sense of a restricted concept, analogy is a dynamic series of movements, a constant “oscillation.” Or, as Przywara says elsewhere, analogy is “the principle that out the ‘all’ of the creaturely: not because this metaphysics deduces the all from this principle, but because it opens itself to the all in this principle” (310). Przywara’s use of analogy is reminiscent, or rather foreshadows, William Desmond’s use of metaxu, “the between.” In Przywara’s thought—as Hemmer has already pointed out—philosophy “intends an answer unattainable through the concepts provoked in the philosophical form of the question.” There can be no rest, at least in part because what is “ever-greater” outstrips reason. Nor does theology really “arrive” there so much as it takes upon itself.

    It is at this point—where the “ever-greater” is in and beyond the immanent (where philosophy ends)—that Przywara surfaces the beautiful. He does so in the context of Aristotle: “The nuances of the Aristotelian account of the beautiful indicate the same kind of ‘blessedly enraptured uncertainty’ in that ‘mathematical proportion’ appears to be no less a ‘turning between darkness and light’” (251). Much earlier in Analogia Entis, Przywara calls aesthetics “a synthesis of metaphysics and ethics,” an expression of the “circle” between anima and res, which places beauty at the center of the movement between immanence and transcendence (128–29). Przywara’s use of beauty allows us to transition into Balthasar’s thought, and my goal here is to show how much of the substructure of Balthasar’s metaphysical use of beauty and analogy is Przywarian in tenor, which lets us see Balthasar’s favorite Gestalt in a new light.

    Balthasar’s metaphysics is often traced to his work in Theo-Logic I, which is where he is the most explicit. I want to spend some time with Glory of the Lord I, which emphasizes aesthetics. It is in the first place quite Przywarian for Balthasar to begin with “The Subjective Evidence” and then to move into “The Objective Evidence,” all while indicating the circumincession of the two. When speaking of faith, for example, Balthasar is eager to include a dynamic of immanence and transcendence, where the believer both seeks God, and God arrives to the believer on his own initiative. “The quaerens remains, and rightly, because faith interiorly strives away from the believer on into the light of God and to the evidence to be found in God alone; but the quaerens must be complemented by an inveniens which is compatible with the earthly state of the believer” (132). In other words, Balthasar applies the creaturely “oscillation” of analogy to the realities of faith—he expands it in a further analogy. It would be too much to call this feature in Balthasar solely an application of Przywara, but we can see resonances or echoes between the two.

    A similar dynamic of immanence and transcendence appears when Balthasar discusses the various ways we might “read” the objective form of revelation (that is, Christ). There are two: the first is through the “historical signs” of God’s actions, and the second focuses on “God’s eternal truth he is in himself” (143). These two modes of “reading” revelation threaten to become what Balthasar negatively calls a dualism, and—like the Przywara of Analogia Entis, but more intensely so—it is at this point that the beautiful appears to unite without collapsing differences. “This dualism can be abolished only by introducing as well the thought-forms and categories of the beautiful. The beautiful is above all form, and the light does not fall on this form from above and from outside, rather it breaks forth from the form’s interior” (146). That is to say, the beautiful reminds us that we cannot see God’s eternal truth apart from historical signs, and yet these signs have a “depth” such that they always carry within themselves what is in fact beyond them. “The content (Gehalt) does not lie behind the form (Gestalt), but within it” (147).

    Balthasar even rejects “the concept of Being” as a possible “grammar” for talking about the relationship between the world and God. Here Balthasar seems to dismiss using the analogy of being as a determinate linguistic tool, instead preferring “method” as Hemmer uses the word. Balthasar says, “It is the art of this artist, rather, that in the worldly form which he has invented as his image and likeness, he has on his own initiative also placed and conferred that expressive and revelatory power which allows us to look from this particular surface and understand this particular and unique depth” (432). This, for Balthasar, helps to overcome a Deistic understanding of creation while giving due credit to the integrity of nature in itself, and again it emphasizes a dialogue between transcending immanence and indwelling transcendence.

    What we might say, at least cautiously, is that Balthasar has “mapped” Przywara’s analogy thoroughly into his theological aesthetics, particularly in his use of form. This is one reason why the meaning of form can be so difficult to track in Balthasar, since it is a way of trying to apprehend and use Przywara’s “in-and-beyond.” In other words, form is not a “thing” so much as it is movement, a way of perceiving the “suspended reciprocity” between infinite being and finite being. Balthasar can, then, apply form to both natural things (as in art) and supernatural things (as in the incarnation). It makes form an unusual, and unusually flexible, term. It also makes Balthasar’s “method” deeply Przywarian, and allows us to see that Balthasar is not being imprecise so much as he is following the precisions of his mentor, Przywara.

    There are tantalizing paths we might follow here, especially in terms of Gestalt, but for now I will leave us with the beginning. I want to thank Ryan Hemmer for inciting these thoughts, and for allowing me to read and respond to his essay. I look forward to all of our future conversations here and elsewhere.

    • Anne Michelle Carpenter

      Anne Michelle Carpenter


      Balthasarian Thomism III

      I want to expand on my response to Hemmer in order to forward more dialogue between us, to round out some vague gestures I made, and to speculate about the implications of both expansions. To do so, I will turn to a paragraph from Balthasar that I often find myself puzzling over again and again:

      The end of the question is the great cry. It is the word that is no longer a word, that therefore can no longer be understood and interpreted as a word. It is the monstrous thing that still remains after everything moderate, understandable, and attuned to the hearing of men has faded away. In truth, one should hear in every clothed word what breaks out naked in this cry. It is something literally unsayable, which comes from infinitely further than is comprised in the finite dialogic situation, and is directed infinitely further than can be expressed in the creaturely word in fully formed words. (A Theological Anthropology, 280)

      Such a paragraph is on the one hand prototypically Balthasarian in the sense that it is in some way Logos-centered, and in the sense that its immediate meaning is difficult to surmise. It says something rather specific without saying, specifically, what it is saying. Such is Balthasar’s habit, though not all the time. Yet this paragraph is quite un-Balthasarian, since it goes beyond simple obscurity, and suggests a surging wellspring of meaning that is not understood, that seems to press apart the boundaries of logic and order. The Balthasar known among scholars, the Germanist of imperious logic that reaches too far, flickers in the mirror standing before us. Becomes someone else.

      There is a structure here that is designed to allow for the sundering of structure. In musical terms, it would be a harmony that includes dissonance. It is difficult not to see Przywara underneath this structure, with his keen sense of the “in-and-beyond.” In that sense, Balthasar mimics the shape (or method) of Przywara’s thought, but he does so in a Christological key.

      I do not think it is a mistake that Przywara seeks beauty when he does, that Balthasar’s form (Gestalt) operates the way it does, and that in the marriage of both we find ourselves with the beginnings of a Christological “method.” It is at first perceivable as a response to a problem. If Balthasar has learned one of the lessons Przywara is intent on teaching, then Christ as “concrete analogia entis” cannot be argued for simply because Christ is the center of all theological thought. Interpolating Christology and metaphysics is a necessary but dangerous game. We risk a sort of pan-Christ: an Incarnation that the world could have predicted or even brought about, a Jesus whose uniqueness as the one God sinks into the generality of created being. Avoiding this problem is no simple matter.

      Enter beauty, which for both Przywara and Balthasar exists as a transcendental of being, and yet the one nearest to the flesh. The one that stresses human perception – that is, the human senses – the most, and so for each thinker this transcendental, beauty, is the one that appears in order to unify what is disparate without eliminating distinction. Neither man originated this collection of ideas. Here the long traditions of classical and Medieval philosophies arrive in order to influence both Przywara and Balthasar. It is perhaps for Thomas Aquinas, most of all, that beauty is a deeply sensational experience. Balthasar emerges with a kind of Bonaventurian-Thomist (Przywarian?) interest in the flesh not only as beautiful, but also as perceiver of the beautiful.

      It is beauty’s status as an oddly “physical” transcendental – I speak highly analogously here – that allows for a logical move toward Christology that neither superimposes Jesus onto the structure of the world nor identifies him with it. The Logos is the Logos-sarx, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. This is why beauty is Balthasar’s first organizing principle in his theology: he is able to span the impossible distance between the created world and the God who takes creation upon himself without collapsing the two. Beauty calls upon our ordinary, created faculties, but at the same time begs the question of what Balthasar calls the “depths,” which is (at least in part) our implicit knowledge of the infinite God through finite truth. In aesthetic language, Balthasar calls this “splendor,” which is never apart from form.

      If there is a Balthasarian Thomism, one that is fundamentally Christological, then it is founded first on what Balthasar learns from Thomas about what beauty is. It is founded as well on a “method” of a sort, one that – in an essential contribution from Przywara – refuses to see the subjective and objective apart from one another.

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      Ryan Hemmer


      Some Christology for Your Metaphysics

      I want to thank Dr. Carpenter for her engagements with my essay. There is much in her analysis that provokes me, and in those provocations, I feel largely out of my depths. She is circling around a rather serious breakthrough, pivoting on Przywara’s philosophy (or at least my quirky depiction of it) to a novel reading of the theology that emerges in its wake. I want to let some of her proposals float aloft for a while, both because there is so much there to think about, and because I feel unequal to evaluating the really exciting insights she offers.

      In a certain sense, her Christological intervention (through Balthasar’s “concrete analogia entis”) foregrounds a question (and, in some cases, an objection) long posed to Przywara’s analysis: cur Deus homo? If creation—the intending, emanating act by which all that is not God is from God (an emanation grounded in the Trinitarian processions)—is the theological correlate that grounds a philosophy of infinite/finite relation, why then, should the difference be traversed? If creation, why then Christ?

      In his reflection on Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Anxiety, Balthasar highlights the noetic context of creaturely ambiguity, and does so in very Thomist terms. He notes that, for the child, the experience of any particular existent elicits universal wonder, as if any individual thing is perceived as the totality of being itself. But in leaving behind childish things, a person “emerges into the sphere of the comprehending intellect and of transcendence experiences for the first time enormous disappointment with the world” (The Christian and Anxiety, 129). When compared to the totality of being, this or that existent cannot help but be a let down. Even at their best, most things are . . . just okay. Balthasar argues that the operations of reason (abstraction and insight into phantasm) are both the very things that make conceptualization possible, and the provocation for the experience of anxiety (The Christian and Anxiety, 130). “The ontological difference gives to worldly being an abstract-ghostly outline,” Balthasar writes, “which the mind, insofar as it stands in the middle of the difference during the cognitive act, can register in no other way than as anxiety” (The Christian and Anxiety, 131).

      The situation is only exacerbated when one moves from knowing to willing. As knowing depends upon abstraction from the concreteness of sensation in order to grasp in understanding the intelligible immanent in sense, so too must willing abstract from the concreteness of compulsion in order to grasp the goods to be desired. But the “yawning gap” between the existent and being opens up also between the infinite indeterminacy of freedom, and the anxious responsibility of determinate choice (The Christian and Anxiety, 132). But what is this anxiety? Creatureliness or sinfulness? Turns out, it’s a bit of both.

      The yawning gap grasped in the noetics of knowing and willing is a consequence of creatureliness, but that the gap is empty is a consequence of sin. For Balthasar, Adam’s discursive knowledge and free will bear the same marks of creatureliness as our own, but while ours is anxious before the distance between existence and totality, the gap in Adam’s creatureliness is filled with God’s intimate presence. With sin, and the consequent withdrawal from the divine presence, the creaturely gap proper to our nature, now empty, invites anxiety. “But!” the theologian is quick to counter, “Jesus!” Balthasar, though, precisely because of his Christology, disabuses us of the notion that Christ is some easy antidote for this sort of existential absence. He writes, “Anxiety has arrived on the scene with the void, and Christ’s redemption does not eliminate this void. His redemption, to be sure, brings God’s fullness, but conveys it into the form of this void.” (142) Christ does not unmake history; he does not awake us from sleep to discover that sin was just a dream. He redeems in manner specified by the scale of emptiness that provokes noetic and volitional anxiety. He makes God present to us, but not as a co-ambulator in Eden’s twilight. Instead, “God is present as the unfelt fullness, as fullness in the void” (143).

      It is striking to me that, in articulating how Christ makes God present as the unfelt fullness spanning the chasm of freedom, Balthasar articulates a meta-noetics with great precision. He is fully in possession of a cognition theory that highlights how intelligence abstracts from sensation, converts itself to images, issues forth concepts, judges conceptual validity, intends the consequent good, and ultimately decides for or against the good (148-149). But this articulation of noetic creatureliness is also that by which anxiety arises, and through which, Christ and faith in Christ detach us from such anxiety for the sake of mission.

      What Balthasar makes plain is that the meta-ontic and meta-noetic features of analysis can disclose both the positive elements of finitude, and the negative elements of sin. Both features threaten philosophy’s final coherence; the anxiety at their base invites us to ask whether being, knowing, and desiring are anything but a punishment. Here, the freedom predicated on the analogy of being is clarified. We can reside with the anxiety that would keep us staring into the void, or, we can “leap.” We can risk the indeterminacy and indifference of uttering faith’s “yes.” And we can do this because the concrete analogy of being has already traversed the void from the other direction, and has forever entrusted himself to time (146).
      Christ as concrete analogy of being forces philosophers and theologians working within Przywara’s thought to pay attention to the negativities disclosed through meta-noetic and meta-ontic investigation, to name them, to see them in ourselves, and to recognize that these negativities and the methods that brought them to light take us the brink of the void and force us to come to terms with our freedom. We can tremble at the nothingness, or we can leap. No pure method, no pure logic, no pure ethics can determine such willingness; it must will in the midst of the ambiguities of both creatureliness and sin. Yet, in Christ—the one in whom the analogy between God and the world inheres—grace elevates freedom to the faith that hopes and loves.

    • Lexi Eikelboom

      Lexi Eikelboom


      Aesthetics and Metaphysics, Protestants and Catholics

      If I may, I would like to also offer some thoughts on Anne Michelle Carpenter’s very interesting responses. Hemmer’s concern to trace what is Catholic in Przywara in his initial post raises the question for me of what he also offers to Protestants, and Carpenter’s thoughts have been interesting to me in this respect (as well as others). If Przywara is eminently Catholic, his traversal of intra-Catholic ideological boundaries nevertheless enables him to continue to be an interesting interlocutor for Protestants as well since his thought perhaps does not fall prey to some of the standard Protestant critiques. This is part of the significance that I see in the links between several of Carpenter’s responses, which make explicit the links between method, metaphysics, and aesthetics, the latter a companion of metaphysics and method that often remains hidden. Nevertheless, I increasingly believe that if you want to know a given thinker’s metaphysics, his or her aesthetics will tell you a great deal. This is true of the Catholic-Protestant dialogue as well. Mapping it out in terms of aesthetics can sometimes unearth a more nuanced topography of agreement and disagreement.

      For example, Carpenter’s previous reference to the shift in organizing principle from divine to human in the transition from Medieval to Modern, including Eco’s suggestion of Aquinas’ involvement, is very much bound up with an aesthetic change in which, if we do indeed believe Eco, involves the shift from an aesthetic of symbol to an aesthetic of form (although Eco suggests that aesthetics of the organism is a better fit for Aquinas himself). This is related to Carpenter’s claim that beauty for Aquinas is a sensational experience, that the flesh is perceiver of the beautiful. As the central organizing principle of the universe shifts from God to human with the advent of humanism, the organizing principle in visual art likewise shifts from a web of referential meanings to the eye of the human viewer with the advent of the Renaissance. The significance of form, an aesthetic category though not exclusively, therefore emerges as bound up with the shift to the significance of the creature.

      This shift is the background against which the Reformation took place. Calvin’s objection to images, for example, seems to take for granted the idea that the image is primarily a form and therefore an attempt to contain the uncontainable glory and majesty of God. It then cannot but be a falsehood. Indeed, I suspect that this iconoclastic dimension of the Reformation, as well as perhaps other dimensions, would not have occurred if the prevailing aesthetics-metaphysics was more consistent with the Dionysian dimensions of Aquinas that had been the framework for understanding images earlier in the Middle Ages, in terms of a web of references that set the viewer in motion.

      The twentieth century Protestant rejection of the analogia entis specifically and perhaps even metaphysics more broadly seems to me to be simply another instantiation of this rejection of the aesthetics of form, since they represent, in many Protestant minds, forms that metaphysically bind the transcendence of God in reference to the creature similar to the way in which the coherence of a Renaissance painting is bound to the eye of the human viewer.

      This is precisely why I think Przywara’s analogia entis is capable of avoiding this impasse, though I do not know that I could have expressed it in this way without Carpenter’s parsing of Balthasar’s understanding of form. If Przywara’s turn to the subject is theocentric by virtue of his attending to the role of Pseudo-Dionysius within Aquinas and thereby maintaining “the supra-rational excess of divine being” for understanding world and God (form and that which is beyond form), then the way is opened for an alternative understanding of form to the direction in which the Renaissance took Aquinas. The aesthetic correlate to Carpenter’s metaphysical claim is that such a supra-rational excess of divine being is not only a feature of that which is beyond form but also necessary for understanding form itself. In other words, the aesthetic outcome of a turn to the subject that is nevertheless theocentric would be an attention to form that is nevertheless understood only in the context of a supra-rational excess of referential meaning that keeps the form open and in motion.

      As I suggest above, the analogia entis is itself such a form in Przywara, form as motion and as such as a structure that “allow[s] for the sundering of structure” as Carpenter puts it. The analogia entis is a movement-form that we are inside. I perceive it through the flesh not as the viewer of a Renaissance painting, which holds together according to my perspective, but a moving flesh inside a moving form. Thus, while there may be other Protestant concerns that require addressing, Przywara, according to Carpenter’s reading of Balthasar’s form, seems to me to at least show that the Protestant fears regarding metaphysical form as something that necessarily confines the supra-rational excess of the divine or gives the creature a position from which the supra-rational excess of the divine is determined or mastered, should be dispelled. Hemmer’s last response makes clear, moreover, that in connecting Przywara’s analogy of being and Christ as concrete analogy of being, Balthasar reminds us that form cannot be simply dispensed with since Christ is found in human form but that such form is therefore also not understood apart from the supra-rational excess articulated by Przywara, such that the very idea of form itself may be different than what we often assume.