Bailie on John 1:19-51

Notes on Lectures of the Florilegia Institute by Gil Bailie
Series: “The Gospel of John”
Tape #3; Re: John 1:19-51

    1. Opening remarks: “If the elimination of the temple, the dismantling of humanity’s age old sacrificial system, is a bold and dangerous thing, then the Christian revelation’s alternative to the temple is just as bold and just as dangerous–namely, that access to God is now to be had through a human being.” Let’s explore these dangers.
      1. The dismantling of the temple loosens the fundamental distinction that the temple existed to maintain–namely, the distinction between the sacred and the profane–which, in a way, makes the incarnation inevitable.
      2. It also destroys the social distinctions, or renders them less than permanent.
      3. With the breakdown of distinctions, forms of the incarnation begin to happen. The question is: what form will they take?
        1. There is the gospel form, which is that we have Jesus as the face and voice and elimination of the living God of love.
        2. And all the other forms, which is all of us turning each other into gods and goddesses, demons and demi-gods — and going crazy.
    2. John Moyne and Coleman Barks on the 13th century Persian poet Rumi: “what I thought of before as God I met today as a person.”
      1. “pronouns dissolve”–which is similar to:
        1. St. Paul: “Christ lives in me” and
        2. Jesus: “The Father abides in me.”
      2. Catch-phrase repeated throughout tape: “a melting of the confinement of the ego into a larger elastic, cross-pollinating dance of selves.”
    3. Cervantes’ Don Quixote
      1. “You must know that when our gentleman had nothing to do, which was almost all the year round, he passed his time reading books of knight errantry. He grew so strangely besotted with these amusements, that he sold many acres of arable land to purchase books of that kind. He gave himself up so wholly to reading romances that at nights he would pour on until it was day, and at day he would read on until it was night; and thus by sleeping little and reading much, the moisture of his brain was exhausted to that degree that he at last lost the use of his reason. His head was filled with nothing but enchantments, quarrels, battles, challenges, wounds, complaints, amours, tournaments, and abundance of stuff and impossibility. He gave himself up so wholly … that … the moisture of his brain was exhausted to that degree that he at last lost the use of his reason. His head was filled with nothing but enchantments, etc.”
    4. Virginia Wolff’s The Waves, especially the character Rhoda
        1. Reads from this speech by Rhoda:

      “That is my face,” said Rhoda, “in the looking-glass behind Susan’s shoulder — that face is my face. But I will duck behind her to hide it, for I am not here. I have no face. Other people have faces; Susan and finny have faces; they are here. Their world is the real world. The things they lift are heavy. They say Yes, they say No; whereas I shift and change and am seen through in a second. If they meet a housemaid she looks at them without laughing. But she laughs at me. They know what to say if spoken to. They laugh really; they get angry really; while I have to look first and do what other people do when they have done it.

“See now with what extraordinary certainty Jinny pulls on her stockings, simply to play tennis. That I admire. But I like Susan’s way better, for she is more resolute, and less ambitious of distinction than finny. Both despise me for copying what they do; but Susan sometimes teaches me, for instance, how to tie a bow, while finny has her own knowledge but keeps it to herself. They have friends to sit by. They have things to say privately in corners. But I attach myself only to names and faces; and hoard them like amulets against disaster. I choose out across the hall some unknown face and can hardly drink my tea when she whose name I do not know sits opposite. I choke. I am rocked from side to side by the violence of my emotion. I imagine these nameless, these immaculate people, watching me from behind bushes. I leap high to excite their admiration. At night, in bed, I excite their complete wonder. I often die pierced with arrows to win their tears. If they should say, or I should see from a label on their boxes that they were in Scarborough last holidays, the whole town runs gold, the whole pavement is illuminated. Therefore I hate looking-glasses which show me my real face. Alone, I often fall down into nothingness. I must push my foot stealthily lest I should fall off the edge of the world into nothingness. I have to bang my hand against some hard door to call myself back to the body.” (pp. 43-44)

  1. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche
  2. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
  3. Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Parker’s Back”
    1. Berdaev and Marcel
  4. John 1:19-51
    1. Opening biblical remarks
      1. In Mark, Jesus says: Anyone who wants to save their psyche, will lose it; and anyone who loses their psyche for my and the sake of the gospel will save it. There’s more revelatory power in this one verse than in all the psycho-analytic literature to date. We haven’t even begun to plum the meaning of this verse. But we’d better start, because it is so relevant to the current psychological crisis. Once the temple was superseded, it’s only a matter of time before we turned each other into idols.
      2. The admonition to love your neighbor as yourself is an admonition against idolatry. Love your neighbor not as an idol, not as a Christ, not as a model. If one’s neighbor begins to play the role in one’s life played by Christ in St. Paul’s life, or played by the Father in Jesus’ life, then the result will eventually be hatred. Because the imitation of Christ becomes the imitation of one’s neighbor, and a surge of pride breaks against the humanity of the mediator, and the result is hatred (Girard).
    2. John the Baptist appears:
      1. The first thing he says is: I am not the Christ, Elijah, or the prophet. Experiencing Christ begins with this sweeping kenosis: I am not….
      2. Who is he? He quotes scripture: the voice of one crying in the wilderness to make straight the way of the Lord. A follower who comes before.
      3. The next day John points them to Jesus: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
        1. “Lamb of God” is a sacrificial reference. We often misread it because we don’t realize who is demanding a sacrifice in the passion story and in this gospel.
          1. A sacrificial reading would be: ‘God is in his heaven, and he demands that someone pay the bill. Jesus pays the bill, and the rest of us are off.’ That’s the sacrificial reading, and therefore he’s the “Lamb of God.”
          2. The non-sacrificial reading of John’s Gospel: Jesus, the Lamb of God, comes from the Father and returns to the Father; he is the lamb that God is offering to the sacrificial monster. Who is the sacrificial monster? Humanity. It is humanity’s sacrificial predilections that are being exposed and deconstructed in the passion story, so that we can no longer blame it on God. We can no longer say God wanted that sacrifice. This is the Lamb of God: not the lamb of the human community given to God, but the Lamb of God given to the sacrificial human community.
        2. “takes away the sin of the world.” Gr: hamartia means missing the point, misrecognition. Gr cosmos means the human order. What is sin? The misrecognition at the heart of the human order, i.e., the victim. We have all empathy for the victim extinguished under the sacrificial order. The fate of the victim gives the sacrificial order its power. That order depends on our missing the point, on our misrecognizing the victim as victim.
      4. John the Baptist says: I saw the Holy Spirit descend from heaven and “abide” in him. “Abide” is a very important word in John. It means being coherent. In this gospel Jesus says, ‘I abide in the Father, and if I were you, I’d abide in me, so that you would come to abide in the Father. Wait ’til we take away the temple, and you’re going to find out how difficult it is to abide!’
      5. Next day, John again points out Jesus and two disciples follow. Jesus says, What do you want?” The disciples respond, “Where do you abide?” That is to say, “What makes you real?” Abiding is so essential. St. Paul says, ‘I live in Christ, and he lives in me.’ The Johannine Jesus says, I abide in the Father and the Father in me.’ But we live in a world that says, ‘I cannot abide.’ That’s our problem.
  5. Back to Virginia Wolff’s The Waves.
    1. Toward the end of the novel, Rhoda is experiencing “a melting of the confinement of the ego into a larger elastic, cross-pollinating dance of selves.” But for Rhoda it has ceased to be fun. She says: “But there is no single scent, no single body for me to follow. And I have no face…. But since I wish above all things to have lodgment [get the word, like “abiding”], I pretend, as I go upstairs lagging behind Jinny and Susan, to have an end in view. I pull on my stockings as I see them pull on theirs. I wait for you to speak and then speak like you.” (pp. 130-131; emphasis added)
    2. Bernard says: “The tree alone resisted our eternal flux [the Heraclitan flux]. For I changed and changed; was Hamlet, was Shelley, was the hero, whose name I now forget, of a novel by Dostoevsky; was for a whole term, incredibly, Napoleon; but was Byron chiefly. For many weeks at a time it was my part to stride into rooms and fling gloves and coat on the back of chairs, scowling slightly. I was always going to the bookcase for another sip of the divine specific. [He mimics novels like Don Quixote] …every book, every window-seat was littered with the sheets of my unfinished letters to the woman who made me Byron. For it is difficult to finish a letter in somebody else’s style.”
    3. Bernard and Wolff’s characters are awash in the flux of mimetic promiscuity. Its annihilating effect is that of a psychological annulment, a psychological disintegration.
  1. Reading of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins entitled “That Nature Is a Heraclitan Fire, and of the Comforts of the Resurrection.”
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