Sunday, May 18, 2014

Promptings by Elanio Vitale (FW 221.22)

Not entirely by coincidence, a fairly large percentage of us SC Wakers ended up at a lecture on  process theology given by John Mabry in Santa Cruz yesterday. That's because a couple of our members were interested in getting him to come to town to speak at their church and also because in the course of discussing the Wake, these ideas of process theology have been coming up from the members who know anything about it.

I'm not going to go into the whole thing right now, but I will say that during the breaks in the talk, we were all meeting up and excitedly talking about how much relation there might be between Joyce's system of thought as expressed in the book and the concerns of process theologists. What I will bring up as just a taste of all this follows.

Mabry did not address present day process theologists, but instead helped us understand a little about their antecedents. So, Spinoza, Hegel, Bergson, Whitehead and de Chardin, with a little bit of Kazantzakis thrown in on the side. I was just doing a preliminary Google search to try and see if I could find the overlap, when I came across a page from Joyce's Book of Memory: The Mnemotechnic of Ulysses by John S. Rickard. What first struck my eye was "Promptings by Elanio Vitale". This was way back on page 221 of the Wake, under a long list which I think is a kind of playbill. Bergson's thoughts were 'in the air' in Joyce's day, Rickard tells us.

Now, we heard a bit about Henri Bergson and his concept of élan vital from Mabry yesterday, which Rickard describes as the 'motive force' in 'creative evolution'. Rickard tells us that Bergson's position is difficult, as he wants to  stake out a position between determinism and indeterminacy, as well as between two different systems of evolution.

I don't think Joyce would have had a very hard time with this position at all. Here's a nice little quote from Rickard which parallels what we were learning yesterday--"the role of life is to insert some indetermination into the matter. Indeterminate, i.e. unforeseeable, are the forms it creates in the course of its evolution. More and more indeterminate also, more and more free, is the activity to which these forms serve as the vehicle." That's from Bergson's Creative Evolution, pages 139-40. The page I'm quoting and paraphrasing from in Rickard is page 33.

Anyway, this is just the start of where I think many of us are going to let process theology take us as we wend our way through the Wake. Other thoughts are, of course, always welcome.

Henri Bergson

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