It’s Gay Pride Week, which makes it an especially good time to bring bailing buckets to the leaky boat of fear and intolerance.
Frye many times uses the term “homosexual” to describe the Jesus of the gospels, which makes sense archetypally because he is the second Adam who must redeem our fallen sexuality, including the always problematical subordination of women. He therefore consorts with men and has a “beloved disciple.” This is part of the “Eros Regained” aspect of salvation, the return to innocence of our sexuality (that is, sexuality without shame rather than suffused with it), the pinnacle of which is the restoration of the female. Frye in Notes 52:
Eros Regained starts with the homosexual refined Jesus lying on the bosom of a male beloved disciple, trying to get away from his mother but still so hung up sexually that he insisted his father was not his father and that his mother was a virgin, rescuing a bride symbolically but saying “don’t touch me” as his last words to a woman. This is the first phase of [Robert] Graves’ sequel: the mother-son one, where the son has to be “pure” to stay away from the Oedipal situation . . . I think the refined pure youthful Christ who’s been such a pain in the ass to later ages goes with the perversion of his teachings into a Mother Church. If I’m right about the Virgin as (this also seems to be Jung’s view) the glorified creature, or Man as the fourth person in the Trinity (except that it’s Woman), the Catholic cult of the Virgin is really a kind of narcissism.
What this ultimately means is that the restoration of Eros completes the resurrection of love where even the sexes become interchangeable, and, as with the Angels in Milton’s Paradise Lost, sex itself becomes interpenetration where “obstacle” they “find none / Of membrane, joint or limb” (8: 625-6). Moreover, if Christ is the bridegroom and the Church his bride, then all of humanity is female at the moment of salvation.
So maybe we can throw in transvestism as also doing God’s work.
Literature, metaphor, God. From Creation and Recreation:
The recreation of poetry and its metaphorical use of language leads to two principles, one specific, the other universal. First, it reveals the narrowness of our ordinary descriptive use of language. Nietzsche’s statement “God is dead,” which has been so widely accepted, even in theological circles, is primarily a linguistic statement, or, more precisely, a statement about the limitations of language. The word “God” is a noun, which within our present descriptive framework of language means that God has to belong to the category of things and objects. We may agree that God is dead as the subject or object of a human predicate. But perhaps using the word “God” as a noun in this way is merely a fallacy of the type that Whitehead calls misplaced concreteness. We note that in the burning bush story in Exodus, God, though he also gives himself a name, defines himself as “I am that I am” [3:14], which scholars say would be better rendered as “I will be what I will be.” Buckminster Fuller wrote a book called I Seem to be a Verb, and perhaps God is a verb too, not simply a verb of asserted existence but a verb expressing a process fulfilling itself. Such a use of language revives an archaic mode of language, and yet is oddly contemporary with, for example, the language of nuclear physicists, who no longer think of their atoms and electrons as things but as something more like traces of processes. (CW 4, 79)
Footage of Toronto in the 1950s, a city Frye called “a good place to mind your own damn business”
We’ll be continuing with our Frye on God series next week. But Sunday’s a good day to take a look at his attitude toward the Sabbath, which we’ll do over the next few weeks.
In late 1949, the city of Toronto held a plebiscite on allowing Sunday sports. Frye in a February 1950 editorial in the Canadian Forum rather sardonically assesses the widely peddled conventional wisdom of the self-interested push for a no vote; noting, for example, that the Toronto Star “remained firm in its conviction that the Toronto Sunday should never be profaned by anything more secular than the Toronto Weekly Star.”
He concludes with this observation regarding the role of the churches:
Toronto municipal voters are largely a middle-class tax-paying group, and it is extremely unlikely that all or even the great majority of “yes” voters were entirely outside all Christian communions. If the vote means anything, it surely means something like this: people are increasingly unable to believe in the disinterestedness of the churches, or in their ability to distinguish a moral issue from one that merely appears to threaten their social and economic position. That the churches are spending far too much of their energies in an inglorious rearguard action against the incidental vices of society; that they cannot distinguish from cause and effect in social evil; that they have not only tended to retreat into the propertied middle class, but are no longer coming to grips with the real needs even of that class. This is clearly the attitude, or something like the attitude, implied in the Toronto vote. It may be utterly wrong; but an institution committed to humility and self-examination cannot afford to underestimate or disregard the good faith of its critics. (CW 4, 269)
This observation from one of Frye’s late notebooks stemming from Foucault’s Discipline and Punish dovetails with our ongoing consideration of Frye on God:
Michel Foucault has written about the control of a space of visibility as the central idea of the 19th c. hospitals and the like, and cites in particular Bentham’s invention invention of a Panopticon. Ramifications include 1984 and its “telescreen.” The idea of a watching God, developed partly to inspire children with guilt feelings about masturbation, is closely bound up with the sense of shame about sex, the need for covering the body which Adam felt when he realized that God was looking for him and wanted to see him. The etymology of dragon means the all-seer. The God who watches is a demonic God; as I’ve said, the true God is invisible because he does the seeing. But what does he see? Something to do with seeing to recreate and not to judge, much less to punish. The taboo about seeing God is of course the reverse side of this. (CW 6, 559)
Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, frames the issue as a matter of “blind faith” in the face of “scientific fact”
Continuing with our posts on Frye on God, here he is again in “Pistis and Mythos” on belief after “the death of God”:
I notice in my students a strong willingness to come into contact with religion, along with an equally strong reluctance to go along with “dogma.” This seems to have some relation to the fact that “God” has dried up as a conception, of no use to any form of scientific or, increasingly, philosophical construct. It looks as though, if belief is to be understood as the voluntarily credible, it cannot for much longer be regarded as a virtue. When we consider beliefs that others hold and that we do not, our feelings are increasingly those of a sense of freedom delivered from obsession. In short, the less we “believe” in the ordinary sense the better, and one comes to distrust believing in anything that has to be believed in. (CW 4, 8)
Thanks to the Rapture that didn’t happen in May, we’ve been following a thread from false literalism and the Bible, to Christian fundamentalism, to laissez-faire and democracy. There’s no reason not to follow it back again with Frye’s observations on God.
From “Pistis and Mythos“:
Several of the central Christian doctrines (e.g. the Real Presence; Christ is God and Man; in the Trinity one is three) can only be expressed metaphorically. The effort to adapt them to conceptual predication afflicted philosophers with that unlucky notion of “substance” that they are still trying to wriggle out of. (CW 4, 7)