Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"metanoia is not an act of the will": Rosenstock-Huessy

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, from "I Am an Impure Thinker"an amazing book:

..........................This then was the turning
point of my life. I learned what “Hebrews” meant by metanoia from
dead works. If the vehicles of the Spirit are sullied, it’s no use disobeying
the verdict of history over them. I did probably not advance much
in personal virtue by this about-face towards the future, away from
any visible institution. I did not become a saint. All I received was
life. From then on, I had not to say anything which did not originate
in my heart. In the process I rediscovered the meaning of original
sin. Under original sin the offices which we hold in society force us
to think one way and act in another. This chain I had broken. The
term “repentance” is absolute nonsense for this decision. The Salvation
Army type of repentance confesses one’s private and usually
perfectly unimportant sins. These private sins occur when we have
nothing big to live for.

I emphatically decline to admit that I repented on that November
8, 1918, and in the following period, for my private sins. Perhaps I
should, but I did not repent, and I had nothing to repent. I was called
into a new, dangerous form of existence which did not yet exist. One
cannot stress strongly enough the difference between this situation
and the sinning against the ten commandments. I was in danger of
falling into the sin against the Holy Ghost by doing the dead works of
scholarship, state, church. The urgency of the catastrophe challenged
me to do repentance not for my sins but for the sin against the Holy
Spirit committed and perpetrated by these institutions. The crime
or sin against the Holy Spirit always is committed as a social and
collective action. And we repent for it by dissociating ourselves from
the profession or institution which is God-forsaken.

This dissociation, however, is more easily formulated than
achieved. Because no social space or field exists outside the powers
that be, and the existing institutions are all there is at the moment of
one’s metanoia, of one’s giving up their dead works. On November 8,
1918, nothing existed except the church, politics, science by which to
express one’s faith. It takes a lifetime and longer to extricate oneself
from the established institutions and to find new ways of establishing
some less corrupt forms of expression for the living faith.

Metanoia is not an act of the will. It is the unwillingness to continue.
This unwillingness is not an act but an experience. The words
make no sense, the atmosphere is stifled. One chokes. One has no
choice but to leave. But one does not know what is going to happen,
one has no blue-print for action. The “decision” literally means what
it means in Latin, the being cut-off from one’s own routines in a paid
and honored position. And the trust that this sub-zero situation is
bound to create new ways of life is our faith.

It seems necessary to remind people that this is the way of salvation
experienced by any new-born souls and that God seems to care
little for the problem of smoking or drinking or similar secondary
matters. Because the sins against the Holy Ghost are the only ones
which cannot be forgiven. The others are important for the immature.
This one alone counts in the course of God’s history of salvation for
grown-up people.

I have never written down the story of my “metanoia” before as all
my later life grew out of this and has kept me pretty busy. But since
you have asked me point blank, I seemed to owe you an answer. And
now I have looked back upon that moment at the railroad junction
of Wabern and reflected that it draws attention to the original sense
of the decision a Christian was asked to make in the old days: to
distinguish the spirits of death and life, and to turn away from dead
works although they might be sanctified by the highest authority.
Because God is a God of the living and His judgements may be expected
any day. 
-Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy,  link

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