Life-giving breath: ecological pneumatology in the context of fetishization.
This contribution will seek for answers on why, in what context, and how to revise Christian pneumatology today. As the biblical tradition in many ways offers a strong interconnection of the Spirit and life, I will emphasize the need for a deep synthesis of the doctrine of creation and the doctrine of the Spirit. In this way, biblical, classical, and ecumenical deep dimensions of Christian faith can come together.
The Spirit of the triune God is a Spirit who gives life: How can Christians and churches follow the Spirit to wherever she might blow? As man-made environmental and climatic change today threatens not only natural life but also the nature of faith and religion itself, it mirrors the drama of the history of salvation. Are humans as well as the whole suffering and groaning creation hoping for liberation? Where does the Spirit of life giving, remembrance, and liberation take place today?
In the following, I will trace the roots of an ecological interpretation of the Spirit in the most dynamic historical period, when Christians were seeking for a creative expression of the Trinity and the life-giving Spirit in late Eastern antiquity. Following Cappadocian theologian Gregory of Nazianz and his thoughts about the inhabitation of the Spirit as the continuation of the incarnation of the Son, I will elaborate a pneumatology in which the atmosphere of life giving is at the heart of the entanglement of creation and salvation. Finally, I will apply this reflection to the contemporary threat of both life and belief in the God of life that lies in the accelerating idolization and fetishization fuelled by modern financial capitalism. How can faith in the Spirit as life-giver and liberator navigate through the cliffs of mammonism and help us in our weakness to not serve "two masters" (Matt. 6:24).
The Inhabitation of the Spirit
The challenge to revise, renew, and contextualise pneumatology emerges as an answer to situations in local and global states at the same time that it emerges as a newly actualized demand from the inner system of Christian theology.
In the ecumenical history of Christianity, the crucial challenge was formulated in an exemplary way in 381: "Now the Spirit Himself dwells among us, and supplies it with a clearer demonstration of Himself." (1) Cappadocian theologian Gregory of Nazianz here summarizes the challenge, still valid today, in his homily on the Holy Spirit, which was probably held for the ecumenical council in Constantinople. The Spirit has taken his/her dwelling among us (TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII). Creation now evolves in the time of the Spirit. The text of the ecumenical creed called the Spirit "the Giver of Life," and the one who gives the "life of the coming world."
From patristic trinitarian thinking we can learn that theology in general must be elaborated as pneumatology. In the triune God's salvation history with the whole creation, the day of ascension, as has been emphasized by John, represents the shift from the time of the Son to the time of the Spirit. When the Son moves back to the Father, the space of creation is now to be fully inhabited by the Spirit.
A well-known thesis reads that pneumatology in the history of Christianity is intensified at times of crisis. German patristic scholar Wolfgang Hauschild has proposed we interpret the development of pneumatological doctrine in connection with crisis phenomena, which it "signals, interprets, and tries to overcome productively." (2)
Pneumatology was first developed and intensified after 350 in late antiquity. We do not have a clear historical answer to why the development of pneumatology sped up precisely between 340 and 381, but our knowledge of the turbulent dynamics of the context clearly indicates that pneumatology offered a highly creative tool for responding to the new situation for Christianity. Pneumatology did what the Psalm, quoted above, said about "ruach": it gave life. As the Spirit was experienced and expressed as life-giver, trinitarian pneumatology can also vitalize theology in demanding times. The connection that Gregory's cosmic pneumatology establishes between creation and redemption must be seen in connection with such a dynamic) Theologically, he is insisting that the indwelling of the Spirit includes not only the entire human being but also the Spirit's community in church and in all humankind, and that the Spirit vivifies the entirety of multifarious creation itself. The inclusion of the entirety of life in the redemption of human beings and nature picked up on the cosmo-aesthetic and cosmo-political tradition of antiquity. In this context, cosmic pneumatology was responding to the question of why only the triune God rather than the emperor was able to redeem the cosmos.
Gregory's answer is that the Holy Spirit vivifies, liberates, and consummates creation because the Creator Spirit is also the redemptive Spirit, in trinitarian terminology: that is, because the entire triune God is at work in the lacerative work of the Spirit within created nature. Gregory describes the Spirit's activity as movement. The Spirit is the source of the world's motion even though it does not actually constitute the movement of living things. As the creator of movement, however, the Spirit is in perpetual motion, never resting. Gregory's understanding of the Spirit in motion also enables him to interpret biblical references to the cosmic breadth of the Spirit's activity.
Finally, his cosmic pneumatology enables him to qualify the activity of the Spirit from the trinitarian perspective of the incarnation event. The entire cosmos is now to be incorporated into the transformation that began with the incarnation of the Son. God's Spirit creates, liberates, and consummates all life that becomes and passes away.
One of his central technical terms for this work draws on the spatial imaginary of the habitat, house, and home: inhabitation. Striving for a balance of Christology and pneumatology in trinitarian soteriology, Gregory interprets salvation history as a continuum from incarnation to inhabitation. After the Son, who has become flesh, comes the Spirit, who makes him/herself at home in the world. As the human body and thereby all created bodily life has been drawn closer to the Creator through Christ, the Spirit vivifies the world from the inside by making herself a home in and with creation. The mystery of creation and salvation goes on as a process of making-oneself-at-home on the earth (in German: Beheimatung). (4)
For Gregory the ascension of the Son to the Father represents one of the central events in the history of salvation. When the Son returns to the Father "above," the Spirit enters into the world and begins the new period in God's history with his world, which the theologian calls the "indwelling." The Father and the Son have already been revealed; now it is time for God's Spirit to become visible as well. The inhabitation continues the redemptive incarnation. The Spirit now corresponds to nature within the redemptive process: "For it was fitting that as the Son had lived with us in bodily form--so the Spirit too should appear in bodily form; and that after Christ had returned to His own place, He should have come down to us" (Oratio 41.11).
God's Spirit indwells human beings and maintains all things without itself being contained (31.27ff). In the Spirit, God fills the cosmos without being limited by it (31.29), encompassing all rational beings at myriad places without being spatially restricted. God's Spirit both initiates and consummates all things. God's trinitarian community is neither separated nor divided by time (31.31). His Spirit "contains" but is not "contained" (31.29).
Another reason for the Spirit's indwelling is that it could now clarify the mystery that the Son withheld from the disciples: "[A]ll things shall be taught us by the Spirit, when he should come to dwell amongst us" (31.27). By understanding the Spirit's activity as inhabitation, enhancement of community, and vivification, Gregory overcomes the dualistic understanding of the Spirit regnant among the philosophers of his time, and at the same time reconciles biblical statements regarding the activity of the Spirit with interpretations of Plato's cosmology. His pneumatology is of particular systematic significance in its understanding of the Spirit as the only subject capable of perfectly free movement.
The various modes of the Spirit's activity correspond within the whole of creation. In that sense Gregory rejects any antithesis between God's transcendent worldliness and the Spirit's immanence in the world. Indeed, the activity of the Holy Spirit is characterized precisely by its ability to transition between its various modes of activity, that is, by its capacity for free movement. The Spirit who is and acts as one with the Father and Son appears to the subjects of these places in Gregory's system as the Spirit who is "turned toward the world" and is "visible in the cross and in suffering" (Luther). Suffering creatures are thus accorded pre-eminence in recognizing and articulating the pathic modes of the Spirit's appearance. Because the inhabitation of the Spirit continues the incarnation of the Son, all ecological perception of the transparency of the places where the Spirit has indeed taken up habitation actually consists in perceiving the "fleshly corporeality" of its activity.
To summarize the Cappadocian wisdom: without reflection on God in the Spirit dwelling on earth, one cannot reflect on the incarnation of God in the Son, our brother. Without a reflection on the life-giving Spirit, one cannot interpret the cosmic and local Christologies of the New Testament. Without imagining the invisible but experiential acting of God beyond human metaphoric, one cannot make it evident that it is the Christ of the gospel who has risen today. As Danish ecumenical theologian Anna Mafia Aagaard has clearly pointed out, pneumatology is the necessary condition of Christology. (5)
A hindrance to achieving the envisioned contextualized and traditionalized pneumatology of inhabitation is the well-known sharp Cartesian dichotomy and the distinction of subject and object in identity philosophy. Joining German philosopher Gernot Bohme, (6) depart from the notion of atmosphere in order to dissolve this dualism and to give open space for an interpretation of the Spirit dwelling and acting among us, moving through the different interspaces and scales of creation.
One characteristic of atmosphere is that it does not merge as a consequence of human actions. An atmosphere surrounds something. It shines from a living creature, a thing, a place, or an artefact. We can experience atmospheres both intuitively and reflexively. Atmospheres emerge, they can endure, and they can disappear in the spaces between us and something else. Obviously humans cannot create atmospheres, but they can create artefacts that in themselves are capable of producing and mediating atmospheres.
Atmospheres are characterized through their being both human and physical, both subjective and objective. There is no longer any distinction of subject and object, but the encounter of both in a common phenomenon at the focus of reflection. Men and women perceive themselves in the mirror of their natural surrounding and their artistically and technically designed surroundings.
Atmosphere emerges in the interspaces between outer human surroundings and inner bodily-soul-spiritual being. It is not at all diffuse and uncertain, shallow or subjective, but it offers a notion, which in an exciting way highlights the interrelatedness of the outer and inner, the bodily and spiritual, the surrounding and the internalized. In cooperation with related terms such as aura, chord, and charisma, atmosphere is fruitful as a central notion for an "aesth/ethical" theology of the Holy Spirit in space and place.
If we depart from a very fruitful (theological-philosophical) definition of the Spirit as "the being of the one at or with the other," (7) the spatial dimension of pneumatology becomes a central one: Where and how is the Spirit at work with regard to the other? Who are "the others" with whom the Spirit acts? The question that is the driving force of the Christian classical tradition is not whether the Spirit dwells in us or not, whether the Spirit liberates only in the church or even outside. What is important is to ask how and where the Spirit is at work--the Spirit who blows wherever she/he wants to and who liberates through the truth (John 14:16ff., 8:32; 2 Cor. 3:17; cf. Gal. 5:1).
The point with the Christian doctrine of the Spirit is that God's Holy Spirit can work in, with, and through all places, spaces, and scales of creation. Humans cannot put limits on God's work. The opposition of inner and outer does not represent any border for the Creator. All natural and human borders are always open for the transcending Spirit. We can meet the Life-Giver in the most unexpected places, and we should seek to meet the Spirit in the atmospheres that interconnect our surroundings with our human "embodied minds." (8)
Atmospheres offer us guides, traces, and links that connect us to the Spirit. Atmospheres are the vestigia Dei (God's traces on earth). God's Spirit leaves these blueprints behind and lures us to follow them. With the help of these spherical traces in the spaces-between we can navigate in God's horizon, negotiate on the centre and periphery of the globalized world in a new way. We can follow the Spirit into a transfigured creation.
Is Everything Doable? Technology Turns Life as Gift into a Commodity
A crucial obstacle to developing and applying such an image of life-giving atmospheres is found in the dominant modern ideology of the technical "doability of everything." If everything can be done through means of money and technology, humanity becomes the ruler and creator of life itself. Technical so-called achievements in genetic research, for example, allow for manipulating and changing human as well as other organic life. C[O.sub.2] emissions and ongoing global warming should be encountered by geo-engineering, such as storage of greenhouse gases and managing sunlight in the outer planetary sphere. Health industry and agro-business allow increasing profits for the few rich on the shoulders of many poor. Increasing use and abuse of a globally economized technology turns life as a gift into life as a commodity for infinite value production.
The turning of human inventions into technical artefacts has, as we know, changed the history of humankind and the planet several times. The invention of ploughs, for example, and the use of animals accelerated human ecology to step from nomadism to agriculture. The development of the printing press supported the religious Reformation in Europe; printed texts and their Lutheran theology moved into the centre of the culture, where the reformer's translation of the Bible from the trans-local elitist Latin to the regional popular German broke through social borders with the assistance of the Gutenberg press.
The introduction of technical systems for mobility in the 18th century changed the whole landscape of Europe, and later other continents, where the straight lines of railways cut across the curved lines of paths and windy roads. Complex landscape forms were further straightened with the introduction of automobiles, an invention that continues to radically change both landscape and urban planning as well as the global climate. Automobiles, the "self-subsistent movers" (in Greek auto means self), today represent the main cultural symbol for identity formation and belonging to a modern tribe and place. This might be seen as a continuation of Aristotle's' metaphysics where he regards the highest state of divine as being to be able to move others without being moved oneself. (9)
We can ask whether humans today have achieved this state of full divinity by moving around--like disabled beings with distorted bodies--in their wheeled vehicles, taking them from one computer terminal to another, where they sit on similar wheeled chairs using only eyes and fingertips. Have we really reached "the end of geography," as the French media philosopher Paul Virilio calls it? Have we lost the ability to experience the distance and route of moving bodily and slowly from one place to another?
In a modern city, the inhabitants have almost no influence over the spatial design of their living environment. Even the countryside is ruled by socio-economic factors that affect mobility, and the great loss of control over and responsibility for one's natural and local surroundings is a common late-modern experience. This loss of connection to natural and local surroundings creates a special kind of alienation. Virilio has shown how the desire for the contemporaneous destroys the ability to experience the unique. The electronic communication media restrict in a spatial sense people's experience of complexity and also destroy the permanence of things. The principle of contemporaneousness destroys the uniqueness of place and the uniqueness of contemporary time. (10)
The sensual experience of, for example, physical movement along a certain path in the physical world is reduced (11) because we mainly move through the world with the help of technical artefacts. Humans have become computer terminal citizens. (12) Perception becomes imprecise. When everything becomes blurred, out of focus, and intermingled differences and the other become difficult to detect. The technical dominance of spatial boundaries, and our freedom of movement within them, does not in any way contribute to making the world larger. On the contrary, we shrink the world, make it uniform, and change it into a withered windfall apple, which in the end is threatened by destruction. (13) Virilio demands that we rediscover our existence in the physical world. (14)
While the philosopher suggests a minimalist type of resistance by refusing to adopt a certain type of perception, I would promote the value of aesthetic education as the most important tool for critics of civilisation. Education within the fields of art, museums, and also faith communities offers unforeseen and rich possibilities for making citizens aware of the moral problems of space. Furthermore, the process of developing the human senses is highly enjoyable and pleasurable for the individual and the community before it reaches the politically troublesome arenas of social and environmental ethics. If one cannot feel a moral problem personally, then one is not suited to find its solution either. If the desktop is turned into something like a home and Heimat for global nomads, how should and could we perceive, negotiate, and solve our common moral problems? What does the old prayer Come, Holy Spirit, Come! mean in such a context of the need to widen our senses bodily and spiritually towards the mystery of life giving?
With regard to the crucial dimension of technology in modernity, it seems hard to understand why ideologies of technology are so seldom mined in critical intellectual discourses. Even though Socrates has already criticised the use of the pen and writing as a threat to human memory, and even though Herbert Marcuse has delivered an excellent analysis of "the materialisation of values" in technology, (15) the ethics of technology is still at the margins while its applications rapidly change life.
The dominant ideology for technology today is reductionist and simplistic. Artefacts are seen as tools for humans who would like to realise purposes. Technology, however, is more than that. Artefacts form part of a complex and dynamic interaction of humans with their surroundings. They are not only tools for the human body to reach out, they transcend bodily limits. Artefacts, furthermore, form part of the human surroundings that they transport from the outside to the inside of humans and their embodied minds. Nevertheless, an artefact is, in a similar way to an art object, also a piece with a "life" of its own. Artefacts are able to create atmospheres that influence both our surroundings and ourselves. They are, in a way, living beings that develop an autonomous potential to influence those who use them and those who are used by them.
Technology should not be reduced to a simple tool, as it develops a dynamic power of a specific kind, steering and dominating social and individual powers that can no longer control the self-perpetuating dynamics of technology. Do I really drive my car, or does the car drive me? Does the nuclear power plant produce energy for us, or is it rather a hungry monster that forces decision-making bodies to throw the food of rare minerals from the earth into its mouth? Does the machine exist for the engineer or does the engineer live for the machine?
What kinds of gardens do we want to flourish, those of flowers or those of robots and chemicals? Why are technical artefacts often decorated with the principles of aesthetic design? Do they need a skin of beauty in order to hide their ugliness? Are we still able to experience "the ugliness of capitalism"? (16) What does the aestheticization of the economy do to our senses and how does it change our skills of perception?
On an ethical level, some say, referring to the tree of life in the biblical paradise, that technology can never be good or bad in itself. Moral judgements can only be valid for humans and their uses, virtues, and purposes. This is a dangerous simplification. It is often expressed in public discourse, but still it remains simply rubbish, because it excludes a critical investigation of an essential element of our social body.
Decision-making processes on which technologies will receive resources to be developed are heavily normative--in spite of their explosive social relevance and even though they are seldom discussed publicly. No national government really controls the sub-political sphere that gives birth to new high-technology developments.
By the time that a technical system such as, for example, biogenetics has been developed in the sub-political dark sphere and has started to promise financial profit, it is already too late to discuss its ethical implications and consequences. Sometimes public discourse can limit some of the worst consequences, but often technology represents a power of its own. This power usually does not fit into the essential democratic principle that "All power emerges from the people." The power of technology is definitively not in harmony with the power of the people. The many poor of the world are not the ones who influence the decisions about what technology needs to be promoted for the survival of their lives.
Refection on the "God of life" must therefore include reflection on the myth of the doability of everything and its central doctrine of the necessity of technological progress.
One should hereby not fall into the gap of either technology reductionism or technology pessimism. Instead, it seems much more fruitful to experience how technical skills can be transformed for the enhancement of life. This could be experimented with through alliances with critical engineers, architects, artists, craft artisans, and scientists. Academic institutions sometimes offer a creative space for such trans-disciplinary programmes; sometimes they assimilate them into old-fashioned utilitarianism, where inventions are turned into simple tools for accumulating capital through so-called innovation. Innovation must not be interpreted as knowledge or even wisdom. Innovation, as it is used in present academic discourses, is a reductionist, anthropocentric mode of controlling technical development. Wisdom, instead, means the complex criteria of judgment and evaluation of what is life enhancing as opposed to the commodification of life.
A wonderful example of a life-enhancing technology is the composting practice of gardeners and farmers. (17) Compost is a mixture of decomposed vegetable or animal matter collected in an open or closed container in order to transform "dead" matter into fertilizing substance. In earlier agriculture, composting was a natural part of recycling substances. In the criticism of modern society, compost also serves to re-value the garbage and human waste that environmentalists are turning into nearly sacred artefacts representing the flow of nature.
Pre-modern religions include differentiated understandings of the planet's surface (e.g., the earth as mother), while modern worldviews have forgotten or eliminated these. A look at biblical and classic traditions in Christianity shows that the earth was regarded as being in cooperation with God with regard to the history of salvation. The earth took care of the dead bodies until their final resurrection. The early church transformed antique beliefs in the goddess Gaia into an understanding of the earth as a holy element of the Spirit's life giving. The late modern culture of composting in rich and poor countries alike should be regarded as a strong religious symbol for a new cyclic way of understanding life in general and the human being as body in particular. The cycle of life from birth to flourishing to death, which yields new conditions for furthering life, could easily be experienced as a transformative material, social and religious praxis.
The prayer Come, Holy Spirit, Cored in such a context provides a source of inspiration towards life-enhancing technology and the art of engineering as a spiritual and innovative practice (not a poorly defined economic practice), a social expression of the belief in the dignity of life rather than an instrumentalization of life for ulterior purposes. In a theological key, technology turns into a servant rather than a ruler of life. The final section will explain why it should not turn into a fetish, but a tool in the hands of the God of life.
Fetishized Nature or Life-Giving Breath?
Modern technology is embedded in a cultural system of innovation for exchange processes that are steered by economic driving forces. Modern monetary systems of exchange presuppose an alienating split and operate through a commodification of things that are treated as lifeless objects on the one hand and an adoration of money as the highest object with an intrinsic value on the other.
Pre-modern cultures instead regulated exchange processes with the help of belief systems in which both things and natural beings were regarded as spiritual entities. Life embraced all kinds of things and beings. While traditional animism departs from the gift of animated life in a larger relational system of interconnections between (personal) things and humans, fetishism moves the skill to animate to the humans themselves. Fetishism makes it possible to decontextualize and delocalize objects, natural objects as well as artefacts, and to reconnect them anew across local and historical borders. Oil, for example, emerging from the earth's long natural history can be turned into a commodity and traded and transported trans-locally through money and technology. African lands can be cultivated by local farmers, who turn their fruits and work into objects managed by Chinese land-owners, who transfer profits and products to other parts of the world, enriching their bank accounts but draining the land and spoiling the population's conditions for self-subsistence.
Modernity builds, as Karl Marx has shown clearly, on the commodified relations between humans and things, including the alienating split of human workers and the products of their labour. According to Marx, the shift from the perception of the "physical relation between physical things" to fetishization has its roots in the accelerating trading system. "This Fetishism of commodities has its origin ... in the peculiar social character of the labour that produces them." (18) For Marx, fetishism was "the religion of sensuous appetites." (19) This is an even stronger reason for its relevance as a theme for critical Christian theology.
If relations between humans and objects are fetishized, a hierarchy of relations is constructed wherein asymmetrical trans-local processes of exchange are defined and managed through the fetishization of money and commodities. Value is attributed to lifeless money, things, and machines in a fetishizing way. All these mystify, as Swedish anthropologist All Hornborg shows, unequal processes of exchange, where local, historical, and individual identities are destroyed for the sake of a decontextualized system of asymmetrical and de-localized relations. Both technology and monetarism thus become immune to political critique. (20) They are falsely regarded as value-neutral entities that are necessary and vital for our modern life. Anthropologists have discussed the question of whether traditional animism has been replaced by modern money-based fetishism, (21) but I will leave this question alone and focus on the need for a revisited Christian pneumatology in the context of fetishization.
Fetishization is a human process that transforms an unanimated being into an animated one that is attributed with power over others in a larger cultural system of perceptions, beliefs, and practices; on the other hand, classical faith in the Holy Spirit is not situated in a man-made environment but in a world characterized by divine gifts and God-givenness. While a fetish receives its "life" through the action of man, the all-embracing Spirit breathes life. Fetishism and faith in the Spirit, following the older paths of animism, perform along contradictory codes. While the fetish is enchanted by humans, the created life is breathed by the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit sends "life-giving breath, they are created" (Ps. 104:30). While the fetish works as an instrument for the power of the one over the other, the life-giving Spirit embraces all in one common world and history and nevertheless respects the face of every individual identity. While fetishism turns the given nature into a lifeless world where only the useful is animated, traditional animism and Christian pneumatology perceive the intrinsic value of all beings in their specific environments. While fetishism aggravates spatial and environmental injustices, faith in the Holy Spirit reveals the perfect, just, and true community of the Trinity and it opens a path to walk towards the (not yet seen) "land that I will show you" (Gen. 12:1). A pneumatology, inspired by animism, enhances the circles of life that indigenous theologians have helped us to recognize.
The challenge for an ecological pneumatology, which wants to drink from its own classical wells and respect its synergies with traditional animism in the history of mission, is to resist the authority of life-threatening animations and to overcome the power of fetishization. Faith in the Holy Spirit as an all-embracing life-giving and liberating movement can break down belief systems where fetishized commodities, money and technologies turn the gifts of life into instruments for dominion. In such an analytical horizon, anthropogenic climatic change represents nothing more than the outermost consequence of fetishization as a cardinal human sin: the disenchantment of sacred earth and life as a gift of the Spirit and the unjust fragmentation of its life forms and artefacts into tools for power over each other. In the lens of a Christian eco-pneumatology, such a view allows us to perceive the Holy Spirit at work in the struggle of fetishized and animated life forms in our manifold environments, a work that generates power with each other.
The most violent consequence of fetishism as it is practiced in capitalism is the reduction of the other to a commodity. When poor citizens in the global South are excluded from human dignity, value, and rights that are taken for granted among the rich of the North, the Spirit who dwells with the other is violated. When natural life processes are treated as resources for the accumulation of capital, for obtaining wealth and power by some, the Spirit, who embraces all, and the Creator, who bestows rain and sunshine on all, is offended. When human skills, such as the artistic and innovative capacity to produce artefacts, are abused for the animation of things and machines in a fetishized way so that their function and intention is blurred, the creator Spirit is humiliated.
In earlier days such humiliation of the Spirit would be condemned for heresy, which we can see from the Christian critique of the financial usury system through the ages. According to Luke 6:35, one shall love one's enemy and lend money without hope to receive a profit. According to Cappadocian theologian Gregory of Nyssa, the life of the one who lends money for profit is useless and insatiate; interest taking is therefore attacked as pure robbery. (22) Thomas of Aquinas simply describes usury as sin, (23) while profiteering is for Martin Luther against nature because money is by nature unfertile and cannot increase as a tree or acre carrying fruits. (24) Quotations like these show how deeply one could respond to the slowly increasing, but in modernity rapidly accelerating, fetishization of money. Valuing money as a fetish in Marx' sense represents a central sin against the Creator and against creation as the gift of life.
Pneumatology must in such a context necessarily resist the fetishizing commodification of the other, where the other includes human as well as non-human neighbours. Christian pneumatology, fertilized through its classical roots, has an enormous and still not yet fully exhausted potential to contribute to the emergence of an animistic driving force that can resist and overcome the dominant world system of fetishization. Faith in the Holy Spirit as the life-giving breath of the world to come--a world beyond the power of the fetishes--allows the perception of our environment as a space populated by a manifold of created spiritual beings, a perception that is open for its own transformation towards a new creation.
The history of Christianity shows that the doctrine of the Spirit has been revitalized in times of social crisis; there is no doubt that the contemporary state of modernity again offers such a critical threshold, an ecological kairos. As a crucial pathology in our perception of the environment, a reflection and revisiting of animism can assist our striving for an alternative future, one that we may have in common with many "others." If the Holy Spirit reveals the face of the trinitarian Creator on earth, she also performs in synergy with us as the one who brings about the world to come. As a liberating movement, the Spirit takes place today in the struggle against fetishist idolatry in those places on the planet where creatures groan and suffer from environmental and spatial injustice fuelled by the sin of modern fetishism. If God, who is humiliated through such sin, does not turn his/her face away, the challenge to believers and faith communities today must be to become aware about and move to the specific places where the inhabitation of the Spirit is evident and to act in synergy with the spiritual forces of her life-giving and liberating space. The old prayer Come, Holy Spirit, come/remains central in all forms of liturgy, and it resounds in such a critical context with a new cosmic tenor.
(1) Gregory of Nazianz, Oratio 31.26, Cf. Sigurd Bergmann, Geist, der Natur befreit: Die trinitarische Kosmologie Gregors von Nazianz im Horizont einer okologischen Theologie der Befreiung (Mainz: Grunewald, 1995), 11; (Russian edition: Arkhangelsk: Arkhangelsk University Press, 1999); revised English edition: Creation Set Free: The Spirit as Liberator of Nature (Sacra Doctrina: Christian Theology for a Postmodern Age, Vol. 4) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2005).
(2) Wolf-Dieter Hauschild, "Geist IV: Dogmengeschichtlich," TRE 12 (1984), 196.
(3) Cf. Sigurd Bergmann," 'Now the Spirit dwells among us ...': The Spirit as Liberator of Nature in the Trinitarian Cosmology of Gregory of Nazianz," in Creation and Salvation, Volume 1: A Mosaic of Selected Classic Christian Theologies (Studies in Religion and the Environment Vol. 5), ed. Ernst M. Conradie, pp. 53-73 (Berlin, Munster, Wien, Zurich, London: LIT, 2011).
(4) Cf. Sigurd Bergmann, Raum und Geist: Zur Erdung und Beheimatung der Religion--eine theologische Asth/Ethik des Raums, Research in Contemporary Religion, Vol. 7 (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2010).
(5) Anna Maria Aagaard, "Gottes Geist und Geschichte," Lutherische Monatshefte 14 (1975), 24.
(6) Gernot Bohme, Atmosphare: Essays zur neuen Asthetik (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1995).
(7) Eckbard Lessing, "Geist V. Dogmatisch und ethisch," TRE 12 (1984), 218-37.
(8) Cf. James Jerome Gibson, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1979).
(9) Aristotle, Metaphysics XII, 8, 1073a.
(10) Paul Virilio, Fluchtgeschwindigkeit: Essay (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1999), 19.
(11) Ibid., 28.
(12) Ibid., 34.
(13) On the acceleration of time and the shrinkage of space through modern technologies of transport see Michael Carley and Philippe Spapens, Sharing the World: Sustainable Living & Global Equity in the 21st Century (London: Earthscan, 1998), 149ff. Mobility, however, does not only shrink space but it also widens it. Cf. Sigurd Bergmann, "The Beauty of Speed or the Discovery of Slowness: Why Do We Need to Rethink Mobility?" In The Ethics of Mobilities: Rethinking Place, Exclusion, Freedom and Environment, ed. Sigurd Bergmann and Tore Sager, pp. 13-24 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008).
(14) Virilio, Fluchtgeschwindigkeit, 96.
(15) Cf. Andrew Feenberg, Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History (London, New York: Routledge, 2005), 199. Cf. Sigurd Bergmann, "Technology as Salvation? Critical Perspectives from an Aesth/ Ethics of the Spirit," European Journal of Science and Theology 3:4 (2007), 5-19.
(16) Cf. Camille de Toledo, "Die Toleranz der Goldfisehe: Oder: Warum ertragen wit die kapitalistische Hasslichkeit?" Die Zeit 26 (2005), 44.
(17) Cf. Sigurd Bergmann, "Erde, Kultur und Heiliger Geist: Praktische Theologie des Kompostierens," in Geist, der lebendig macht: Lavierungen zur okologischen Befreiungstheologie (Frankfurt am Main: I KO-Verlag fur interkulturelle Kommunikation, 1997), 296-328.
(18) Karl Marx. Capital Vol. 1, chap. 1, sect. 4.
(19) Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, On Religion (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1982), 22.
(20) Alf Hornborg, "Submitting to Objects: Fetishism, Dissociation, and the Cultural Foundations of Capitalism," in Handbook of Animism, ed. Graham Harvey (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming).
(21) For a detailed discussion see Sigurd Bergmann, "Fetishism Revisited: In the Animistic Lens of Eco-pneumatology," Journal of Reformed Theology 6:3 (2012), 1-21.
(22) Gregory of Nyssa, Oratio Contra Usurarios: "Whoever receives money through usury takes a pledge of poverty and under the pretence of a good deed brings ruin on someone's home."
(23) Cf. Thomas of Aquinas, Summa Theologica--Secunda Secundae Pt. 2, Question LXXVIII: Of the Sin of Usury That Is Committed in Loans (1274).
(24) Cf. at length Luther's work On Trading and Usury from 1524.
Sigurd Bergmann is professor of Religious Studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway. He is the author of Creation Set Free: The Spirit as Liberator of Nature (Eerdmans, 2005) and Raum und Geist: Zur Erdung und Beheimatung der Religion--eine theologische Asth/Ethik des Raums (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2010).
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|Publication:||The Ecumenical Review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2013|
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