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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Dunne's A Vision Quest

I saw a review in America magazine of an interesting book by John S. Dunne, the John A. O'Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame ... A Vision Quest. In a way, the book is about both scinece and poetry - Schrödinger and Gandalf are both influential :-) The review is by William J. Collinge is the Knott Professor of Theology at Mount Saint Mary's University, Emmitsburg, Md. Here is a bit of the review below .....


Next year will mark 50 years since John S. Dunne, C.S.C., fresh from writing a dissertation on Thomas Aquinas under the direction of Bernard Lonergan, S.J., at the Gregorian University in Rome, joined the theology faculty at the University of Notre Dame. In those five decades he has published 16 books. The first two of them, The City of the Gods (1965) and A Search for God in Time and Memory (1969), led Newsweek to call him “the only foreseeable successor to the late Paul Tillich in the field of systematic theology.” But as Dunne continued to write, journey replaced system, and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings replaced Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae as his intellectual template ...

The theme of the great circle of love has governed Dunne’s writing since The Reasons of the Heart (1978); what is new in A Vision Quest is an attempt to integrate the modern vision of evolution into it. This book represents Dunne’s most sustained engagement with modern scientific materialism, especially of the neuroscientific and evolutionary variety. As a graduate student, Dunne worked out a theory of matter as a dimension, but he shelved it after receiving a one-sentence response from the great physicist Erwin Schrödinger, “Matter is not a dimension.” Still, it never entirely lost its attraction, and in The Mystic Road of Love (1999) he worked it out mathematically. We usually think of matter as that which is situated in the three spatial dimensions and time, but if matter is a dimension, it also situates—situates events, perhaps situates spirit. The brain, then, is not the mind but situates the mind. Moreover, Dunne says in the present work, “If we see matter not only as having a passive but also an active role, not only as situated but also as situating, we can see evolution as purposive.”

In A Vision Quest, Dunne does not develop these themes as physics or metaphysics but as images into which we can gain insight. His calling, he believes, “is to wisdom not to science, and to poetic wisdom at that.” As a motto, he takes Cirdan’s words to Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings: “Take this ring...the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill.” The modern world especially, Dunne thinks, has grown chill; it is difficult to see God in the violent events of the past century or to find room for God in modern ideologies, such as scientific materialism. But when we gain insight into the events of time and experience the kindling of inspiration, we can glimpse eternal life and experience the working of God. “The story of God,” he says, is not “the story of what happens” but “quite a different one, a story of the illumining of minds and the kindling of hearts, of rekindling hearts in a world that grows chill through sin and lovelessness.” It is the story of “a great circle of life and light and love.” ....

... He engages the great figures of modern philosophy (next to Augustine and Tolkien, the author cited most often in A Vision Quest is Ludwig Wittgenstein), science, literature, art and music, not by direct argumentation but by gleaning insights or, when he finds an inadequate vision, proposing an alternative way of seeing things. Dunne’s quest does not yield the certainty that older systems sought to attain but an assurance that grows stronger as he trusts God to lead him from insight to insight, inspiration to inspiration ....



Anonymous Dominic Ebacher said...

God is imaginary.

Try for something more real next time.

7:26 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hello, Dominic - what's real ... now there's a subject.

11:42 PM  

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