Review by Bob Pajer
This excellent book, study guide, draws on the work of Girardian Anthropology, which stems from thinkers like Durkheim, Freud and Live-Strauss — the human sciences. Anthony W. Bartlett, our author, both agrees with the concepts brought forth by these writers and thinkers and develops his own philosophy and theology. The point of meaning for Rene Girard, at least, comes in the form of mimesis — “If human beings are intensely memetic and this very quickly becomes conflict, their species would seem doomed to immediate self-destruction. At the level of early hominids, where the brain function of mimesis had overtaken inherited and instinctual dominance-and-submission patterns, a self-destructive war of all-against-all could be the only outcome. However, a solution presented itself, enabled by the same imitative capacity. In a crisis of desire everyone imitates everyone else’s violence, all against all, but then very quickly, as one appears weaker and/or more hateful, it becomes all against one. If one homing falls and is being horribly beaten everyone will join in, attracted by the triumphant violence . The single victim becomes the evil source guilty of the whole crisis; but his/her killing brings transcendent peace, so heshe also becomes the god who brings sacred order.”
My comment on this is its true. We are a nasty lot. However, Jesus saw this and continues to see this in another way. A forgiven world. However, this truth is out of our minds. We cannot see it because we’re in it, but out of our minds. According to Jesus, as I read what he has said and is still telling us, not to worry. We have not done anything that effects our Source and as our Source is in tact so are we. We do make up some pretty awful stuff, however AND make it real. That’s entirely possible because we are still in the the only power that is the eternal universe, created by God and never to be touched by human hands. This to me is Jesus message, only message, which overrides whatever we think we see or mime toward desire as Girard seems to say. Jesus is not saying be credulous but he is saying separation (our only problem here) never happened. We will yet see it unravel, as though it happened and then never look back. We are not bodies, we are free.
Yet Bartlett describes three stages coming out of Girard’s thinking, and the third state is where Biblical interpretation enters in terms of the victim and sacrifice. Ultimately, bringing us to forgiveness. Very important to this study, according to our author, is Girard’s work, Things hidden, sin the Foundation of the World, in which Girard claimed the Bible reveals in the scapegoat/victim. “Girard argues that the Bible reveals the innocence of the victim and perpetuates sacrifice.” Bartlett quotes.
The mob that brought Jesus to the cross and his resurrection was mass mimesis, I believe Girard and Bartlett would agree.
Through these discoveries mimesis, scapegoating and victim hood, Bartlett interprets for us a new “good news”, or certainly one that was there all the time in the Gospel. Perhaps what the Gnostics and the early followers of Jesus saw and, through a surge of the destructive force between the earliest founders of the universal Christianity, sought to hide, the Empire’s church took its course as retributive and penal distorted Jesus’ message of love and compassion. All are called, while few hear at first, all will be saved by you and I. We do not have to get good, just see good in each other. Jesus demonstrates this throughout his time here.
There are many interesting and loving ideas ideas in Bartlett’s book. It is especially helpful to all of us as a study guide introducing these new ideas in the following way: he say, “The Bible, and in particular the gospel, continues to disclose the falsehood of the scapegoat process, as the same as proposing forgiveness and love as the new way forward for human beings. This then becomes our new understanding of atonement.”
This is an excellent book with fascinating ideas. However, its appeal to this reviewer is its overall acceptance of forgiveness over violence. Both are defenses in this world, forgiveness is the only defense, however, that isn’t in any way a two edged sword. Jesus is certainly the one herald of a concept of forgiveness both difficult to conceive for us and, very clearly, impossible without God’s help in the form of His Voice speaking to us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not die on the cross. He continued his life there in the form of an extreme example. He was not a victim, not did he sacrifice himself. He certainly was not a martyr. I am thinking, perhaps I am wrong, this book heads for a result of Jesus’ teaching, without an understanding that nothing in this world, no thought, idea, or action, unless it is in line with this truth will ever work. Jesus says in A Course in Miracles, “Forgiveness is the only way to God here. There is no other way.” Jesus’ life here, in all respects, taught this. And he is still teaching it. Forgiveness means we have fully given up the idea that anything can happen to us, because we are not bodies that come here for a blip in a time frame that has no connection to God’s thought, except He suffers our use of this illusion because we made it. As he overlooked the appearance of torture and death, he overcame the grand illusion we all suffer, separation. Yes for us. But only to show us we can and will do the same. Not that he is asking us to go through the same extreme example he did, but to do the same in our everyday living here. Mimeograhing ourselves has I believe nothing to do with this.
The Holy Spirit, the One who knows God and us, uses whatever we make to our own salvation, eventually. Does it matter we mimic one another? I think, probably not. Egos do exactly that in keeping us from the frightful thought we will see God again. In our ego trance we mimic ourselves and then define our gods (including our concept of God) just that way. As Truth enters our minds, and it will, we will then find there is no world, no evil, no violence, no ego; but only our own illusion for what we think the world is for. Would God let us define what a mad world is for?
Notwithstanding my comments about this book it is excellent and can lead us in the the direction to teach us Jesus’ true message, “Love one another as I have loved you.” We have to understand exactly what this means before we become willing to let the Holy Spirit teach us how to learn all the blocks to love we have set up between that truth and our dreams of making the world a “better” place. This is a work book and a great place to start on that work.
I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.