In the best conversations, people collaborate and offer themselves in service of the conversation rather than just to prove a point. One person will stand in for another when he falters or goes searching his pockets for the right word but comes up empty-handed.
Bona fide dialogue can only be described as a spiritual ascent (i.e. invoking images from Plato’s Republic and Symposium). True conversation is always a conversion, or metanoia (μετάνοια, meta– “beyond,” “above” + nous “mind”), of a certain kind. I might begin to describe one element of the conditions that are necessary for such conversation by suggesting that to enact them demands the mutual willingness of both parties to sacrifice personal standpoint for the sake of understanding. This establishes the conversation under the standard or philia through the shared orientation toward Sophia and it brings forth the matrix in which participation in the Logos is most eminently possible. It was an astonishing synchronicity to observe John Vervaeke in dialogue with Jordan Peterson pursue precisely this issue, only a few days ago. As Plato says, “whithersoever the wind, as it were, of the logos blows, there lies our course” (Republic III: 394d 9–10). As some may know, Dr Vervaeke was the external committee member (i.e. outside of my institution, CIIS) for my dissertation committee. Returning to the image introduced above, I imagine it as the creation of a sort of temple—a sacred space that can host the Logos just as Mary received the Spirit of God. I have had the thought “this is the New Communion because we are partaking in the mystical body of Christ.” Hence, “wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst,” as Jesus says (Matt. 18:20).
It seems that this is the only resolution to the “post-truth” phenomenon and the only deliverance from the fugue of the meaning crisis. Namely, to relinquish the theories of truth as coherence or correspondence and so on and to see truth rather as a verb and an activity—like “balance” or “life.” It is a state we can enter: as we can be “in love,” so we can attempt to dwell “in truth.” I take this to be a participation in Christ, who is the Logos (John 1:1) and “the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6) To express certain spiritual truths seems to be impossible without recourse to religious language and for this reason, it is a pity that it often seems necessary to attempt to forgo it in many contexts. I bore personal antipathy towards Christianity until I was 27 or so and so I understand the aversion that many people feel, but I also know from experience that it is possible to overcome it.
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Was so excited when the Vervaeke/Peterson episode dropped, have to listen to it a couple more times!
Bravo! While many found the conversation unsettling due to Dr. Peterson’s frequent interruptions (who seemed a bit anxious if not manic), it is well worth a listen if for no other reason to witness Dr. Vervaeke’s amazing composure and graciousness. But, if one can press on through that, there are indeed wonderful insights and almost ecstatic points of revelation that emerge through the dialogical “wrestling” of two truly great minds and souls.
Thanks for this, Max – I am so delighted (but not surprised!) that you can appreciate from a Christian perspective that the winds of the Logos are all about us, silently pouring forth speech, if only we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear what the Spirit is saying – and the sails of our souls hoisted to catch the breeze!
The beauty of Vervaeke’s engagement with Jordan was the seamless calm with which he offered to Jordan. Now that is agape.
Thanks for this post! I just recently discovered John Vervaeke and am excited to listen to the many conversations and lessons he provides us with. I’m currently listening to one of his conversations on mysticism with Zevi Slavin. What a joy!
This description of “dialogue” sounds so much more refreshing than what passes for “dialogue” these days – the I’m-right-you’re-wrong variety. To “sacrifice personal standpoint for the sake of understanding” – interesting concept. My goodness, we might accidentally learn something!
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