I have long enjoyed the writings of Camille Paglia. But while C. P. is a partial antidote to P. C., the arresting Miss Paglia does not quite merit a plenary MavPhil indulgence endorsement. One reason is because of what she says in the following excerpt from The Catholic Pagan: 10 Questions for Camille Paglia (via Mike Valle):
You grew up as an Italian-American Catholic, but seemed to identify more strongly with the pagan elements of Catholic art and culture than with the church’s doctrines. What caused you to fall away from the Catholic Church?
Italian Catholicism remains my deepest identity—in the same way that many secular Jews feel a strong cultural bond with Judaism. Over time I realized—and this became a main premise of my first book, Sexual Personae (based on my doctoral dissertation at Yale)—that what had always fascinated me in Italian Catholicism was its pagan residue. I loved the cult of saints, the bejeweled ceremonialism, the eerie litanies of Mary—all the things, in other words, that Martin Luther and the other Protestant reformers rightly condemned as medieval Romanist intrusions into primitive Christianity. It's no coincidence that my Halloween costume in first grade was a Roman soldier, modeled on the legionnaires' uniforms I admired in the Stations of the Cross on the church walls. Christ's story had very little interest for me—except for the Magi, whose opulent Babylonian costumes I adored! My baptismal church, St. Anthony of Padua in Endicott, New York, was a dazzling yellow-brick, Italian-style building with gorgeous stained-glass windows and life-size polychrome statues, which were the first works of art I ever saw.
After my parents moved to Syracuse, however, I was progressively stuck with far blander churches and less ethnic congregations. Irish Catholicism began to dominate—a completely different brand, with its lesser visual sense and its tendency toward brooding guilt and ranting fanaticism. I suspect that the nun who finally alienated me from the church must have been Irish! It was in religious education class (for which Catholic students were released from public school on Thursday afternoons), held on that occasion in the back pews of the church. I asked the nun what still seems to me a perfectly reasonable and intriguing question: if God is all-forgiving, will he ever forgive Satan? The nun's reaction was stunning: she turned beet red and began screaming at me in front of everyone. That was when I concluded there was no room in the Catholic Church of that time for an inquiring mind.
Serendipitous that I should stumble this morning upon Mike V.'s Facebook linkage to the America interview, what with my recent thinking about Luther and Kierkegaard's Lutheranism and both of their opposition to what they take to be musty Medieval monkishness and mysticism and monasticism with its asceticism and emphasis on works in general, when justification is by faith alone, as they see it. This led to such abuses as the sale of indulgences. (Later, perhaps, I will quote the relevant S. K. passage.)
But for now a quick poke or two at Paglia. You know about Kierkegaard's three stages or existence-spheres. Paglia seems stuck in the first of them, the aesthetic. The second poke is that she quit Catholicism for a very bad reason, because "there was no room in the Catholic Church of that time for an inquiring mind." And how did Paglia get to that conclusion? From a possibly overtaxed nun's impatience with what might have been a smart-assed question from a very bright but also very rebellious and willful girl, who might have given the overworked nun trouble in the past. (I speculate, of course, but not unreasonably.) I should think that SEX and the desire to indulge in it had a lot more to do with the quittage than any process of reasoning, however non-sequiturious. Here is an excellent account of the three spheres of (personal, subjective) existence in Kierkegaard by the late D. Anthony Storm:
Kierkegaard posited three stages of life, or spheres of existence: the esthetic, the ethical, and the religious. While he favored the term "stages" earlier in his writings, we are not to conceive of them necessarily as periods of life that one proceeds through in sequence, but rather as paradigms of existence. Moreover, many individuals might not traverse a certain stage, for example, the religious. The esthetic sphere is primarily that of self-gratification. The esthete enjoys art, literature, and music. Even the Bible can be appreciated esthetically and Christ portrayed as a tragic hero. The ethical sphere of existence applies to those who sense the claims of duty to God, country, or mankind in general. The religious sphere is divided into Religiousness A and B. Religiousness A apples to the individual who feels a sense of guilt before God. It is a religiousness of immanence. Religiousness B is transcendental in nature. It may be summed up by St. Paul's phrase: "In Christ". It consists of a radical conversion to Christ in the qualitative leap of faith. Kierkegaard also mentions intermediate stages, each of which he calls a confinium, or boundary. Irony lies between the esthetic and the ethical, and humor lies between the ethical and the religious.
There are three existence spheres: the esthetic, the ethical, the religious. The metaphysical is abstraction, and there is no human who exists metaphysically. The metaphysical, the ontological, is, but it does not exist, for when it exists it does so in the esthetic, in the ethical, in the religious, and when it is, it is the abstraction from a prius [prior thing] to the esthetic, the ethical, the religious. The ethical sphere is only a transition sphere, and therefore its highest expression is repentance as a negative action. The esthetic sphere is the sphere of immediacy, the ethical the sphere of requirement (and this requirement is so infinite that the individual always goes bankrupt), the religious the sphere of fulfillment, but, please note, not a fulfillment such as when one fills an alms box or a sack of gold, for repentance has specifically created a boundless space, and as a consequence the religious contradiction: simultaneously to be out on 70,000 fathoms of water and yet be joyful. Just as the ethical sphere is a passageway—which one nevertheless does not pass through once and for all—just as repentance is its expression, so repentance is the most dialectical (Stages On Life's Way, p. 476f.).
D. F. Swenson, as quoted by W. Lowrie, defines Religiousness A and B.
Religion A is characterized by a passive relation to the divine, with the accompanying suffering and sense of guilt. But it is distinguished from religion B, or transcendent religion, in that the tie which binds the individual to the divine is still, in spite of all tension, essentially intact.... The distinctive feature of transcendent religion can be briefly stated. It consists in a transformation or modification of the sense of guilt into the sense of sin, in which all continuity is broken off between the actual self and the ideal self, the temporal self and the eternal. The personality is invalidated, and thus made free from the law of God, because unable to comply with its demands. There is no fundamental point of contact left between the individual and the divine; man has become absolutely different from God (A Short Life of Kierkegaard, p. 173f.).
More Paglia posts of mine accessible here.