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Monday, June 4, 2018

Philosophical Theology; Part 1: Christianity or Paganism?


Caretaker 2 by Jeanie Tomanek

This post is a part of the online book Philosophical Counseling with Tolkien.

Philosophical theology is both a branch and form of theology in which philosophical methods are used in developing or analyzing theological concepts.

“Theology” means thinking or reasoning (logos) about God (theos). Philosophical theology, or natural theology as distint from religious theology or supernaturally revealed theology, does not presuppose faith in any religion or religious revelation. It is part of philosophy; its instrument is reason.

Metaphysics is that division of philosophy which deals with being as such, all being, being universally. Philosophical theology is that division of philosophy which deals with what reason can know the First Being, the Absolute Being, or the Most Perfect Being.

1)  Christianity or Paganism?

In most Eastern thought there is no distinction between metaphysics and theology because there is no distinction between God and all reality. That is the substance of Eastern enlightenment (in Indian theological philosophy though, they have the concept of Brahman, which we already have investigated). But usually God is not thought of as a distinct being who created the universe, but simply as being itself. Everything is God, or a manifestation of God, a part of God, or a dream of God. The technical term for this is “pantheism” (“pan” = “everything”).

Pantheism is the belief that reality is identical with divinity, or that all-things compose as all-encompassing, immanent god or that theism is all and all is theism.

Pantheist belief does not recognize a distinct personal anthropomorphic god and instead characterize a broad range of doctrines differing in forms of relationships between reality and divinity.

Pantheism was popularized in Western culture as a theology and philosophy based on the work of the 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, particularly his book Ethics, published in 1677. The term "pantheism" was coined by Mathematician Joseph Raphson in 1697 and has since been used to describe the beliefs of a variety of people and organizations.

Pantheistic concepts date back thousands of years, and pantheistic elements have been identified in various religious traditions.

Many traditional and folk religions including African traditional religions and Native American religions can be seen as pantheistic, or a mixture of pantheism and other doctrines such as polytheism and animism. According to pantheists, there are elements of pantheism in some forms of Christianity.

Ideas resembling pantheism existed in East/South Asian religions before the 18th century (notably Sikhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Taoism). Although there is no evidence that these influenced Spinoza's work, there is such evidence regarding other contemporary philosophers, such as Leibniz, and later Voltaire. In the case of Hinduism, pantheistic views exist alongside panentheistic, polytheistic, monotheistic, and atheistic ones. In the case of Sikhism, stories attributed to Guru Nanak suggest that he believed God was everywhere in the physical world, and the Sikh tradition typically describes God as the preservative force within the physical world, present in all material forms, each created as a manifestation of God. However, Sikhs view God as the transcendent creator, "immanent in the phenomenal reality of the world in the same way in which an artist can be said to be present in his art". This implies a more panentheistic position.

Pantheism is popular in modern spirituality and new religious movements, such as Neopaganism and Theosophy. Two organizations that specify the word pantheism in their title formed in the last quarter of the 20th century. The Universal Pantheist Society, open to all varieties of pantheists and supportive of environmental causes, was founded in 1975. The World Pantheist Movement is headed by Paul Harrison, an environmentalist, writer and a former vice president of the Universal Pantheist Society, from which he resigned in 1996. The World Pantheist Movement was incorporated in 1999 to focus exclusively on promoting naturalistic pantheism - a strict metaphysical naturalistic version of pantheism, considered by some a form of religious naturalism. It has been described as an example of "dark green religion" with a focus on environmental ethics.

Paganism is a term first used in the fourth century by early Christianity for populations of the Roman Empire who practiced polytheism, either because they were increasingly rural and provincial relative to the Christian population or because they were not milites Christi (soldiers of Christ). Alternate terms in Christian texts for the same group were hellene and gentile.

Pagan and paganism were pejorative terms for the same polytheistic group, implying its inferiority. Paganism has broadly connoted the "religion of the peasantry", and for much of its history was a derogatory term. Both during and after the Middle Ages, paganism was a pejorative term that was applied to any non-Abrahamic or unfamiliar religion, and the term presumed a belief in false god(s).

There has been much scholarly debate as to the origin of the term paganism. In the 19th century, paganism was adopted as a self-descriptor by members of various artistic groups inspired by the ancient world. In the 20th century, it came to be applied as a self-description by practitioners of Modern Paganism or neopagan movements who incorporate beliefs or practices, such as nature worship, that were different from those in the main world religions.

Contemporary knowledge of old pagan religions comes from several sources, including anthropological field research records, the evidence of archaeological artifacts, and the historical accounts of ancient writers regarding cultures known to classical antiquity. Forms of these religions, influenced by various historical pagan beliefs of premodern Europe, exist today and are known as contemporary or modern paganism, also referred to as neopaganism.

While most pagan religions express a world view that is pantheistic, polytheistic or animistic, there are some monotheistic pagans. Animism is the religious belief that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. Potentially, animism perceives all things—animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork and perhaps even words—as animated and alive.

As anybody until now must realize, both pantheism, paganism, polytheism and animism, are all present in The Lord of the Rings. They are a natural part of its ontological pluralism. But how does Christianity come in? Before I go into the question I will make some things clear about Christianity. In connection with My Magic Workshop, and my Philosophy of Icons, I describe Buddha as a field, and Christ as an impulse. The expression is, just like my view of Lucifer Morningstar as a Guardian of the Threshold, inspired by Rudolf Steiner, but in my philosophy it is entirely redefined. I think Steiner had a point, though, with his teaching of both Buddha and Christ as important teachers in the history of man. I find it ridiculously narrow-minded, when Christians deny the truth in all other religions than Christianity. That´s ideology. If God has created the universe, he also has created the different religious founders. All the divisions and disagreements between religions is not the work of God, but the work of the human mind. My philosophy implies a critique of Christianity in its ideological clothing. I have shown this in my book Karen Blixen – The Devil´s Mistress. I will return to this critique.

Let´s look at this problem of Christianity versus Paganism in the light of ontological pluralism. In his book Defending Middle-earth Patrick Curry is more into a pagan interpretation, where Peter Kreeft is in for the Christian interpretation, but both accept that both Christianity and Paganism are central in Tolkien´s work. Curry, however, has an approach that I find strange. He namely states that his book has derived aid and support from postmodernist theories, and calls himself a “radical eclectic.” How he can find that it is in harmony with The Lord of the Rings to be interpreted in a postmodernist way is beyond my comprehension (postmodernism can´t in any way accept a Christian element), and he doesn´t explain it. He admits that this probably also would have inspired mixed feelings in Tolkien himself. I´m quite sure that he here is confusing Tolkien´s ontological pluralism with relativism. Add to this that Tolkien himself has pointed out that The Lord of the Rings not only is a Christian book, it is a Catholic book. The reason why Curry can look at it with postmodernist sunglasses is probably it´s anti-modernist worldview.

Curry´s advantage though, is that his book is much more into ecological questions than Kreeft´s book is. But Curry´s book lacks the Christian interpretation, which without doubt is essential.

What of the “natural theology” of Middle-earth? It is nominally monotheistic. At the top is God, called “The One.” Below Him is a pantheon of gods and goddesses called the Valar. In the chapter on Philosophical Angeology, we will look at these as angels. As Tolkien admits, however, God “indeed remains remote, outside the World, and only directly accessible to the Valar or Rulers;” these “take the imaginative but not the theological place of ‘gods’”. But of course, The Lord of the Rings is an “imaginary”, not a theological text. And in it, the One only intervened in history once, in the momentous reshaping of the world in the Second Age. There is never the slightest suggestion that He would do so again, no matter how badly matters went in the War of the Ring.

The Valar, also described as “the Guardians of the World” and, significantly, “Powers”, are more present. They have at least visited Middle-earth, and one in particular – Elbereth – is the object of song, prayer and supplication in The Lord of the Rings. Furthermore, they are related to the ancient elements (fire, earth, air and water) in a characteristically pagan way. All this, says Curry, introduces a real element of pagan polytheism into the picture.

Other aspects of Tolkien´s work point to the same conclusion, he says. For example, there is much evidence of an active animism, a natural world that is literally alive. In The Hobbit everything is bumped up a level, so to speak: the Lonely Mountain has roots, while the roots of trees are “feet.” In The Lord of the Rings, the mountain Caradhras shows his displeasure by snowing heavily to block the Company´s way; the herb athelas make the air sparkle with joy; Sauron´s attack is reflected in great engulfing clouds, and the subsequent change in the winds prefigures the turn of the tide in the battle for Minas Tirith. This, and much else, is contained in one of Tolkien´s most marvelous passages, when the Captain of the Nazgûl confronts Gandalf before the ruined gates of minas Tirith:

In that moment, away behind in some courtyard of the City, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of wizardry or war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.

And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns…Great horns of the North wildly blowing, Rohan had come at last.

Again, after the battle, “A great rain came out of the Sea, and it seemed that all things wept for Théoden and Éowyn, quenching the fires in the City with grey tears.” The “as if” and “it seemed” here are plainly a sop to modern rationalists, and when Tolkien writes, “Tree and stone, blade and leaf were listening,” he does not mean it metaphorically.

Equally, says Curry, the blasted and poisoned landscape around Mordor is as much evidence of Sauron´s moral nullity as it is ecological commentary. For Tolkien, as for Ruskin, the signs of the sky and earth were literally the signs of the times: “Blanched sun, - blighted grass, - blinded man”; together constituted “a moral as well as meteorological phenomenon: it was blasphemy against nature…”

Polytheism and animism are, of course, “pagan” by definition; and the celebrations of 1420 T.A. were a veritable pagan feast (one could almost say “orgy”). On Midsummer eve – not just any old day of the year – “the sky was blue as sapphire and white stars opened in the East, but the West was still golden, and the air was cool and fragrant…” This is the setting for the symbolic marriage (and its subsequent consummation) of the King and his bride, Arwen Evenstar. It comes as no surprise that 1420 became famous for its weddings, and in an inverse “Wasteland” effect the land too was restored to fertility. As Tolkien puts it, in a passage also revealing his fine light touch:

Not only was there wonderful sunshine and delicious rain, in due times and perfect measure, but there seemed something more: an air of richness and growth, and a gleam of a beauty beyond that of mortal summers that flicker and pass upon this Middle-earth. All the children born or begotten in that year, and there were many, were fair to see and strong…The fruit was so plentiful that young hobbits very nearly bathed in strawberries and cream; and later they sat on the lawns under the plum-trees and ate, until they had made piles of stones like small pyramids or the heaped skulls of a conqueror, and then they moved on. And no one was ill, and everyone was pleased, except those who had to mow the grass.

There are additional interesting complications in the religious and theological picture. Both Elves and Dwarves apparently believed in, or rather practiced, reincarnation (although not necessarily of the same kind). In an impressive testimony to his open-mindedness, Tolkien defended this in a reply to a Christian reader who felt he had “over-stepped the mark in metaphysical matters,” saying: “I do not see how even in the Primary World any theologian or philosopher, unless very much better informed about the relation of spirit and body than I believe anyone to be, could deny the possibility of re-incarnation as a mode of existence, prescribed for certain kinds of rational incarnate creatures.” And Tolkien was prepared to take other creative liberties with the received Christian wisdom; as Tom Shippey points out, Frodo leads himself into temptation but is delivered by evil. Divination, too, long a bête noire o the Church, figures too, in Galadriel´s scrying pool. In addition, these things often have other and far older lineages than just their relatively recent Christian versions.

For example, let us consider Gandalf a little more closely. Tolkien portraits him using many different angles: as Christ (the Resurrection as the reappearance of Gandalf the White), a guardian angel (which we shall see in the chapter on Philosophical Angeology), but also with a pagan angle: “a bearded stranger seeming in long cloak larger than life,” “an old wanderer glancing up from under a shadowy hood or floppy-brimmed hat…with a gleam of recognition out his one piercing eye,” whose his chief skill was “as a wizard or sorcerer or vates,” in his “usual disguise of wide-brimmed hat, blue cloak, and tall staff.” He usually appeared as “a tall, vigorous man, about fifty years of age…clad in a suit of grey, with a blue hood, and…a wide blue mantle flecked with grey…on his finger or arm he wore [a] a marvelous ring…”

To anyone who knows the books, the description is unmistakable, says Curry. Yet these are not Tolkien´s words, and they were used to describe not Gandalf but Wodan (Odin in Norse), the chief god of the Old English pantheon. The same god sometimes competed with giants in tests of esoteric knowledge, incapsulated in riddles, and triumphed in the end by keeping his opponents “so engrossed in the game of question and answer that they were caught by the rays of the rising sun and turned to stone” – exactly the trick Gandalf used on the trolls in The Hobbit.

His transformation into Gandalf the White notwithstanding, “ the Odinic wanderer,” as Tolkien once called him, is a profoundly pagan character, a mage and shaman, with parallels in every culturel memory: the Celtic Merlin and the classical Hermes Trismegistus, to name but two well-known ones. (The portrait of the latter on a paving-stone in Siena Cathedral could be of Gandalf himself.) And while Gandalf is neither The Hobbit´s nor The Lord of the Ring´s central charcter, equally they are unimaginable without him.

Curry continues and says that then there is the matter of Eärendel. An Old English poem in the Exeter Book includes these words: “Oh, Eärendel, brightest of angels, sent to men above Middle-earth…” (or alternatively, “sent from God to men”). Tolkien brought this passage to the attention of Clyde Kilby, describing them as “Cynewulf´s words from which ultimately sprang the whole of my mythology.” Kilby then asks rhetorically of Tolkien´s mythology, “can we any longer doubt its profound Christian associations?” Well, we must certainly admit “associations,” says Curry, but they are far from exclusive ones. For whereas Eärendel was originally simply “the old name of a star or planet,” Tolkien specifies it as the Morning and Evening Star, the brightest “star” in the heavens – namely, Venus.

The associations surrounding Elbereth, Tolkien´s fictional goddess of feminine compassion, point the same way, according to Curry. Her name translates as “Star-lady” (alternatively, elentari = “Queen of the Stars,” or Varda = “Lofty”). Though the millennia-old identification of the planet and the goddess, Elbereth´s antecedents as pagan Aphrodite-Venus are again just as precise and powerful as those of the Christian Virgin Mary, and considerable older. Indeed, they are those of Mary herself, honoured as the Queen of the Heavens, and already ancient when Lucretius (c. 99-55 BC) praised Venus, in words that any elf would have found perfectly acceptable – “Thou alone, O goddess, rulest over the totality of nature; without thee nothing comes to the heavenly shores of light, nothing is joyful, nothing lovable.”

This permeation extends from such vital elements of Tolkien´s literary myth through to the relatively trivial, it still enjoyable. Take the rather marginal wizard Radagast the Brown, for example, who has a special affinity with animals. It is hard to believe that he has nothing to do with Radegast, the pagan patron of the Beskyd Mountains in the Czech Republic, who appears in statues there in a horned helmet with a large bird sitting on him.

Curry emphasizes that none of this is intended to deny or denigrate the Christian elements in Tolkien´s work. In particular, as Patrick Grant has pointed out, “the concept of Christian heroism, as spiritual quality that depends on obedience rather than prowess or personal power,” is an integral part of The Lord of the Rings in the person of Frodo. “The spiritual interpretation of heroism,” he adds. “is the most significant Christian modification of the epic tradition…” Indeed, none of the strands Curry has identified should be taken as somehow trumping or cancelling out the others. He says that he is not suggesting, for example, that The Lord of the Rings is either “really” or “unconsciously” pagan; Tolkien himself was rightly dubious about reconstructed paganism, although he did have a lot of time for “pagan virtues” such as courage.

Adherence to any major world religion involves a vital awareness of something that isn´t a thing, that is always more than us. It allows us to recognize that all knowledge is suffused and delimited by mystery, and all initiative by dependence.

Against this great (potential) good, however, says Curry, and I agree, must be balanced several problems with Tolkien´s mythic Christian theism, which identifies the life of Christ as the unique point where history and myth coincide. (Please note that Curry isn´t speaking theologically here, but rather of the way Christianity has been institutionalized and commonly interpreted: in short, its social and historical effects.)

One problem is not that the Christian message is too radical, but that it does not go far enough. A human life as the coincidence of mythic truth and historical reality is presented as restricted to one person who lived 2000 years ago and therefore a vicarious one at best for the rest of us. Now, this may be a theological misunderstanding, says Curry; but it is a very widespread and longstanding one. The only remedy may well be to declare such an experience, explicitly and fully, as open, in principle, to everyone of and for themselves.

Another and more serious problem follows on from this point. And that´s the problem of religion becoming an ideology. The experience of another person´s life in such a way is something irreducibly personal, and cannot authentically be imposed on others. Again, Curry is concerned with the way Christian doctrine has been and is commonly taken. If Christ – or anyone else, whether incarnation, prophet or God – is held to be the first, last and only exemplar of religious truth, then this particular version becomes not only true or useful or good (which may indeed be the case) but necessarily and universally so, to the ultimate exclusion of all other such stories, events and people. In that case, either most of the world (let alone be the non-human world) must be abandoned to error, or else a campaign of conversion is demanded to enforce “universal” truth. Exclusivity is bad enough, but the consequences of aggressive inclusivity have been unfailingly horrible. Ideology is one of the greatest evils of mankind. I will return to this in chapter 9, Political Philosophy, part 1: Philosophy versus Ideology.

What I think is so brilliant about The Lord of the Rings is that it allows ontological pluralism. Curry misunderstands this. He seems to confuse it with syncretism. Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, while blending practices of various schools of thought. Syncretism involves the merging or assimilation of several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, thus asserting an underlying unity and allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths. Syncretism also occurs commonly in expressions of arts and culture (known as eclecticism) as well as politics (syncretic politics).

Curry claims that this, in The Lord of the Rings, manifests an extraordinary ethio-religious richness and complexity which derives from the blending of Christian, pagan, and humanist ingredients. “It is all of these, and no single one of them”, Curry says, and continues:

“They can be separated analytically, of course, but not their joint and mutual effects – any more than can the different flavours that make up a soup. And when we turn from such internal considerations to how and why Tolkien wrote what he did, the point emerges clearly that the work´s syncretism, including (indeed requiring) the elimination of ‘practically all references to anything like religion’ (as we now understand it) was a conscious and deliberate decision, and a very wise one”.

This is a wrong interpretation, but I can follow his thoughts. Ontological pluralism is a new theory, and it solves the problem of exclusivity without ending in syncretism or relativism. And ontological pluralism invites to different interpretations. After all, I have my own interpretation as well.

For example, Rudolf Steiner’s teachings of Christ—and in particular what he calls the “Christ impulse”—are very inspirering to me. Christ, he says, is an objective universal force that exists independently of Christian churches and creeds (ideologies), working for all humanity. The impulse that Christ brought to Earth acts to advance all people, irrespective of religion, creed, or race.

The spiritual essence (the Soul), the Wholeness, or the continuum of eternity (God, or Brahman), can in my view be described either as a mobile impulse (Christ) or as a resting field (Buddha). This might have to do with that the East is characterized by meditation and passivity, and the West is characterized by prayer and action. Where Buddha carried compassion (Karuna) and light into the consciousness of mankind, Christ carried love and light on into the heart of mankind, and on the cross, all the way into the body and the matter. Jesus was nailed to the cross in hands and feet. The light from his love therewith flowed into the most remote corners of suffering and pain, and into man´s concrete life of action.

The New Age reduction of Eastern philosophy to Western Psychology has created, and are still in progress of creating, a demonical bottle-neck of blocked energy in the throat of mankind, a blockage of the passageway for divine energy down into the heart and hara of Mankind (love and existence). In Buddhism the training of both heart and hara, love and existence are quite central, and Christianity could learn many things from this. But New Age is in progress with a colonization of all the original wisdom traditions, and with a final destruction of them. It gives therefore completely sense when I call it the movement of the Antichrist. In the chapter on Epistemology I will return to this with my interpretation of Sauron´s Eye.

In Western thought, there is a distinction between metaphysics and theology because there is a distinction between being in general and God in particular. In Western paganism there are many gods, who are finite, imperfect beings, part of the sum total of being, while in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theism, God is the distinct, transcendent Creator of all finite beings.

The Lord of the Rings is a book about pagan pre-Christian times written by a Christian. Both the gods of paganism and the God of Christianity are characters in the drama, while pantheism gives you a God who is neither a character nor dramatic. Both paganism and Christianity give you a distinction between God or the gods and other things, and therefore a distinction between metaphysics and theology. This is Kreeft´s point of view, and I agree.

The answer to the critic who claims Tolkien never brings God into The Lord of the Rings is that He is never out of it. Kreeft says that every one of the philosophical questions he is examining in his book The Philosophy of Tolkien would have been answered differently if Tolkien had not believed in God. “Can you imagine Sartre or Camus or Beckett writing The Lord of the Rings? Kreeft asks.

God is in The Silmarillion explicitly, right from sentence one, illustrated as the single Creator, Iluvitar (All-father). But how is He in The Lord of the Rings? Not a named character, but as the sun is sunlight. Those with eyes to see can detect His presence everywhere.

Take the Elves, and their songs and their gifts. They come from the Blessed Realm, transcendent to Middle-earth, and they “smell” of their origin, trailing clouds of glory. We do not see that origin but we see its effect in Middle-earth, even in natural things (“the heavens declare the glory of God”) – for instance, the “light and high beauty” that Sam, stuck in the slag heap of Mordor, suddenly sees in that star whose beams pierce not just his eye but his soul (LOTR, p. 901).

Both atheism and orthodox Jewish, Christian, or Muslim theism are sharp and demanding, often distressing. But many people prefer something in the muddled middle, Kreeft says, some compromise that will avoid the demands of both traditional theism and atheism. Increasingly this generic religiosity, or “spirituality”, is replacing specific, revealed religion. Bookstores usually have sections on “spirituality” or “New Age” that are much larger than their sections on Christianity.

Kreeft says that no human author in history has ever successfully portrayed God as a dramatic character. Only the Bible did that; and even there, the Old Testament did it with necessary anthropomorphic inadequacies. But in the New Testament the problem of anthropomorphism is overcome in the most dramatic possible way: God becomes a man, and a man is the one thing impossible to anthropomorphize.

Tolkien does not portray God in The Lord of the Rings as he does in The Silmariallion; and he writes of times long before the Incarnation, so there is no portrayal of Christ. But there are Christ figures, as we shall see. In fact, there are Christ figures everywhere in literature and life. This could not surprise us, says Kreeft. “For Christ was not an emergency ideology, but a central point of the whole human story from the beginning in the mind of its Author. In fact, Christ is the Mind of the Author, the inner world of God, the Logos.” And so are Buddha, and other enlightened beings in my view. But The Lord of the Rings is a Catholic work, and the events can´t be understood without the specific Christian angle. That will say that the ontological pluralism is flourishing from one metaphysical monistic Wholeness: God. But God, as the Wholeness, is ultimately the indescribable, the ultimate Otherness. It can´t be reduced to ideology. Otherness can´t be reduced anything.

In my blog post The Mandala of Kant and Longchenpa, the concept of enlightenment is described as The Flowing Light. Krishnamurti had daily experiences of this flowing light, which he called different names such as: presence, benediction, immensity, sacredness, or simply The Other or The Otherness. In his Notebook he, in an exceptional poetic way, described these experiences blended with descriptions of nature. He used the expression in order to emphasize that the flowing light is beyond description, beyond human conception.

In Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority (1961), the Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas has some strikingly similar thoughts (Krishnamurti didn´t know Levinas, and I guess that Levinas didn´t know Krishnamurti either). He said that previous philosophy had reduced the Other person to an object of consciousness, by not preserving its absolute alterity—the innate condition of otherness, by which the Other radically transcends the Self and the totality of the human network into which the Other is being placed. As a challenge to self-assurance, the existence of the Other is a matter of ethics, because the ethical priority of the Other equals the primacy of ethics over ontology in real life.

From that perspective, Lévinas described the nature of the Other as "insomnia and wakefulness"; an ecstasy (an exteriority) towards the Other that forever remains beyond any attempt at fully capturing the Other, whose Otherness is infinite; even in the murder of an Other, their Otherness remains uncontrolled and not negated. The infinity of the Other allowed Lévinas to derive other aspects of philosophy and science as secondary to that ethic; thus:

“The others that obsess me in the Other do not affect me as examples of the same genus united with my neighbor, by resemblance or common nature, individuations of the human race, or chips off the old block ... The others concern me from the first. Here, fraternity precedes the commonness of a genus. My relationship with the Other as neighbor gives meaning to my relations with all the others.” (Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence (1974), p. 159).

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