‟“A kind of metaphysical dizziness.” Tillich‟s Theology of Culture and the Encounter with “non-art”‟ - for Danz 2011

“A kind of metaphysical dizziness.” Tillich‟s Theology of Culture and the Encounter with “non-art” Russell Re Manning, University of Cambridge “A kind of metaphysical dizziness grasps us” 1 Introduction In 1965 at the University of Santa Barbara, California, Paul Tillich delivered what was to be his last ever lecture on the relation between theology and art. America‟s most prominent public theologian, the seventy nine year old Tillich took as his title „Religious Dimensions of Contemporary Art.

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  “A kind of metaphysical dizziness.” Tillich‟ s Theology of Culture and the Encounter with “non - art”  Russell Re Manning, University of Cambridge “ A kind of metaphysical dizziness grasps us ” 1  IntroductionIn 1965 at the University of Santa Barbara, California, Paul Tillich delivered what was to be his last ever lecture on the relation between theology and art. America‟s most prominent public theologian, the seventy nine year old Tillich took as his title „ Religious Dimensions of Contemporary Art. ‟ 2   After sketching out his understanding of the concept of “religiousdimension” and his theoretical framework of the three defining “elements” of works of art that make possible the discernment of religious dimensions within artworks (all of which isfamiliar Tillichian material, even if the precise details of its expression vary slightly), Tillich turns his attention to „ the most recent stage in the development of the visual arts .‟ 3 He refershere to the following works: Willem de Kooning, Woman I  (1952) i , George Segal  , The Dinner Table (1962) ii , Roy Lichtenstein,  Engagement Ring (1961) iii , Tom Wesselmann, Still Life #30 ?(1963?) iv , Robert Rauschenberg  , Inside-Out  (1963) v , Jasper Johns, Out the Window  (1959) vi , Clau[e]s Oldenburg,  Interior  (1962?) vii , José De Rivera,  Homage to the World of  Minkowski (1954-55) viii . He asks: „ What are we to think of such works?‟ which he clearly finds unsettling. 4 ForTillich, these works are something new and require new concepts to make sense of them,including his own. „ Reality is encountered today in a different way. Our artists, in their honesty, show usthat. They express a sense of something uncanny, something unfamiliar. ‟ 5   1 P. Tillich, Religious Dimensions of Contemporary Art, in: J. Dillenberger/J. Dillenberger (Hg.), On Art andArchitecture, New York 1987, 182. 2 Ebd., 171-187. 3 Ebd., 180. 4 Ebd., 181. 5 Ebd., 182.  In this paper I want to explore why Tillich is so ill at ease with these works and what this disturbance might teach us about the limits of Tillich‟s project of  theology of art and of theprospects for future work in the theology of culture.My paper has t wo main sections. In the first, I outline the interpretative strategy of Tillich‟s theology of art; in the second, I examine how the new developments Tillich refers to in his1965 lecture threaten to pose a serious challenge to this enterprise.The Two Absolutes as the Basis of  Tillich‟s Theology of  CultureI begin with two bold claims. Firstly, I find that the basic intentions and core assumptions of  Tillich‟s theology of art are consistent from his earliest writings through to his last lecture,even whilst the specifics of his terminology differ. Secondly, and following from this, I identify the essence of Tillich‟s Kunsttheologie as grounded in the fundamental problem that his theology is framed to address, namely the problem of “the two absolutes” ( Two Types of Philosophy of Religion (1946)). This Tillich describes as „ the problem in all problem s of the philosophy of religion‟ 6  Sounding unsurprisingly Schellingian, Tillich describes the two absolutes as two ways in which Western humanity has „ overcome its old- age bondage under the “powers”, those half  religious, half magical, half divine, half demonic, half superhuman, half subhuman, half abstract, half concrete, beings who are the genuine material of the mythos.‟ 7  The problem of the two absolutes is the problem posed by the interrelations between the dualsubjection of the mythological powers: religiously to the absolute God ( theos ) andphilosophically/culturally to the absolute principle of being ( esse ). According to Tillich, theproblem finds its shar  pest expression in „the simple statement: “God is.”‟ 8  Perhaps surprisingly to those of us for whom Heidegger ‟ s  –  not dissimilar  –  worries about the “ontotheological constitution of metaphysics” have become canonical,   Tillich‟s answer to the problem of the two absolutes is to affirm what he c alls the “Augustinian solution,” over against what he calls the “Thomistic dissolution”. Thus, interestingly, whilst their concerns are, in this sense, similar, Tillich‟s response differs markedly from Heidegger‟s call t o separate out theology and ontology to enable a purified “fundamental ontology of Being” and 6 AT, 290. 7 Ebd., 289. 8 Ebd., 290.  a distinct theology as the positive science of revelation  –  a dynamic echoed in many ways byKarl Barth.In spite of his well-known insistence upon the denial of the existence of God, Tillich is clear that the way to overcome the destructive “  Doppelheit  ” of the two absolutes is via their  solution in the recognition of their coincidence in the nature of truth. 9 Following Augustine, Tillich affirms “ deus est esse ”. By contrast (and via a somewhat controversial reading of Aquinas), Tillich identifies the Thomistic dissolution as answering the question of the two absolutes „ in such a way that the religious absolute has become a singular being of overwhelming power, while the philosophical absolute is formalised into a given structure of reality in which everythi ng is contingent and individual.‟ 10   To get to the bottom of Tillich‟s Kunsttheologie , it is, I propose, necessary to recognise thisfundamental character of Tilli ch‟s overall project of  Kulturtheologie , indeed of his overallproject of theology itself. For Tillich, theology of culture is never the application of religiouscriteria to non- religious cultural phenomena: it is precisely not a “theological” or “religious” reading of secular realities. Instead, it is descriptive  –  in essence  –  of the task of theAugustinian solution of the problem of the two absolutes, understood as the coincidentsubjection of the mythological powers (or in Tillich‟s more usual terminology “theUnconditional”) in the statement “ deus est esse. ”   Kulturtheologie is, then, the attempt to expose  –  via general and specific analyses  –  thealways already coincidence of  deus and esse in those philosophical/cultural subjections of theUnconditional in which the subjecting authority of the absolute principle of beingpredominates. By comparison, Kirchentheologie concerns itself with exposing the coincidence of the “onto - theological” in the religious subjections of the Unconditional inwhich the absolute God is definitive.In both cases, what is fundamental is that neither religion nor philosophy/culture are (tomisapply a more recent term in the philosophy of religion) “properly basic”. What is properlybasic are the srcinal mythological powers (remythologised as “ the Unconditional ” ) whichunremittingly push against their subjection to religious and cultural forms. It is the commongoal of both Kirchen- and Kulturtheologie to bring to clearer expression the subjectedUnconditional that both enables and exceeds the phenomena of church and culture. 9 Ebd., 30. 10 Ebd., 294  Although Tillich does not use these terms, it may be helpful to clarify the distinction here as that between “revealed” and “natural” theologies . For Tillich, both the religious and thephilosophical/cultural responses to the mythological powers/  Unconditional are “theological.”  That is to say, both are responses characterised  by “ultimate concern.” For the religious response “God” becomes the “object” of ultimate concern; for the philosophical/cultural response it is the principle of being that occupies this position. Both however, only functionas discourses of ultimate concern to the extent to which God and being respectively are held to “stand for” and “defer to” the true “object” of ultimate concern, namely the srcinalUnconditional: the “God above God” of true religion and the “power and depth” of being and meaning of true philosophy. Hence, “religious theology” or what I am calling “revealed theology” is the attempt to bringto clearer and systematic expression the theological “content” of religious discourses and practices. The analysis of this revealed theology is what Tillich names as Kirchentheologie .Alongside this stands Kulturtheologie : the analysis of “philosophical  /cultural theology” or, inmy terms, “natural theology”, namely the attempt to bring to clearer and systematicexpression the theological “content” of culture.  
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