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Picture of the Church Father on Dr John Dunn.

Progressive transformation

Gregory of Nyssa (left) employed the cover of biblical analogy, especially in his In Canticum canticorum (Homilies on the Song of Songs). The bride seeking her lover allegorised the Platonic experience of returning to the One.

In explaining the purpose of the allegorisation, Gregory emphasised that the Scriptures say what they say ‘for our profit’ and that what the exegete seeks in the Scriptures is ‘that which is profitable.’ He further explained what he meant by ‘profitable’: it was ‘teaching that guides those who pay careful heed to it toward knowledge of the mysteries and toward a pure life,’ a characterisation that dwelt, as one might expect, on the correlative themes of initiate and knowledge and at the same time evoked the idea of growth, of a progressive transformation.

But who was to be transformed? Was Gregory’s work a description of transformation as it happened to some other - the bride? Surely not, as the bride was merely the vehicle for allegory. No, the transforming intent was aimed by Gregory at the reader.

To understand Gregory’s analogy is to participate in an act of creation, an act of the imagination, a defining characteristic of man that needs nothing of the world of sense-perception. This transfiguration was the realisation of capax Dei (or ‘being a god’ as Plotinus expressed it), with the strong implication that the supreme good that one must grasp and possess resides in oneself.

© John Dunn.

On the particularity On the particularity
That this was the universalised state of modern times and not co-extensive either Jews or women, was insightfully recognised by the individualist-anarchist Dora Marsden. Weininger's genius, she says, was to recognise the two great oppositions, personality and amorphousness; his ‘boyish misstatement’ to locate these respectively in men, and in Jews and women.
John Dunn

Quote every hour: Nothing written for pay is worth printing. Only what has been written against the market. Ezra Pound

In a straightjacket In a straightjacket
This is the Weiningerian logic, that woman possesses no ‘I’, no ‘Kantian’ transcendental ego, no essence. Like some bundle of of sense-impressions she is defined by others, in particular she is defined by man’s attitude to her body as as a sex object, a commodity.
John Dunn


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