Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pedro Calderón de la Barca and the Natural Law, Part 3

INTELLECT INTERRUPTS THE GENTILES’ REJOICINGS in their unknown God, accusing them, perhaps not very tactfully, of delivering their prayers to the wind, their prayers being an inheritance, a patrimony, that is airy, light, wind-like, a will-o'-the wisp. Yet Intellect cannot be accused of any sort of hubris, as he describes himself as an errant pilgrim (un errado Peregrino) attracted—as if by a magnet—by the lilt of their praise and yet doubt as to its efficacy. Howbeit, he asks, that it is possible that the Gentiles' ignorance of God provides a pretext that persuades them to their divine worship?

Gentility does not recognize Intellect, and accuses him of being an upstart, and one to boot that trespasses on sacrilege by doubting the efficacy of the Gentiles' prayers. (This is redolent of the Athenian accusation and trial of Socrates whose reasoning was seen as impious to the Greek gods and corruptive of the city's youth.)

The Intellect is nonplussed. To doubt the reason behind things is precisely Intellect’s role, he explains to Gentility. Doubting applied to Thought leads, and not without cause, to knowledge. “Intellect is human,” El ingenio soy humano. This notion of Intellect, he explains of himself, has three etymologies, three sources, which combine to yield the concept of Intellect which he is. The Greeks said that Intellect is the “extension of understanding" (extensión de entendimiento); The Hebrews understood Intellect to derive from the divine-like nature of the soul, a non-begotten thing added to the soul's very nature. For the Latin, the Intellect is an unbegotten and innate (ingénito) part of the soul. Indeed, the word Intellect (Ingenio) comes, via syncope caused by corrupting Hispanizations over time, from the Latin term for unbegotten (in Latin ingenitus). And to disarm Gentility from any objection to Intellect’s doubt regarding the Gentiles’ worship or rites, she should know that he is a lover of the sciences, a Philos of Sophia, to wit, a philosopher. Indeed, Philosophy is the woman whom he loves most.

Intellect goes further in proving up his credentials. He suggests that in an allegorical sense he may be called Dionysius the Areopagite, such a name signifying the pure and supreme nature of that divine-like nature of the soul that he is, its quintessence, so to speak.

Dionysius the Areopagite

Again, Calderón steers us through a three-fold etymology behind Intellect's allegorical adoption of Dionysius the Areopagite's name. Dionysius the Areopagite is a valid allegorical epithet, Intellect insists, in that Dionysius, of which the Scriptures tell (Acts 17:34), called the soul (referencing Pseudo-Dionysius’s mystical writings) the distilled divinity (divinidad destilada), that is, the most divine-like part enjoyed by the human soul. And if this does not suffice for introduction, the Intellect reminds Gentility of his historical pedigree and etymological badges. He was central to Pagan intellect and Pagan arts. He was employed by the School of Apollo, and Mars or Aries acknowledged him between the roarings of war in the military instruments of his design, as Intellect is the engineer’s art. Thus his name, Dionysius the Aeropagite, is a combination of Dionysius, and Aries and Pagus (field or land). He is a field from which theoretical and practical reason usher forth the fruit of natural philosophy and theology. So he may be known as Intellect or as Dionysius the Areopagite.

A Dionisio Aries y Pago
Cabal mi nombre, á ser vengo
A dos luces por los dos
Sentidos, en el primero
El de Dionisio Areopago,
En el segundo el Ingenio.

From Dionysius, Arius, and Pagus
Derive my name, I have come to be
Two lights through both senses.
The First, that of Dionysius Areopagus,
The second as the Intellect.

“The text allegorizes Dionysius as Igenio," Professor Stephen Rupp observes, "and its main action can be interpreted as an exploration of the human capacity to discover God by the exercise of natural reason.” Stephen Rupp, Allegories of Kingship: Calderón and the Anti-Machiavellian Tradition (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996), 68. Ingenio or Intellect's exposition and dual allegory as Dionysius and Ingenio is a significant feature of the unity of the action in this play. Rupp elaborates:
"In the abstract terms of moral allegory he is Ingenio; in relation to the history of the early Church he is Dionysius the Areopagite. The significance of the auto rests on the unfolding of its two senses through the development of the complementary identities of its central personified abstraction. As Ingenio this character applies his power of understanding to the task of discerning God's law in Creation; as Dionysius he performs the specific historical act of converting to the Church that honors and propagates that law. The conversion of Dionysius is the logical endpoint of Ingenio's intellectual project."
Rupp, 70.

The Intellect also introduces his companion, Thought, though not in very complimentary terms:

El Pensamiento, ese loco
Que pocas veces atento
Se ve á obedecer, me asiste;
Con él y mi ciencia vengo
Deseoso de saber
Qué culto, qué rendimiento
Es este que dais á un Dios,
Si á la aclamación atiendo,
Que ignoráis; porque quisiera
Saber con qué fundamento
Se da al templo, y no al altar
Ni al simulacro.

And Thought, that crazy one,
To which I rarely am attentive
Seeks to be obeyed, assists me.
And with him, and my knowledge, I come
Desirous to know
Which worship, what obsequiousness
Is this which you give to a God,
Which you know not,
If I correctly attend your acclamation,
Because I would like
To know with what foundation
The temple has been built, but not to altar
Nor simulacrum.

It is clear that Calderón's anthropology saw that Thought is oftentimes uncontrollable and erratic, and that the Intellect must grasp Thought and discipline it. Eventually, Calderón's plan in this auto sacramental is to show that "[t]hrough true reason of state man can apprehend the laws that manifest God’s order in Creation, and so attain the religious conviction that is also granted by faith alone. In Calderón’s view reasons of state and reasons of faith lead to the same spiritual end.” Rupp, 69. That is, both reason and faith have a role in directing us to God and to his worship.

But this is to anticipate. Before we get to that conclusion, we have still some ways to go, and in the process we will meet, through the services of Intellect and Thought, some interesting personages such as Atheism, the Synagogue (representing Judaism), and Africa (representing Islam) on the way to meeting St. Paul (representing Christianity), and we will also encounter the Natural Law, the Written Law, and the Law of Grace, and all seven of the Sacraments.

In the next entry we will discuss Gentility's response to Intellect's presentation of his credentials.

Calderón de la Barca

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