When such a hope collapses it does not leave in its wake a simple void or surd, it rather can call forth a new determination, a new resolution to accomplish such an intention in the microscopic world of oneís own work, and even if that should have no reverberations beyond itself, and no apparent contact with a larger world, it does make possible a voyage which is intended to be a total voyage, and a voyage into the depths of that to which one has been called. A false start occurred in my The Descent into Hell, a book written much too rapidly, and much too easily, and although I now believe that the direction here is the right one, and its theological movement a responsible one, real agony and real joy are missing here, and hence real substance as well, but the book does call forth that coincidentia oppositorum between Buddhism and Christianity which became essential to my work. Even then I sensed that something had gone deeply wrong, its language is not a real language, and that very hollowness belies its fundamental movement, so that I knew that I must find a new language, and this could be possible only by way of a new voyage. Years ago I had attempted and failed a monastic vocation, again and again I had attempted Buddhist meditation, and in fact had come under the influence of true contemporary masters of Buddhism, but I had come to believe that such ways were not for me. So likewise I had come to believe that there is a poetic meditation which is fully parallel to sacred meditation, that the deep poet inevitably not only calls for but enacts such meditation, therein making possible for others their own individual voyage into the depths, and that the true teacher of poetry is one who makes possible for his or her students such a voyage. Moreover, I was persuaded that theological writing can and must follow a parallel path. Augustineís Confessions has always been my favorite theological book, and it is a book fully uniting theological and meditative thinking, and perhaps for that very reason it has had a deeper impact than any other theological book.
I know that The Self-Embodiment of God is my best book, but I equally know that it is not truly my own; it certainly came as a gift, one wholly unexpected and gratuitous, and even if it also came out of a long and deep struggle, and only after the closing of many false paths, it is a book which in a deep sense wrote itself, and even if this is true of every genuine book, this book is not simply the product of this author; and it is unquestionably beyond every intention which I brought to its writing. I well remember the site of its writing, the dining room of my Victorian house in Port Jefferson on Long Island, where I wrote while standing because of problems with my lower back, and I shall also never forget that Ray Hart and Bob Funk were visiting me while I was completing its first chapter, and when they returned from a visit to Montauk Point, I proclaimed in shock that this chapter on genesis had finally proven the existence of God, and Bob immediately said: ďRush upstairs and take two baths!Ē
The truth is that genuine theological writing does demand a lustration or purification. Perhaps all genuine writing does, it is not insignificant that none of our primal original prophets were writers, for real writing is a violation, and even is so in its most ecstatic modes. This is most clearly true of theological writing, where even the writing of the word ĎGodí is a violation; Judaism is not alone in condemning this, and the theologian who can write of God without a deep sense of violation is simply not a theologian. I certainly had an overwhelming sense of violation in writing The Self-Embodiment of God, and far more so than in any of my previous writing, which might appear odd, since I had so often written of the death of God, but the great difference is that this book is far more truly writing than is any of my previous writing, and it is also, and perhaps just thereby, far more deeply theological, and in being theological in a full sense it is precisely thereby violation.
A word is in order about the intentions that were originally brought
to this book, which were extraordinarily ambitious; first, there was the
intention of writing a full Biblical theology, which had seemingly become
impossible in the twentieth century, and even more impossible in the late
twentieth century. A genuine Biblical theology cannot avoid Biblical
scholarship, or simply suspend it, as Barth does in his Church Dogmatics,
and it is precisely Biblical scholarship which has most made Biblical theology
impossible. True, this deeply occurs in Bultmannís Theology of the
New Testament, but here it can occur only by way of a radical demythologizing
deeply transforming eschatological into existential categories, thus finally
negating the historical and linguistic world of the New Testament.
It is not wholly irresponsible to identify Demythologizing as a contemporary
form of Gnosticism, for it does transform the historical into the ďspiritualĒ
or the ďexistentialĒ (or Historie into Geschichte), just as it transforms
apocalypticism into a contemporary authenticity. Moreover, Biblical
scholarship in its deepest expressions has been deeply radical, as most
clearly manifest in Bultmannianism, and in the era in which I was writing
The Self-Embodiment of God, Biblical scholarship simply was radical scholarship,
or certainly so in those circles which most affected me, and theologically
this means that it was far distant from everything that we can understand
theologically. While those Biblical scholars who were closest to
me were all theological thinkers, none of them could think in any given
theological language, and all repudiated anything which could possibly
be a systematic theology, or certainly any systematic theology claiming
to be a Biblical theology.
Second, there was the intention in this book to write a theology that would be Eastern and Western at once, or Buddhist and Christian at once, and while inevitably this theology would be far more Christian than Buddhist, it was essential here to call forth a Biblical theology that would be absolutely groundless or empty apart from a deep and primordial Buddhist or Eastern ground. This occurs immediately in the book in its exploration of silence, and its first chapter on genesis or absolute beginning calls forth genesis as an original self-emptying or self-negation of an absolute silence which is an absolute nothingness or an absolute emptiness, or what the Buddhist knows as Sunyata; just as its last chapter on apocalypse calls forth apocalypse as the dawning of the full actuality of an absolute silence, an absolute silence which is Sunyata and Kingdom of God at once. I was deeply gratified when a leading Buddhologist, Lewis Lancaster, at a Stony Brook colloquium unexpectedly presented an exegesis of The Self-Embodiment of God as though it were a Buddhist Sutra, and I like to think that this was not wholly ironic. Nishitani and Abe gave me every encouragement to move in this direction, they are primal representatives of that Kyoto School which had incorporated Western philosophical and theological categories into its new Buddhist philosophy, and I intended The Self-Embodiment of God to be a parallel expression of a Western ecumenical theology.
Finally, there was the intention of writing a meditational theology that would incorporate an Hegelian movement of pure negativity into a purely meditative form. The primal categories here are speech and silence, and the movement from silence to speech to a final silence is intended to embody the Biblical movement from genesis to apocalypse, but to do so in such a way that it is not only renewed but reenacted by the reader. While this is a transformation of the historical into the interior, it is intended to embody the full actuality of the historical into this very movement, and to draw forth its Biblical centers, such as the prophetic revolution, in their full historical actuality, even if here they are realized only internally or meditationally. A crucial question would be, does this movement actually embody such centers, or, even more concretely, could the historian recognize the listening which is here enacted as a recapitulation of a uniquely prophetic listening and response? I would like to think that this book at bottom is more historical than is Bultmannís Theology of the New Testament, or is so in its theological language, and this despite the fact that Bultmann is a great historian whereas this author is no real historian at all. But just as fundamental here is the intention of calling forth the Biblical movement as one movement, so that its New Testament and Old Testament poles are fully integrated, and not only fully integrated, but fully pass into each other, and do so by way of an Hegelian pure negativity that simultaneously both affirms and negates every division and opposition of both consciousness and history at once. Perhaps Hegelís supreme achievement was his full integration of consciousness and history, so that even the Science of Logic is finally a deeply historical work, and, if so, this does make possible a theology fully integrating history and consciousness, an integration in which history itself is at bottom both negated and affirmed.
Gnosticism is a pure and total negation of history, and a concrete test of the possible Gnostic ground of any work is whether or not it effects such a negation. There are at least two points within this book wherein such a test may be employed, its enactments of Jesus and the prophets, and the test would be as to whether or not their historical grounds are here preserved. While both the prophets and Jesus are presented as being genderless (which no feminist has observed), they are genderless because they are faceless, but they are not voiceless (as opposed to Gnosticism!). On the contrary, here their voice is all in all, and this is a voice embodying an absolute eschatological judgment which is an absolute eschatological transfiguration, and, as opposed to Gnosticism again, this is a judgment and transfiguration which is dialectical rather than dualistic, wherein the negated is not simply obliterated or dissolved but rather itself passes into its own contrary or opposite. But perhaps the most crucial test of Gnosticism derives from the question of the presence or absence of the Biblical God, is God the Creator present or absent, and is this presence or absence decisive for the work in question. I would affirm that God the Creator is present here, and if a self-negation or self-emptying of the Creator does occur, it occurs not by way of a dissolution, but rather by way Godís own act, an act which is absolute sacrifice itself, but that sacrifice is a fulfillment of the Creator, in which the Godhead itself is even more fully and more finally itself.
Perhaps this does not in fact occur in the book, or is not enacted in the book, and if so the book is finally a failure. But it can be read in such a way that it occurs, even if here the reader must transcend the author; thus the book does demand a meditational reading, a reading in which the reader actually enacts what occurs, although this may well force the reader to respond to this text as an anti-text, a text annulling or reversing the enactment for which it calls. While the book has had few readers, it has engendered a deep response in certain quarters, which I fear were responses to its intentions rather than to its text alone, and one of these drew forth an identity for which I longed but could never dare affirm: and that is that the book belongs within the sacred circle of the Torah. This identification occurs in a preface by Jacob Neusner to a re-publication of the book by the University Press of America, in a series which he edits of ďBrown Classics of Judaica,Ē and Neusner, himself a truly major historian, can go on to say that the book is a profound re-reading of the Torahís account of the meaning and end of history. Yes, I hope that this book is a Torah theology, and if we have finally learned that Christian theology must be a Torah theology, it can only be so in a truly new world.
It would appear that this book is at a vast distance from that Christian epic tradition which is so fundamental for my work, but at least one literary critic did respond to The Self-Embodiment of God as a poem, and I have discovered that sections can have far more of an impact when they are heard orally, so I sense that the voice of the preacher is not silent here. And it was only after the writing or receiving of this book that I could fully execute my quest for the Christian epic; indeed, I believe that only this book made possible History as Apocalypse, my book on the Christian epic, a book that attempts a reenactment of our Christian epics, although in an abbreviated and non-poetic mode. One challenge here is to understand our epic poetry as revelation itself, and while I think that it is clear that this was the actual intention of all of our great epic writers, epics can only be heard or read as revelation when they are responded to as repetitions of the Bible itself. It is remarkable how Biblical our Christian epics are, they are far more Biblical than any other books in our tradition, and I believe more truly Biblical than any of our theological writing. A re-saying of the words of the Bible should not be thought of as a literal repetition of these words, it is far more so a repetition in the Kierkegaardian sense, a forward rather than a backward movement, and a forward movement into the truly new. Certainly that occurs in our great Christian epics, each of which is explosively new, thus apocalyptically new; apocalypse is the deepest center of our Christian epics, and here occurs a rebirth and renewal of the Biblical apocalypse which has never occurred in our theology.
It is odd that so little theological interpretation has been given
to our epic texts, and when it does occur it commonly does so through a
traditional theological interpretation, thus clearly violating the texts
themselves; for not only are these deeply heretical texts, but each is
a reversal of the theological orthodoxy of their historical worlds, and
above all a reversal of everything which their worlds could theologically
know as God. While this is most comprehensive in Joyce, it is clearest
in Blake, perhaps most powerful in Milton, and most ecstatically joyous
in Dante; and yet the ecstatic joy of the conclusion of the Purgatorio
and the Paradiso is inseparable from the deepest darkness of the Inferno,
just as the absolutely alien sovereignty of the Creator is inseparable
from the absolute sacrifice of the Son in Paradise Lost, a dialectical
polarity and union repeated but now universalized in Milton and Jerusalem,
just as it is this very union and polarity which is absolutely reversed
and comprehensively repeated in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. Few interpreters
realize the depth of the presence of God in the Wake and Ulysses, for even
if this is an absolutely sacrilegious and blasphemous presence, it is a
total presence nonetheless, as a primordial fall of God or Satan is continually
reenacted in an ecstatic celebration, finally culminating in the apocalypse
of Molly or Anna Livia Plurabelle, who is an epic repetition of Blakeís
Jerusalem and Danteís Beatrice.
History as Apocalypse attempts to call forth the deep union of our Christian epics, a union which is the unity of the Bible itself, but now a union realized in the actuality of our history and consciousness, and if it is possible to understand both a beginning and ending of consciousness, this is enacted in our epic tradition from Homer through Joyce; for just as an individually actual voice first occurs or is first manifest in The Iliad, a universal reversal and ending of all voice occurs in Finnegans Wake. Here, too, is genesis and apocalypse, and a genesis and apocalypse of our uniquely Western history, whose very ending is the advent of a universal humanity and a universal world. In History as Apocalypse, each of our great epics is understood as a consequence and an embodiment of a new revolutionary era, each is the expression of a new revolutionary transformation of consciousness and society, but these very transformations are finally in organic continuity with each other, comprising one comprehensive and evolutionary movement. This is why our great epics are finally one epic, and one universal epic, for not only is the epic hero finally Here Comes Everybody, but Here Comes Everybody is finally that Buddha or Christ which is totality itself, and a fully actual or fully realized totality.
There is one new theological movement in History and Apocalypse which is uniquely its own, and that is a movement into Satan, and while this certainly occurs in The New Apocalypse, it occurs there only through a Blakean Satan who is the absolutely alien Creator. Now there is an attempt to explore that Satan who evolves in the Christian epic, and to understand the evolution of Satan in our imagination and history as the dialectical contrary of the evolution of Christ. Here, Paradise Lost made possible the deepest breakthrough for me, that Paradise Lost in which Satan and the Son of God are dialectical polarities, each essential to the other, and each only actually realized by their opposition to the other. This is true both in Satanís expulsion from Heaven, and the Sonís choice of Crucifixion, that crucifixion which is the sole source of an apocalyptic redemption, and an apocalyptic redemption which is inseparable from the eternity of Hell. At last I had also moved into that predestination which later was to become so central in my thinking, for not only is predestination here a predestination both to Heaven and to Hell, or a double predestination, but each is essential to the other. Indeed, each is unreal apart from the other, so that Satan is just as essential to redemption as is Christ, and this is a consequence of an original enactment by Godhead itself. Therefore that Godhead could only be a truly dialectical Godhead, a dialectical Godhead in which an absolute Yes-saying and an absolute No-saying are not only inseparable, but finally indistinguishable from each other.
While such a Godhead is not fully called forth, or unmistakably called forth, until the culmination of our epic tradition in Finnegans Wake, the deep ground of this movement is already fully manifest in the essential relationship between the Paradiso and the Inferno, and even if Danteís Satan is silent and immobile except for his eternal consumption of a trinity of sinners, he is the absolute ruler of Hell, and the final source of evil itself; and just as Dante was the first poet fully or truly to enact pure evil, this enactment in the Commedia is absolutely essential to its truly new vision of Heaven, a Heaven truly different from every possible primordial Heaven. For it is a Heaven that is not only an absolute actuality, but a Heaven that is the consequence of a divine and cosmic movement, and for the first time in the Christian tradition Godhead itself can be envisioned as inseparable from the cosmos or the world itself. The very actuality of this Heaven can be known by way of its essential relation to Hell, and just as the Purgatorio and the Paradiso are impossible and unreal apart from the Inferno, Danteís Heaven is illusory and unreal apart from the horizon of Hell, and all too significantly it is only in the Inferno that Dante can call forth the full individuality of the human voice and face. Only in the Inferno is Dante a fully realistic poet, and it is the very depth of this realism that is echoed or reflected in the cosmic ground, and the uniquely cosmic ground, of Danteís Heaven.
We have always known that Dante is a revolutionary poet and visionary, but we have not understood that this is inseparable from a revolutionary theological ground, one truly and deeply heretical. Nor is this simply because of Danteís vision of an Empire that is the equal of the Church, but because of his epic vision itself, a vision uniquely integrating the ecclesiastical, the political, the psychological, and the cosmic realms, but so integrating them that they are inseparable from the divine realm itself. This is an absolutely new realism, indeed, and a truly new understanding of the Godhead itself. It can justly be said that Dante far more deeply integrates nature and grace than does Aquinas, and he certainly does so far more comprehensively, and if it has truly been said that the Commedia is the summa of the Christian Middle Ages, dare we say that it is the true summa theoloigica of that world? Aquinas himself gives little attention to the question of evil, largely repeating Augustine, but not only is evil overwhelming in the Inferno; this is a truly new vision and understanding of evil, and as opposed to every scholastic understanding of evil as the privation of the good, here evil is intrinsically and essentially real. For even if Hell is the realm of the shades, it could not possibly be understood here as a pure nothingness, its very realism is far too overwhelming for that, and only here does Dante write with an actuality that can be fully and actually heard, or heard by us. Therefore this is an actuality absolutely essential to that apocalyptic redemption which is now first fully envisioned.
Nothing more clearly distinguishes a uniquely modern vision than
does its deep ground in evil, or in a pure negativity, a pure negativity
wholly unknown in the ancient world, or in a pre-Christian world, and if
Christianity is unique in its vision of Satan, damnation, and Hell,
so, too, is a Christian naming of Satan unique, one inaugurated by Jesus
himself, and one which is a dominant motif throughout the New Testament,
even as it is absent from every pre-Christian scripture. Nietzsche
was fully responsible in knowing that it is Christianity alone which embodies
an absolute No-saying, and in the Christian epic that absolute No-saying
is essentially inseparable from an absolute Yes-saying, and only in Christianity
are an absolute No-saying and an absolute Yes-saying fully conjoined, one
which is deeply and continually called forth in the Christian epic, and
at no other point is Joyceís epic vision so clearly and so manifestly Christian.
Yet this is just the point at which the deep realism of Christianity is
manifest, one that has never been understood theologically, but which is
deeply embodied in the Christian epic vision and the Christian epic voyage,
for if this is a voyage into the deepest chaos and darkness, such a voyage
is here and here alone inseparable from a voyage into an ecstatic life
and joy. Hence the absolute necessity of Satan in Christianity, and
just as the Christian epic voyage ever more fully and more finally calls
forth epiphanies of Satan, these epiphanies are here essential to epiphanies
of Christ; and if in Blake and Joyce, Satan is envisioned as being all
in all, that totality of Satan is inseparable from the totality of Christ,
or inseparable from that Christ who is apocalyptic totality itself.
If a coincidentia oppositorum between Christ and Satan is a deep center of the Christian epic, it only gradually evolves or become manifest, not being fully called forth until full modernity, and only full modernity has envisioned the totality of Hell, or an absolute abyss or total darkness, a vision of the ultimate and final depths of an absolutely alien abyss that can be discovered in every primal expression of the late modern imagination. I first met Langdon Gilkey after having heard him give a stunning lecture in which he demonstrated the absence of damnation and Hell in every modern theology, I was deeply shaken by this, which baffled Langdon, for I simply could not imagine how it is possible to be a genuine theologian without a deep sense of damnation, and if only at this point there is a deep chasm between modern and pre-modern theology. Strange as it may appear, many theologians consider me to be deeply conservative theologically, and I certainly am so at this point, but again and again I wonder how it is possible to be open to the modern imagination and to have no sense of damnation and Hell. Surely our imaginative world, or our deeper imaginative world, is far more possessed by damnation than is any previous imaginative world, and yet modern theology proceeds in indifference to this, and this despite the horrors of our century. It is true that our deeper modern theology has been deeply affected by Kierkegaardís unveiling of Angst or dread as an encounter with the Nothing, and that there is a crucial section of Barthís Church Dogmatics which calls forth the Nihil or the Nothing in this spirit, so, too, Tillich wrestled with the Nothing throughout a substantial portion of his work, nevertheless our theologians have remained silent about Satan and Hell, and Barth, the one major modern theologian who has who has truly thought about damnation, has denied its possibility as a consequence of the victory of Christ.
Has our theology nothing to say about our darkness and abyss? Is this a fundamental reason why our theological language about redemption is so hollow and unreal? How is it possible to understand redemption if we cannot understand damnation? In classical theology redemption is always redemption from damnation, a damnation which is universal as a consequence of the fall, and every classical theologian is a theologian of damnation; but in modern theology damnation has disappeared, and with that disappearance is it possible to know redemption at all? And how can Christ truly be known apart from Satan? There is surely no such understanding of Christ in the New Testament, or in the Christian world until the full advent of modernity, yet the modern imagination has known Satan far more deeply and comprehensively than any previous imagination, and nowhere more so than in the modern Christian epic. Satan can be understood as the dominant figure in Finnegans Wake, a primordial fall of Satan occurs on its first page, a fall which is continually repeated throughout this epic, and the Wake culminates in a glorious apocalypse; and if its closing lines pass immediately into its opening lines, this is an absolute apocalypse inseparable and indistinguishable from an absolute fall, so that a Joycean apocalypse even as a Dantean apocalypse is intrinsically real, but real only within the horizon of fall and darkness, or only within the horizon of what we can only name as Satan. The centrality of Satan in our modern epics does distinguish them from the Commedia, it is even possible to understand Satan as the true epic hero of all of our modern epics, and therein the modern epic hero is a tragic hero, as we see so forcefully in our great American epic, Moby Dick; but can a uniquely modern Satan be understood as an atoning Satan, as a sacrificial victim whose pure evil draws all evil into itself, so that the sacrifice of this Satan is the deepest possible assuagement, the deepest possible reconciliation, the deepest possible atonement? That could be nothing less than an apocalyptic atonement, one already envisioned in the Book of Revelation, and the Book of Revelation is truly primary in all of our great Christian epics, even as it is absent in virtually all of our modern theology.
A deep rediscovery of Satan already occurs in Boehmeí s vision, one which played a decisive role in the advent of German Idealism, and even if Lucifer or Satan is a minor figure in Hegelís writing, it is Hegel above all other modern thinkers who knows a pure and absolute negativity. Indeed, at no other point is Hegel so unique as a philosophical thinker, and it is an Hegelian negativity, even if a reverse Hegelian negativity, which is the deepest foundation of the revolutionary thinking of Kierkegaard and Marx, just as it is reborn once again in the revolutionary thinking of Nietzsche. And it is Nietzsche above all other thinkers who most deeply understood damnation, understanding it as that new and absolute nothingness which is a consequence of the death of God, an absolute nothingness which is the very arena of a uniquely modern eternal recurrence, and if this new Zarathustraís eternal recurrence is a total and final Yes-saying, that is an absolute Yes-saying inseparable from an absolute No-saying, or inseparable from an opening to the deepest depths of ressentiment or damnation, and only an absolute affirmation of those depths makes possible a final or apocalyptic Yes. Yet this is precisely that apocalyptic Yes which we can discover in the epic enactments of Blake and Joyce, enactments wholly unreal apart from the advent of a truly new Satan, or a truly new darkness and abyss; and just as Jesus named Satan and Hell as did no previous prophet, Blake and Joyce have named Satan as have no other modern prophets, a naming which is truly a rebirth of a Miltonic naming of Satan, but now Satan can be known as a totality never previously manifest, although its full potentiality resides in Danteís epic enactment of Hell.
Never must we lose sight of the epic voyage of the Commedia, a voyage whose epic hero is Dante or a universal humanity, and a voyage which can only begin as a voyage into Hell, a voyage in which we actually taste, and see, and hear damnation, and now hear it with an immediacy that we have never heard before. The Commedia could only have been written in the vernacular, a deep epic innovation, for this is a language which is intended to be open to everyone, and if everyone does not know Purgatory or Heaven, everyone does know Hell, for everyone is damned to Hell, and thus everyone who is open to depth itself is open to Hell. Only a voyage to Hell makes possible a voyage to Purgatory and Heaven, only a passage through the deepest darkness makes possible a voyage to the deepest light, and just as the elect in Purgatory and Heaven are elect because they are redeemed from Hell, the ecstatic glory of Heaven is an apocalyptic reversal of the horror and darkness of Hell, and just as the apocalyptic vision of Heaven in the Book of revelation is inseparable from its apocalyptic vision of Hell, Danteís vision of Heaven is inseparable from his vision of Hell, so that to read the Paradiso alone is not to read the Commedia at all. One of the deep ironies for us in the Commedia is Purgatory itself, a purgatory that was not fully or truly born until the Christian Middle Ages, and which has seemingly vanished today; yet Dante is perhaps most original in the Purgatorio, or most original theologically, only here is he open to the possibility of redemption for the pagan world, and only here does he portray purification or atonement, and horrible as that purification may be, it is a joyous purification, and one accepted as such by those who suffer it. Indeed, the joy here is a far more human joy than the joy which Dante calls forth in the Paradiso, a joy which we can know and feel, and know it as we cannot know the apocalyptic joy of the Paradiso.
Yet if we have lost Purgatory, we have surely lost Danteís Heaven. But have we lost it, can we discover it in our modern Christian epics, and above all can we discover it in the deeply Catholic epics of Joyce? If Purgatory is most deeply an actual process of purification or atonement, an atoning process whose inevitable destiny is Heaven itself, yet a Heaven hidden throughout this process, is this not a process which we can recognize as occurring in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake? Here, it occurs in the full actuality of our days and nights, and this is a truly prosaic or worldly actuality, for Joyce created a truly new vernacular language to express this actuality, the first epic language to record the absolutely common, that absolutely common or absolutely universal humanity which is Here Comes Everybody. Perhaps a decisive reason why it is so extraordinarily difficult to enter Joyceís epics theologically is that we have lost all understanding of Purgatory, one could search in vain for a truly modern Catholic understanding of Purgatory, and only one out of almost eight hundred pages is given to Purgatory in the only modern Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994). If the Catholic believes that purgatory occurs only after death, this is a belief that is certainly alien to Joyce, unless the Wake is a celebration of eternal death, and of an eternal death that is an eternal life and joy. Certainly the day of Ulysses and the night of Finnegans Wake and Ulysses are purgatorial days and nights, here the Purgatorio is truly reborn, and reborn as it is nowhere else in our imaginative vision. Yet, this, too, is an apocalyptic rebirth, hence this is an apocalyptic purgatory, and it is overwhelmingly realistic to us as the Purgatorio can never be, or can never be apart from its rebirth here.
How ironic that our imaginative vision should be so richly theological whereas our theological thinking is so constricted and confined, is there an essential relationship between these distant poles, is it the very poverty of our theological thinking which makes possible the treasures of our theological imagination, the very death of theology which makes possible the ecstatic life of the imagination? Such would appear to be true in the fullness of the modern world, yet both Dante and Milton were genuine theological thinkers, and it is possible to correlate Blakeís vision with Hegelís dialectical thinking and Joyceís vision with Nietzscheís revolutionary thinking, as I have attempted to do, so it is possible that we could discover a theology incorporating the modern imagination, and there is surely no greater theological task at hand. Nor could this possibly be accomplished by any kind of apologetics, Barth should be celebrated for so forcefully repudiating all theological apologetics. No, it is dogmatic or systematic or fundamental theology which must become open to the imagination, and open to that revolutionary theological vision already embodied in our great imaginative creations.