2 January 2005

Faber connects and then severs the tie between art and religion as they spring from and reattach us to the early care-giving situation.

• Every fresh and spontaneous experience transcends the capacity of the conventionalized memory schema and, to some degree, of any schema. In short, “novel” experiences fall off our memory radar and are lost to us. Like the 3-year-olds at the museum, our novel experiences don’t register unless there’s someone or something there to mirror them back to us. Therefore, we have experiences that don’t become part of our experience. “Thus, our memories and our experiences are watered down, trivialized, in a very really way destroyed through the social world’s ‘schematic’ impingement on our lives.”

• We end up yearning for a mythic “lost paradise,” which resonates affectively within us at those levels that retain some sense of how it used to be. Our nostalgic yearning for a lost past then measures the degree to which our social order has succeeded in killing off our primal, essential aliveness. (My emphasis)

• Mnemosyne is not only the Greek Goddess of Memory but the mother of the Muses and hence of the arts. Cutting through the conventional schemes of the social order, the artist restores us to the realm of genuine, powerful emotion, to the fresh, lively, spontaneous perception we knew early on, before the world of codified thought and behavior closed around us like a constrictive serpent.

• Through poetry, fiction, painting, music we are restored to a universe of intense, authentic feeling, authentic engagement, whose roots extend directly into the lost early period of our experience. Yet this is “not the Proustian quest” triggered by a longing to recapture specific events; it is our desire to re-encounter the “perceptions and emotions that reactivate and enlarge the reservoir of ‘life’ that resides in the early forgotten stage of our existence.” This is how art can create “a new and better self in us.”

• “Through precisely these materials taken as a whole we may begin to realize the following: It is not only art that emerges as memory’s offspring; religion must take its place in that family, too, for religion is also rooted in the unconscious recollection of early, foundational, interpersonal events that were subsequently ‘forgotten’ as our mnemonic organization matured synaptically toward verbalization, and toward the practical requirements attendant upon our increasingly separate, self-sustaining condition in the world.”

• “To express the matter from a crucial, related angle, it is not only art that transforms us perceptually from dried-up automatons into living creatures, it is also religion that accomplishes the trick, for in our religious participations we find once more the deep, powerful, inexhaustible affect that resides in the unconscious realm and that reflects implicitly the all-or-nothing emotional intensity that characterized our interaction with the care-giver.”

• Over and over again we learned and internalized the dichotomy of staleness and deadness versus freshness and aliveness through our transformational parental engagements, and it is just this lost dichotomy that attaches us to both the artistic and religious realms. • “Most assuredly, then, we must not deny religion its central, rightful place in the home of Mnemosyne’s many lively offspring … even the Greeks experienced infantile amnesia.”

• “The problem of infantile amnesia reflects an ancient, venerable tradition in Western thinking, namely the clash between nature and culture.” • “I am not suggesting, let me make clear, that every subsequent attachment to nature, or to anything else, that the child evinces is a direct reactivation of affective attunement with the maternal figure.”

• “I hope the reader will not become impatient with me. Having placed art and religion side by side, I must now sunder them forever. I mean, although religion and art are clearly connected through their foundational relation to (implicit) memory, they oppose each other, or differ, in this all-important respect: art makes no truth-claims; it never has, and it never will.” • “Religion, by contrast, makes truth-claims; in fact, it makes no other kinds. It is totally objectivist in its outlook; it repudiates the attachment of any subjectivity to its central claims, the claims by which and through which it lives as a cultural institution.” • “Belief in the absolute reality of God is ubiquitous among the faithful. Any disagreement, any dissent, any qualification of this basic tenet indicates one thing and one thing only: disbelief.”

• In regards religion, every claim contains a challenge. “That has always been, and is, an integral, inescapable facet of our earthly religious experience: claims and challenges, claims and challenges for thousands of years, from rival pagan gods to rival monotheistic gods, from rival interdenominational sects (Protestant-Catholic, Sunni-Shi’ite, Orthodox-Reformed) to rivalrous religious families calling each other names up and down the streets of their own cities.”

• “Because religion, unlike art, makes truth-claims, religion is fated to confront and deal with forces of rationality. It must either accommodate or lay to rest the competing philosophic and scientific narratives that people encounter as they move along in the world. Truth-claims, after all, must be defended, demonstrated, set out clearly — in short, justified perceptually in a manner that convinces inquiring minds.”

• Because religion must confront the realm of reason through its truth-claims, it is not merely vulnerable but mortal: it can die. Religion can fail to dominate rationality; it can lose out to competing narratives — science, or its cousin, empirical philosophy based on logic. • “Art does not carry this burden; it is totally imaginal. It can be trivialized, or debased, or ideologically constrained, or simply ignored, but it can’t be killed off. Of the two, art and religion, it is art that is imperishable. Its immortality rests upon the surest foundation of all: no one claims it to be true.”

Related articles: Faber: The Psychology of Religious Belief
Are You A Kitten or A Monkey?The Psychology of Religious Belief IIFaber so FarI don't recall posing for these pictures!Faber: Art and Religion

©jonfobes 2005