I was particularly interested in Neuhaus's following comment on Rieff:
"People who try to practice orthodox Christianity and Judaism today, he says, inevitably remain trapped in the vocabulary of therapy and self-fulfillment. “I think the orthodox are role-playing,” he says. “You believe because you think it’s good for you, not because of anything inherent in the belief. I think that the orthodox are in the miserable situation of being orthodox for therapeutic reasons.” I’m still reading the last book, but I think Rieff is saying that it’s all over. I don’t think he’s right about that. I hope he’s not right about that. But he could be right about that. At the very least, it is a possibility to be considered when proposed by one so thoughtful as Philip Rieff. Christ never said of Western Civilization that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
This made me think. Rieff's comment is like Paul's exhortation to his audience to search themselves to see if they believe, or has a similar effect. Neuhaus sees the implication for Western culture as a whole. More immediately it makes me think of the implication for myself and the actual ways of thinking and if they actually spring from a heart set on Christ or are rationalized distances and putrid mockeries.
From the review article for his last book (which thankfully he delivered to us before he died), Rieff is quoted:
"Culture is the form of fighting before the firing actually begins.”
“I intend to describe that unprecedented condition of fighting against the cultural predicate that organized all human societies until almost our own time. That predicate I call sacred order.”
Jess Castle's review notes the following (to understand further what is meant by third culture I refer to the review or better yet to the book, which I am ordering):
"The third culture disposition has been introduced by cultural elites, mostly artists and writers. Accordingly, much of the book is devoted to deconstructions of their “deathworks.” Deathwork is Rieff’s term for “the resolution, in life and/or art, of a particular world creation.” More plainly put, deathworks are cultural creations that function as hidden assaults on true culture. In his analyses of third culture deathworks, Rieff seeks to expose the de-creation—the undoing of sacred order—that constitutes the central task of late modern literature and art. Rieff gives brief, dense readings of Duchamp, Picasso, Joyce, Kafka—and the list goes on. He writes, “I hope to take the reader behind and beyond contemporary reality by juxtaposing events and works that do not appear, on first reading, to be related. Call it deconstructing radical contemporaneity.” These readings are intended to allow the reader to see clearly through late modernity and enter sacred order, to which we have been blinded by so many images destructive of it. Rieff’s breakdowns of deathworks are deeply compelling, and their logic hard to dispute."
Here is another quote of Rieff in the review article that I found tantalizing:
For Rieff, then, the not-I/I of second culture identity possesses a strength that third world-dominated selves cannot attain—no surprise to anyone who has read his earlier works. Whatever one thinks of Rieff’s concept of the sacred self, his descriptions of it can be quite powerful. Consider the following passage on Gerard Manley Hopkins:
Whatever the shatterings Hopkins felt threatened his and other sacred selves, perhaps precisely because of that threat, he composed the greatest passage on the God-relation of identity since Galatians 2:20. Despair shatters itself against the hard truth of Hopkins’s sense of identity. Whatever the shatterings Hopkins felt threatened his and other sacred selves, perhaps precisely because of that threat, he composed the greatest passage on the God-relation of identity since Galatians 2:20. Despair shatters itself against the hard truth of Hopkins’s sense of identity.
I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, andThis, Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond, Is immortal diamond.Whatever the Jack, joke, mortal trash of our lives may be, our predicative relational identity, Not-I/I, supplies the resistant hardness of sacred self Hopkins blazons in everyone’s honor, each Not-I/I an “immortal diamond.” When I read Hopkins, as when I hear a Bach mass, I am an honorary Christian. The aesthetics of truth form alliances, profoundly elective affinities, that the intellect stripped of feeling inclines to reject…. Intellection must address the matter of its feeling.
Such evocative passages cast doubt on third culture’s assertion that “there are no truths, only rhetorics of power and self-interest.”
I am take out a particularly resonant line for me and repeat it here:
"Intellection must address the matter of its feeling."
He is well focused and I think could prove an insightful read. I look forward to the more in depth discussion of his work that will be coming out in the August/ September edition of First Things and to his last book.