Excerpts from The Philosophy of Cult (2): Liturgy and Emotion; The Titanic Principle

Excerpt 1: What is orthodoxy?

IV. Sacraments and Rites

The function of cult is to translate the natural lament of grief, the natural cry of joy, the natural exultation, the natural tears and distress into sacred song, sacred word, sacred gesture. Not to prevent natural motions, not to be ashamed of them, not to nip off the richness of the interior life, but on the contrary to express this richness, to affirm it in its fullness, to reinforce it and make it grow. In cult the accidental is elevated to the necessary, the subjective is illuminated in the objective. Cult translates natural reality into the ideal.

It is possible to try to suffocate the emotions. But repressed emotions consume body and soul. And where is the border between the admissible and the non-admissible? Who has established it? What does it mean that it has been established? By what right can it be imposed on me, buffeted by my emotions? Fighting with the emotions amounts to a root and branch rejection of the very nature of man, the abyss that the emotions generate and that contains nothing besides the emotions. To fight with the emotions can signify two things: if the struggle does not succeed, humanity is poisoned with “the passions hidden inside”; if it has succeeded, humanity is castrated and murdered, deprived of its vitality, energy, and finally its very life.

Cult works another way. It affirms the entire nature of man along with all of its emotions. It carries every emotion and passion to its greatest compass, opening for them an infinite space for expression. It brings human nature to a salutary crisis, purifying and healing it from τραύματα τῆς ψυχἡς. Cult not only permits the emotions to express themselves to their full extent, but even demands their greatest intensity, extends them and accentuates them. It even stirs up and incites them. And by giving them their full acknowledgement, affirming their justness, cult transforms them. The “mourning over the grave” is translated into an “alleluia” of praised sung in the heavens, the earthly is changed into the heavenly. This is because cult reveals the emotions in a manner even more vigorous and powerful than the emotions could express themselves naturally. Cult revokes interdictions and calls out to what has been interdicted. Thus summoned on high, our emotions now exist supernaturally rather than naturally. They do not operate according to their own rules but according to others that are not theirs, being swept up in a celestial vortex in which they swirl ever higher, ever farther from our earthly and subjective existence. The emotions thus cease to be our accidental states and become universal objective truths.


Behold another clear example of a wounded soul. A wound produced by an emotion kept inside. He has spoken a word to himself and his soul suffers. The word ought to go out to the external world and act there. There it might ignite and fecundate another soul, seeing how it is full of energy like an overflowing vase. But left unsaid, it screws itself into the soul, which becomes heavy with it, it bruises, lacerates, and wounds it. The Church teaches that an anathema unjustly pronounced returns on the head of the one who declared it. [….] In the same way, whatever word does not manage to enter as it is destined into the soul of another, or which doesn’t find the space to be uttered all the way to the end, it returns to the one who has pronounced it, or who would have liked to pronounce it, and wounds him. Though there may not be a human soul capable of hearing that word, there is the Soul of Humanity, Humanity Herself, The Very Reality of Man Who, in a manner infinitely more attentive to every other soul, is capable of hearing every word of man. And not with horror and aversion, but with confidence, because in that word she hears an echo of her very self. Yes, no man deigned to hear the words that bruise me, but the Most Pure Reality of Man—the Church—does not disdain even my most agonized stammers. Thus mark how cult has entered, taking upon itself and into itself this word that bruises me, transfigures it and heals my soul. Whether it is anger, wrath, ennui, cult takes everything upon itself and transfigures all, gratifying the emotions to the very end. In cult we drink the very essence of our anxiety through and through. We are completely satiated, leaving no desire even minutely unsatisfied, because cult always gives more than we ask and even more than we could ever desire—infinitely so—and this fount of humanity will never be extinguished.

[On the Titanic Principle]

Image result for titans painting
Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem – The Fall of the Titans

The construction of instruments, the aspect that is not the fruit of thought, finds its proper root in another element of man, the natural forces. An extension of our body, this activity is in essence precisely that which our body has constructed. It is the swelling of the forces of nature. It is a blind, impulsive power that knows no restraint. Knows no restraints because it does not recognize them, and does not recognize them because it has no meaning within itself. It is the principle of disruption. It has been called the Dionysian principle. I prefer to call it more precisely, or at least, less ambiguously, the titanic principle. Titanic signifies that it rises up from the earth. The Titans are the offspring of the Earth. It is that which arises from, comes out from being, is an emanation from it. It is therefore impersonal. And it eternally lusts, eternally drives, eternally rebels. “We, the Titans, know nothing but the yoke of eternal guilt and the burning, malicious flame that greedily consumes all and the lustful misery of our Mother…

As the marine abyss generates waves, the titanic principle breaks itself eternally against the marine cliffs that hedge it around, in a continual act of rebellion. Its rebellion has no sense, because it is precisely the lack of meaning. The titanic can be oppressed, but not suppressed. It struggles without rest against every limit, against the νόμος;


This blind force in which the principle of all things resides is impersonal. It is an abyss that generates. It is blind impulse. This principle of generation can also be called generation—γένος—not in a historical-sociological sense, not as the sum of generations united by a shared origin, name, religion and domestic hearth, but in a purely metaphysical sense. It is the creative force of generation. Tyutchev understood this obscure foundation of being. In theological terms such a principle of actualization, this fullness of potentiality of being, is called οὐσια. Οὐσια, which is ἐσία from εἰμί, being. That impersonal thing that tries with its waves to shatter every barrier, every “restriction of the law” according to an expression of the Talmud, because the law is limitation and finitude, the definition of an end: “Until here and no further”. The limit of power: “Here you will come and here the pride of your waves with be broken” (Jb 38:11). The essence of potency, then, consists in its appearing never to exhaust its own being. The essence of the titanic consists in the impulse and struggle against limits. In its eruption it presses, raises itself, breaks itself against the bulwarks of the laws. “We hate the shackles of the heavenly order and under the roof of our nights we make to shake the foundations of the world’s peace, Prometheus!”

The person, or hypostatic meaning, the spirit, the intellect—and I intend all these in the same sense as classical antiquity and the Fathers—gives a measure to the impersonal potency of human nature, so that the activity of the person consists precisely in a measure, in a limitation and in placing definitions and boundaries. This activity of collection and limitation has been called the Apollonian principle. But I am not sure that it is a happy definition. The impersonal aspires to take the place of the person, because it does not recognize the person as a person, it cannot comprehend that the person is or what he is. The titanic imagines everything like itself, as an emanation from the Earth, as impersonal. In the limit placed by the person the titanic sees only the contrary of the titanic itself, and nothing else. It perceives the limit as impersonal potency, as an opposing potency. In meaning the impersonal sees only a contrary current. And it cannot think otherwise, being itself only impersonal. In this consists its blindness. Standing against it only raises the waves. As a mountain stream, the titanic rushes every toward the base. But try to place one finger in front of it and it will make the mountains crumble. There is no interior dam and so any exterior dame is useless.


The titanic principle is not sinful in itself, but a good: it is potency for life, it is existence itself. But it leads to sin. Always? No. The same titanic principle, this same force of nature is also actualized in good. The titanic possesses the potentiality for any sort of activity.


The insatiability and indestructibility of the titanic are imagines of the divine being. The negative infinity of human desire is an image of the positive infinity of the essence of God, just as Time is a moving image of Eternity. But God is not only ousia, but also hypostasis. He is not only Essence, but also Person. And also man is not only ousia, but also hypostasis, person. It is impossible to comprehend Christian anthropology without reflecting on these concepts of patristic theology. Man is not only hidden desire, but also luminous image. He is not only primordial impulse, but also his countenance which is manifested in reality, as appears clearly in the saints and artistically is shown in icons. [….] Man is not only existence but also justice. Not only life, but also truth. Not only potency but also intellect (nous). Not only flesh, but also spirit. In God is the harmony of ousia and hypostasis. The person of God fully manifests his Being, his Being is fully manifested by his Person. In man, on the other hand, the antinomy of these poles does not find harmony. The hidden substrate of existence rises against his countenance, demanding to be actualized. The countenance undergoes the agitation of primordial forces, seeking to draw from them the proper truth. In man two truths are present: the image of God and the likeness with God, the truth of being and the truth of meaning [….] Now in metaphysical analysis, we will call them precisely thus: truth of the reality of being and truth of meaning, truth of ousia and truth of hypostasis. They are two. And because they are not reconcilable, each one is opposed to the other.

The spirit wars against the flesh and the flesh against the spirit. But these are both truths. Their unity cannot be attained through reciprocal mutual compromises. Infinite in their tension, both principles of the essence of man require an infinity of their own manifestation, the maximum of their own affirmation. Not in the limitation of the one by the other, but in the reciprocal acknowledgement of their indubitable truth—the truth of their infinity in likeness with God—their harmony can be realized, which is the integrity of man. Not immediately in themselves, but only in their absolute limits, exhausting their infinite possibility, can these two truths fully discover themselves. Any mid-way stop is a lie. The search for objective reality must be exhausted with the attainment of the ultimate divine essence. The search for meaning must be concluded with the attainment of the ultimate divine meaning. There is no other way to satisfy the two principles of man. Once these proper extremes have been reached in God through different paths, diverging entirely along the way, both principles of man arrive at the One, at He in Whom all the fullness of reality and all the fullness of meaning coexist from eternity: in God. In gnoseological terms, we would call this the unity of what is given and what is demonstrated, of intuition and deduction. In ontological terms, we will call it the Countenance of the Absolute. In concrete religious terms, this would be called the absolute point of the religious life, the absolute concreteness of cult. We have defined cult as an activity of reconciliation of meaning and reality. [….]

To satisfy his thirst for a reality without limits, in the expansion without limits of his own titanic foundation and in overcoming by his force every boundary, every norm, every meaning, man will eventually arrive at the Absolute Meaning, the Meaning of all meanings, the Face of all faces, the very foundation of Meaning as such. And once satiated, satiated forever in his triumph, he must seek to take possession of this also, to convince itself that the Supreme Meaning is Potency itself, the Supreme Potency, viz. that in whose name and through whose truth man has dashed aside all meanings. Arriving here, in its very expansion up to this Meaning which, conceding to it the gratification of absolute victory, reveals itself at the same time as absolute defeat—because the truth of Earth at its summit is nothing different from the truth of Heaven, but is the same truth–, man, the emotion of his titanic anger satiated, is illumined and pacified.

To satisfy his own need for unconditioned Truth, in liberating himself necessarily from every thing—of every being, of every concrete reality—he eventually arrives at the Absolute Reality, to the Reality of all realities, to the Being of all beings, to the foundational Reality itself. And thus, satisfied by its own ascent, it must also ask of this absolute Reality, who attests to its own right of existence, to convince itself that the Supreme Reality is Meaning itself, the Supreme Meaning, or that in whose name man has rejected everything that was given.

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