• Michael Martin

Congruence: Cosmology, the Soil, and Judith Butler

illustration for the broadside of 'The World Is Turned Upside-Down," c. 1646

(Post)modernity is weird. You know it, I know it. But we seem to ignore it, feeling, I assume, that we can’t do anything about this unbelievable weirdness. (Aside: I know some people don’t like the term “postmodernity”—I’m thinking about you, Scott Dodge!—but I find it useful. Think of it as modernity + the internet. Because the internet has changed everything.)

Probably starting with nominalism and traversing through the scientific revolution, the industrial revolution, the sexual revolution, and the Capitalist-Marxist dialectic (the combatants of which perpetually vie to see which will be named the most evil system ever perpetrated on humanity), modernity eventually succeeded in alienating human beings from the cosmos: the awareness that the stars and planets influence us; that angels and demons inhabit the universe and seek to engage in human life; that minerals, plants, and animals possess spiritual lives and characteristics of their own that also touch us in subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) ways.

But, wait, there’s more! Modernity simultaneously alienated us from the Divine. Resistance seems to have been futile. Even the Protestant Reformation, as Brad Gregory has so deftly shown, functioned as a prime agent of secularization. (And, I know I harp on this, but the Catholic Church’s acquiescence to this acosmological paradigm through divorcing the church year from the agricultural year has been nothing but detrimental to flourishing. It’s like living with a ghost.)

And not only do you get alienation from the cosmos and God! Act now and you also get alienation from the soil (you know, the place where food comes from)! And don’t even get me started on the FDA equating hydroponics with organic farming. Because of our alienation from the soil and from nature, I contend, we no longer know the basics of biology (here’s a great article on the topic). It’s pretty clear that we don’t. Monsanto (Home of the Frankenfood!) is not helping in this regard.

Added to our estrangement from the cosmos, God, and the soil, we have now arrived at the ultimate horizon: estrangement from our own bodies. (Oh, René Descartes, what hast thou wrought!) Thank you, Judith Butler. Only I don’t mean “thank you” thank you. The beginning of the transhumanist project is here, brothers and sisters (meant, of course, in the broadest possible context), and children are the lab rats. What could possibly go wrong?


As an English ballad of the 17th century explained, we live in a world turned upside-down. (Interesting that the ballad was written in response to the Puritan “war on Christmas” that preceded secularization’s volley by several hundred years).

We do have a cosmos: the internet (and social media). We have a soil (synthetic chemicals and pharmacology). We have a god (our own wills and emotions—vaguely understood as possessing “rights”). What can I say? People have an addiction to poison.

I admit that I am increasingly pessimistic about where we are headed. I imagine it will be somewhere between Orwell’s Nineteen-eighty-four and Huxley’s Brave New World. We have yet to acknowledge the level of the hypernormalisation to which we have all become enthralled. Brainwashing (also known as the engineering of consent) is something that happens to other people.

There is an alternative, of course. We could try to live in congruence with nature and the supernatural (you can’t have one without the other: it’s a symbiosis). Worldviews that emphasize the spiritual over the material or the material over the spiritual are simply two sides of the same pathological coin. They have done nothing but wreak havoc over human flourishing. Sophiology, with its attentiveness to both the natural world and the supernatural world that shines through it, offers one such alternative: and a very sane and healthy one at that.

To be continued…

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