On July 22nd and 23rd of this year, Morning Star Farm in Waterloo Township, Michigan hosted a conference entitled The Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. People attended from as far away as New Jersey and New Hampshire in order to swelter in the 90 degree heat and begin to envision a new way of being in a world broken by, among other things, the technologization of everything and its attendant homogenization, not to mention the disappearance of the sacred. There was no charge for the conference. People camped. Some brought their spouses. Some brought their children. The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom was celebrated in the barn on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. We shared food. Most of the people I knew only from the internet. Meeting them in the real world was truly a work of incarnation, of taking on of the flesh.
Oh, and “Morning Star Farm” is code for “my house.”
Participants discussed radically Catholic ways to think about conviviality, community, and the relationship of the Church year to the breathing of the seasons, to see the cosmological dimensions of a world reconsecrated to the sacred. We talked about Catholic science and what such a thing might look like and how Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “gentle empiricism” might be a more Catholic approach to science than the technocratic and utilitarian modes of “doing science” with which most of us are more generally familiar (and which Goethe called the “empirico-mechanico-dogmatic torture chamber”). We considered the roles of phenomenology and sophiology in such a project. We talked about the ecology of place, the ecology of human culture, the ecology of Christ and the holiness of incarnation.
We also considered the possibilities of a Catholic art, an art that makes all things new and does not simply reproduce medieval, Renaissance, mannerist, and Baroque styles ad nauseum. We lamented that “Catholic art” in the cultural imaginary has degenerated into code for “religious kitsch.” We mentioned the audacity of Jacques Maritain and his engagement with the art of his time (and in particular with Jean Cocteau, one of the most imagination-rich figures of the 20th century).
We lamented a Catholic blogosphere and social media presence that so often assimilates the nastiness, pettiness, and utter lack of charity characteristic of the master culture.
We also talked about the possibilities of such a reimagining for Catholic education.
We cited a number of people and groups (Catholic and non-Catholic) as inspiring us in their desire to not simply reside in a realm of dreams and ideas, but of deeds: Dorothy Day, David Jones, Joséphin Péladan, Rudolf Steiner, Therese Schroeder-Sheker, The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus, Maritain, Ivan Illich, The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Stratford Caldecott, Chiara Lubich, Francis of Assisi, the Apostles. People like that. People that have actually done something.
In the spirit of ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING, we have a number of initiatives to propose:
First, we are starting an arts and ideas journal: JESUS THE IMAGINATION (the title inspired by William Blake in his illuminated poem Jerusalem). Here is my unconventional call for papers:
I want works of visionary daring, not of the usual Catholic blogosphere snark, polemic, and maudlin self-shaming.
I want writers and artists willing to risk the safety of reputation and the security of acceptance.
I want work that isn’t afraid to make a mistake, and artists who don’t confuse mistakes for sins.
one rule: ASTONISH ME
The first issue will be an assertion of a Catholic/sophianic/aesthetic reimagination, almost a kind of manifesto. A challenge. A spiritual gauntlet. Submit by 30 November 2016.
You can send submissions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am so not fooling around.
Second, I am currently putting together a colloquium entitled Transfiguration: A Colloquium on the Integration of Science, Art, and Religion. I’m still working out the details, but hope to see it happen in October 2017. Stay tuned.
Third, we hope to found an institute dedicated to this new worldview informed by a Catholic, sacramental, sophiological aesthetic (I know it’s a tautology). The institute (at least as we’re imagining it now) would provide lectures, training and/or workshops in education, the arts, sciences, agriculture, beekeeping, etc., informed by such a Catholic sophiology.
We also hope to put out a series of books related to the project.
There was also some talk about starting a school. Seriously.
Feel free to join the beautiful revolution.
Copyright 2016 Michael Martin
Michael Martin is author of The Submerged Reality: Sophiology and the Turn to a Poetic Metaphysics (2015), Meditations in Times of Wonder (2014), and editor of The Heavenly Country: Primary Sources, Poetry, and Critical Essays on Sophiology (2016). He teaches philosophy and English at Marygrove College and runs an organic/biodynamic farm in Grass Lake, Michigan with his wife and children.