All told, then, these three posts illustrate how eccentricity can be used for Trinitarian reflection. God the Father is the focus when eccentricity and transcendence are being discussed. God the Son is the focus when eccentricity is used to discuss encountering God in the stranger, the Matthew 25 encounter of Jesus in the "least of these." And here in this post we'll use eccentricity to describe the enchantment of the world and the encounter with God the Spirit.
So, how does eccentricity relate to enchantment?
I'd like to borrow the analysis of Charles Taylor and how he relates enchantment to the buffered and the porous self.
Writing at the blog the Immanent Frame about his book A Secular Age, Taylor describes the relationships this way:
Almost everyone can agree that one of the big differences between us and our ancestors of five hundred years ago is that they lived in an “enchanted” world, and we do not; at the very least, we live in a much less “enchanted” world. We might think of this as our having “lost” a number of beliefs and the practices which they made possible. But more, the enchanted world was one in which these forces could cross a porous boundary and shape our lives, psychic and physical. One of the big differences between us and them is that we live with a much firmer sense of the boundary between self and other. We are “buffered” selves. We have changed.Taylor's argument is that the modern experience of disenchantment has been less a matter of changing beliefs than an intrapsychic change, a change in how we experience the self in relation to the outside world.
Specifically, in an enchanted world the boundary between the self and the world was "porous." The outside would could impinge upon, affect and invade the psyche. The porous self, we might say, was an involved, engaged and relational encounter with the world.
By contrast, in the modern era the self has become introverted, isolated, and closed off from the world. "Buffered" against the world. The ego is now alone with itself, disengaged, withdrawn, and no longer in relationship with the world. And according to Taylor, it is this shift from the porous to the buffered self that drives the experience disenchantment:
Here is the contrast between the modern, bounded, buffered self and the porous self of the earlier enchanted world. As a bounded self I can see the boundary as a buffer, such that the things beyond don’t need to “get to me,” to use the contemporary expression. That’s the sense to my use of the term “buffered” here...As I hope should be obvious, the experience of the world as enchanted is driven by eccentricity. Enchantment is the experience of the porous self encountering something from "outside" the boundaries of the buffered self.
And so the boundary between agents and forces is fuzzy in the enchanted world; and the boundary between mind and world is porous...[A] similar point can be made about the relation to spirits. The porousness of the boundary emerges here in various kinds of “possession”—all the way from a full taking over of the person, as with a medium, to various kinds of domination by or partial fusion with a spirit or God. Here again, the boundary between self and other is fuzzy, porous. And this has to be seen as a fact of experience, not a matter of “theory” or “belief.”
Consequently, the pneumatological encounter--the experience of the Holy Spirit--is an eccentric encounter.
And as Taylor goes on to say in his essay, the porous self is, thus, an experience of risk, uncertainty and vulnerability. Eccentrically open the porous self can be interrupted by the Spirit. By contrast, the introverted and buffered self is "autonomous," impervious to the interruptions of the Spirit and, thus, unable to be surprised by God.
These observations circle back to my posts a few months ago about the nature of the charismatic experience. Specifically, in reviewing James Smith's book Thinking in Tongues we described the charismatic experience of the Spirit as being rooted in an eccentric openness to God, especially God doing something different or new.
Smith describes this eccentric orientation as "a deep sense of expectation and an openness to surprise." Eccentric openness to the Spirit, Smith continues, "makes room for the unexpected" where "the surprising comes as no surprise."
And a key feature of this eccentric openness is cultivating a posture of receptivity. As Smith says, "pentecostal spirituality is shaped by a fundamental mode of reception." This posture of receptivity moves the self from buffered to porous, shifting us from disenchantment to enchantment and into an experience where there is risk, vulnerability and the potential for surprise in the encounter with the Spirit.
The practical point in all this is that enchantment is less about believing in unbelievable things than it is in cultivating a relational self. Enchantment is overcoming the introverted ruminations of modernity--being locked up alone in your head--in cultivating a relational life that is eccentrically oriented and open to interruption and surprise.