Edging Toward Enchantment: Incurvatus In Se

In the last two posts we've been talking about how, in our modern, disenchanted world, the self is experienced as "buffered," closed off and isolated from the external world. The disenchanted, buffered self contrasts with the enchanted, porous self that is affected by and vulnerable to the outside world.

In the last post we raised the question of Ross Douthat, that the buffered self might be affecting modern perceptions of the world. Having turned inward on itself the buffered self might be ill-equipped or unable to see or experience the enchantment of the world, a world charged with the grandeur of God.

If this is true then disenchantment and doubt is associated with an introverted experience of faith. Enchantment, by contrast, would be associated with an outward facing, receptive and expectant posture.  

The Latin phrase incurvatus in se--curved inward upon oneself--has often been taken as a classical description of sin. Being curved inward upon yourself was to be prideful and self-focused.

But in our conversations here about disenchantment and enchantment we can think about incurvatus in se in other ways as well. Incurvatus in se describes the faith experience of the disenchanted, buffered self, a faith that is excessively introverted and ruminative, separated from the world and preoccupied with the sorting through the contents of its own mind.

Cognitive rumination are hallmarks of doubt and disenchantment. Introverted, cognitive rumination--mental wheels obsessively spinning and spinning in the mind--is the buffered self's experience of faith. 

I think that is true. Disenchanted, doubting Christians tend to be preoccupied with their own thoughts about faith, working hard to get it all sorted out in their minds, getting the answers to all their questions about faith and the bible. The buffered self's experience of faith isn't an outward posture of receptivity but thinking a lot. Questions about God rather than experience with God seem to dominate the faith experience. For example, questions about prayer are more likely to be entertained than actually praying. Criticisms of praise songs are raised over singing praise songs. Concerns about the Bible are voiced over reading the Bible.

All this seems to suggest that edging back toward enchantment may involve getting us out of our heads.

Enchantment is a faith experience that is not incurvatus in se but is, rather, excurvatus ex se.

In opening up the disenchanted, buffered self, enchantment involves being "curved outward" in expectant receptivity to the faith and God's presence in the world.

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