I’m retracing a couple of key chapters from Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age and came across this little gem.

Official Christianity has gone through what we can call an “excarnation”, a transfer out of embodied, “enfleshed” forms of religious life, to those which are more ‘in the head’. In this it follows in parallel with “Enlightenment”, and modern unbelieving culture in general. The issue here is not how many positive invocations of the body we hear; these abound in many forms of atheist materialism, as also in more Liberal Christianity. The issue is whether our relation to the highest – God for believers, generally morality for unbelieving Aufklarer – is mediated in embodied form (italics mine), as was plainly the case for parishioners “creeping to the Cross” on Good Friday in pre-Reformation England. Or looking to what moves us towards the highest, the issue is to what degree our highest desires, those which allow us to discern the highest, are embodied, as the pity captured in the New Testament verb ‘splangnizesthai’ plainly is

What I love about this is that Taylor is not interested in discussing disembodied religion in a facile sense, evidence by his remarks concerning materialism and Liberal strands of Christianity. There’s plenty of “embodiedness” to go around. Rather, and more importantly, the issue has to do with how the divine is mediated – what form it takes, how one truly receives it and to see it in light of the whole.

But there’s more to the story. Again, the issue is not about the multiple options or appeals to the body in relation to politics, religion, sexuality, or the lack thereof, but that the question of embodiment itself has become a subjective issue (613ff.). And once the issue of form becomes secondary, it’s not long before it’s considered superfluous and in the name of economy, cast off as something extra. I think this represents just one example of Taylor’s unique philosophical insights and overall knack for tracing the entire range of “human linguistic-communicative activity” (615).

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