Mt Athos and guilt

by Andrea Elizabeth

The 60 Minutes videos on Mt. Athos may be the closest I ever get to the Orthodox Holy Mountain. For the most part it was respectful and wonderfully illuminating, but there was one part where the interviewer shook his head when the Abbot spoke of not going to visit his dying father. This is a sharp picture of the controversy over leaving the world with the idea that this will help it, or staying to fix it seemingly more directly. I wonder if his father ever tried to visit him there. It seems that sometimes when a child makes a different value choice than the parents, that lines can be drawn that neither are willing to cross. I personally think the Abbot made the better choice. Here’s how Kierkegaard explains it:

If the genius remains thus immediately determined  and turned outward, he will indeed become great and his accomplishment astounding, but he will never come to himself and never become great to himself. All his activity is turned outward, and if I may so speak, the planetarean core that radiates everything never comes into existence.

[…] Every deeper dialectical determination of sin is excluded. The ultimate would be that of being regarded as guilty in such a way that anxiety is not directed toward guilt but toward the appearance of guilt, which is the category of honor. Such a state of the soul would be very appropriate for poetic treatment. What has been described can happen to every man, but the genius would at once lay hold of it so profoundly that he would not be striving with men, but with the profoundest mysteries of existence.

That such a genius-existence is sin, despite its splendor, glory and significance, is something that requires courage to understand, and it can hardly be understood before one has learned to satisfy the hunger of the wishing soul. It is true, nonetheless. That such an existence may nevertheless be happy to a certain degree proves nothing. Talent may be conceived of as a means of diversion, and in so doing one realizes that at no moment is it possible to raise oneself above the categories in which the temporal lies. Only through a religious reflection can genius and talent in the deepest sense be justified. (The Concept of Anxiety, p. 101, 102)

I’m not sure what he means about the “appearance of guilt”, but my first unbothered reading lumped both of them together to mean that the properly inwardly focused genius deals with his own guilt. Not to say that everything is his fault, but that he examines himself first. I believe that there is also guilt in passively dealing with anothers’ guilt, so one can’t just shut their eyes to what goes on around them either. Withdrawing to pray, however, is not necessarily passive.

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