Gil Bailie Interviewed on The Patrick Coffin Show

 

Recently Patrick Coffin released on YouTube and his website an interview with Gil Bailie recorded in the Fall of 2019. For those who know and follow our work the 80 minute interview offers a kind of primer as Patrick Coffin asks Gil to help him and those unfamiliar with the work of René Girard get a toe hold on mimetic theory and the history and breadth of Girard’s influence.

It is encouraging to see a growing awareness among Christians of the relevance of Girard’s work. However, as secular intellectual and social movements in the West move more intentionally toward a post-Christian (some say even anti-Christian) milieu, the specifically Christian sources and associations in mimetic theory tend to be either ignored or expurgated.

Our efforts over the past decade to provide a bridge between the Catholic theological tradition and mimetic theory have largely focused on making this connection explicit. While we believe there is a fundamental link between the Christian gospel and mimetic theory, not all students of mimetic theory see this. Girard himself, while acknowledging its Biblical sources, did not consider his theory to be a Christian apologia but emphasized its scientific basis. The mimetic hypothesis can be viewed as a tool which is useful in various applications. There are students of Girard’s work who provide unique perspectives on various fields of study from economics to brain science without any reference to Christian faith. On one level mimetic theory provides a diagnostic tool for the understanding of human relations and the origins of human culture. That one of the universal components of culture is religion (and in its earliest manifestations – religions of blood sacrifice) is one of mimetic theory’s most banal insights. That the Paschal drama of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth is the source of the West’s relentless quest to find innocent victims to defend has been extraordinary and transformative.

Perhaps the unease some people experience as our Judeo-Christian heritage disappears over the horizon motivates them to look for ways to understand this situation. To see, on one hand the alphabetic confusion of sexual identities and gender fluidity as a crisis of distinctions and on the other hand, the West’s secular hostility to expressions of Christian virtue as ‘the Gospel casting out the Gospel’ may clarify the dynamics but does not address the dysfunction. Girard never suggested that his work could or would result in a world of less rivalry and conflict. On the contrary, as Gil Bailie has noted, especially for those who are resistant to sacramental grace exposure to mimetic theory may only make them more adept at the multifarious ‘games people play’.

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The terrorism of modern thought…

“A great many modern theologians succumb to the terrorism of modern thought and condemn without a hearing something they are not capable of experiencing even as ‘poetry’ any more – the final trace in the world of a spiritual intuition that is fast fading. So Paul Tillich dismisses in the most peremptory way the theme of the virgin birth because of what he calls ‘the inadequacy of its internal symbolism.'” – René Girard

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A Girard Christmas Card

This excerpt from the Hoover Institute’s Uncommon Knowledge series in which Peter Robinson interviews René Girard was recorded in 2010. We make it available at this time of year in celebration of the Christmas feast which also coincides with the anniversary of the birth of René Noël Théophile Girard.

Merry Christmas!

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Where All the Beauty Came From….

The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country … the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.   –  C. S. Lewis

Gil Bailie has recently been reflecting on this from the perspective of the reciprocal gaze between a mother and her newborn child, especially the mother’s loving smile:

One of our long time friends sent us another example of the God of Nature not being confounded by man’s blindness to “the place where all the beauty came from”…

Our friend took this photo of a snowy Nativity from the balcony of a Lake Tahoe condo.

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Reciprocity and the Gift

Isn’t Christmas mainly an economic stimulus program?

While cynics see the crass commercialism of the Christmas gift giving season, and the sentimental are drawn to the stories of Santa and the reindeer, or the manger with its shepherds and angels and wise men, there is a more primitive sense that goes to the reciprocal nature of gift giving. This sense comes from the multiple associations of the word ‘gift’.  The substantive sense of ‘gift’ is ‘that which is given’, but in order for it to be meaningful it requires both a giver of the gift and one to whom the gift is given. This little word expresses the fundamental relationship that constellates the ground of human experience (and from a theological perspective the heart of the trinitarian nature of God as the lover, the beloved and the love that unites them.) At Christmas we share in this divine and generous reciprocity in our own funny ways and in varying degrees of ineptness by exchanging gifts.

Some find the particularity of the Gospel stories equally ludicrous and preposterous. But faith finds in them true stories of the One who gives the gift of Himself to the world, the expression of all that love can do while blessing the freedom of the beloved. No amount of pious sentimentality or snarky cynicism, yawning apathy or hostile opposition can obscure this beating heart at the core of Christmas. I hope that you find this gift in your life and treasure it above all else.

Merry  Christmas!

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Thanksgiving…and a note from St. Hilary

There is so much for which we are grateful today: our families, our friends, our faith, and for all those who have inspired us and encouraged our efforts. We thank God for such blessings and we thank you for your friendship and your many kindnesses.

 


The Ordination of Saint Hilary

 

 

 

 

 

“In an age when the Church was persecuted from within, as was the case with the Arian crisis in the fourth century, St. Hilary – the Athanasius of the West – made the following encouraging statement: ‘In this consists the particular nature of the Church, that she triumphs when she is defeated, that she is better understood when she is attacked, that she rises up, when her unfaithful members desert her’ (De Trin. 7,4)”

– Archbishop Athanasius Schneider, Christus Vincit

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Florilegium & Anthology

Thank you to those who have responded to our Fall Appeal so far! We are grateful to all who find our work worthy of support. In our annual appeal I listed a number of Gil Bailie’s earlier presentations that remain to be brought into the digital age, but I was recently reminded of another important series…

Publius Vergilius Maro

Below is an item from our old Reflections on Faith and Culture weblog which was originally posted 13 years ago.  It reminded me that another of Gil’s presentations from the 1990’s that is awaiting transfer to digital formats: The Truth of Poetry series on Virgil’s Aeneid.

(The word ‘florilegium’ and the word ‘anthology’ are the Latin and Greek forms of the same concept.)


As some of my older friends know, for several years the work I do now under the auspices of The Cornerstone Forum had another name: The Florilegia Institute. A florilegium is a collection of texts, an anthology of quotations. I used the term in the early days because an old friend of mine, Geoff Wood, and I once long ago did a series of joint presentations, and we called the series a florilegium. Because in those years I was leading explorations in various literary texts, and because my modus operanti was to place the texts in some kind of dialogue with one another, The Florilegia Institute seemed an apt name for what I was doing. For instance, I gave a series of classes in those days comparing the Gospel of Luke with Virgil’s Aeneid. The series was called “The Poetry of Truth and the Truth of Poetry,” the former a reference to Luke’s Gospel and the latter to Virgil’s poem. The problem was, of course, hardly anyone knew what the word florilegia meant. It’s aptness notwithstanding, it was confusing.

Since then the work has evolved into another phase, and a few years back we changed the name of our mission to The Cornerstone Forum.

…I will be doing my part of the Forum’s work from home for the time being. In dealing with increasing time constraints, I may often make posts to this weblog consisting simply of quotations that I think are worth sharing. That’s pretty much what a florilegium is.

I may or may not be able to resist the impulse to gild the lily with an observation of my own about the quotation, and I may not have time to indulge that impulse — as I just have — in any case.

Let me inaugurate this weblog feature with the following quotation:

“The acquiring of religious knowledge is akin to learning a skill. It involves practices, attitudes, and dispositions and has to do with ordering one’s loves. This kind of knowledge, the knowledge one lives by, is gained gradually over time. Just as one does not learn to play the piano in a day, so one does not learn to love God in an exuberant moment of delight.”

Robert Louis Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, p. 172

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Fall Newsletter and Appeal for Support

We are adding to the annual mailbox stuffing of Black Friday Sales and appeals for support from worthy causes. If you are on any of our mailing lists please be on the look out for the Cornerstone Forum’s yearly ‘begging letter’. This is the only fundraising we do for our work and we do our best to ‘live within our means’, adjusting to the vicissitudes of the times.

We ask that you look kindly on our request for assistance and respond as you are able.

This year we are making available to those responding to our Fall Appeal with a donation of $5/month or $60/year a copy of the current edition of the journal Communio in which Gil Bailie is a featured contributor. (Note: this offer is only for US mailing addresses.)

But wait…that’s not ALL!

We also will provide at least 12 downloadable MP3 audio files of archival materials over the course of next year. And for those who generously support us at the ‘Sustaining Donor’ level of at least $25/month or $300/year we will mail CD versions of the same audio materials (a minimum of 12 individual CDs over the next 12 months. Again, this is offered to US mailing addresses only.)

Over the coming twelve months we will be producing digital audio versions of Gil Bailie’s earlier presentations of reflections on TS Eliot’s The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, and Ash Wednesday.

If you find our work of value please help us by making a tax deductible donation here on our secure website or by mailing a check to The Cornerstone Forum 19201 Hwy 12, #221 Sonoma, CA 95476

Thank you for your interest in our work.

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Remembering René Girard

René Girard

René Girard passed from this life four years ago, leaving behind both an intellectual legacy and a wonderful example of a well-lived life. He changed my life in so many ways, for which I am deeply grateful.


For those who would like an in depth introduction to René Girard and his work we link here to an online seven part audio series produced by the Canadian broadcast journalist David Cayley. Gil Bailie is among the many people interviewed in this piece.

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Oxygen in the Room

 

 

 

Where should we be focusing our attention in these days? Lets see…there is:

  • the danger from foreign governments interfering in US elections
  • the on going investigations of the President which may lead to an impeachment
  • the human rights abuses from abortion to police racial profiling
  • the global climate change crisis
  • the opioid abuse crisis
  • the immigration crisis at the southern border of the United States, as well as in Europe from the Middle East and Africa
  • the danger of resurgent terrorist activity due to wars in Syria and Afghanistan
  • the outrages over male sexual predation, e.g. Harvey Weinstien, Jeffery Epstein, #Metoo, college rapes, etc
  • the economic slowdown and possible recession due to strained trading relations with China
  • the homeless crisis in large cities across the country.

One could go on and on…and each of us could prioritize the list according to our individual prudential understandings. With so many important issues clamoring for our attention it is understandable that people complain of fatigue whether from outrage or empathy – these matters use up all the oxygen in the room.

And then there is the crisis within the Catholic Church; from the massive damage done over the past decades by clerical abuses to the possibility of portentous changes in the Church herself guided not by her scriptures and traditions but rather by a new spirit from the depths of the Amazon – a spirit that looks and sounds suspiciously like the spirit of the age.

Earlier this year Gil Bailie at the Convocation of Fellows at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology spoke about this latter concern.  His recorded remarks are below:

 

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