It is through my body that I understand other people, just as it is through my body that I perceive.1
In 1987, Don Cupitt published his book The Long-Legged Fly.2 It was also the year in which Don became my tutor for a paper in the philosophy of religion. The Long-Legged Fly was my introduction to Don's theological thinking, and though we would differ on many issues concerning doing theology and possibly philosophy, aspects of that book remain profoundly embedded in my own thought. In particular that book made me realise two important aspects of the doctrine of the incarnation: first, incarnation is radically non-dualistic; secondly, incarnation concerns what Don calls in that book 'The Speaking Body'.3
Through our senses our bodies as it were extend themselves to reach out into the environment. The objects of sense are felt as extensions of our bodies, and understood on the analogy of the body to such an extent that every other material object and every other organized system may also be spoken of as a body. The earth is a body, and there are heavenly bodies in the sky ... Like us, society is a body with members, and we also speak of a body of law (corpus juris) and of bodies of knowledge.4
1 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, tr. Colin Smith (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul), p. 216.
2 This essay was written for Don Cupitt's Festschrift, New Directions in Philosophical Theology: Essays in Honour of Don Cupitt, ed. Gavin Hyman (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004). In including it in this collection I wanted to retain its origins and testify to my friendship with Don Cupitt despite of and across our differences.
3 The Long-Legged Fly (London: SCM Press, 1987), pp. 91-8.
This notion of the body surfaces in my own understanding of 'transcorpo-reality' and the analogical relationship between the physical, social, ecclesial, sacramental and Christic body that governed the thinking in Cities of God.5 In the same way, observations such as 'the body has multiple perceptions and modes of awareness'6 and 'The body speaks continually, and its forces and feelings are voiced in a manner that makes them cognitions of the world', from the same chapter, find their echoes throughout my current work on a phenomenology of engaging with Christ. So that while Don and I differ theologically there are shared lines of thought fundamental to both of us (and, among others, to Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Gilles Deleuze), and I would like to hope he would approve of any attempt to think through the association between hermeneutics and healing — reception, response and redemption.
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