Actuality

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The final two parts of the system deal with questions concerning our "actuality." "Actuality" is Tillich's technical ontological concept of concrete life - "life is the 'actuality of being.'" "Essence" designates one main qualification of being, taken in abstraction from any particular life in its concreteness. "Existence" designates the other main qualification, also taken in abstraction. "Actuality" refers to your life precisely in its concrete uniting of "essence" and "existence."7 This is a key point. "Uniting" is a process, the process of actualizing potentiality or "essential nature" (here Tillich borrows from Aristotle). It is the dynamic process-character of "actuality" that makes it alive, a life. Beyond its organic and inorganic dimensions, human life has the dimension of "spirit." The word "spirit" denotes "the unity of life-power and life in meanings." In addition to sheer vitality ("life-power"), human life involves capacities to regulate ourselves according to ideas, purposes, and plans ("meanings") which we intensely love and freely choose for ourselves. The spiritual dimension of human actuality includes not only reason but also "eros, passions, imagination."8

With this brace of observations in place, Tillich can offer an ontological analysis of the process that constitutes life with a spiritual dimension. Such life has three functions. Your life involves self-integration, a circular movement out from what you have been into new experiences and back to integrate them into your centered self. You engage in self-integration in "moral" life. Here, "moral" is not used in contrast to "immoral." Rather, it is used to stress the fact that as self-integrating you are inescapably morally accountable both for integrating yourself as "centered" and for your choice of norms and goals to guide your interactions with others. However, the moral life is thoroughly ambiguous. No matter how "moral" an act may seem in some respects, we are aware that it cost the sacrifice of other acts through which we might have been more richly integrated, and that it involved some loss to some other person. Because our lives inherently drive toward self-integration, we ask whether there is any way to achieve it through unambiguous morality.

Second, your life process involves self-creation, a horizontal movement through time as you constantly make yourself up and deeply change. We engage in self-creation in work that produces meaningful artifacts, symbols, and styles of both art and behavior which comprise a culture and are significant because they express "meanings" in which a human life "participates." However, we experience ambiguity in all elements of culture, from individual artifacts to the way a society is organized and led, finding them both nurturing new life and oppressing it. Because our lives inherently drive toward self-creation, we ask whether there is any way to achieve it through an unambiguous culture.

Third, your life process involves self-transcendence, a vertical movement in which one is "driving toward the sublime." You engage in self-transcendence in religious activity. This function intersects and unites the other two. It is always moral and culturally creative lives that self-transcend. Hence, there is a religious dimension inherent in all moral and cultural acts. However, the ways in which the drive for self-transcendence expresses itself in ritual, myth, and institutional structures are inherently ambiguous. They are all finite things, functioning religiously to express the unconditioned, that toward which one "transcends" oneself. At the same time, they invite for themselves the ultimate concern appropriate only to the unconditioned. Thereby they become "demonic," powerfully destructive of the life trying to "transcend" itself. Because our lives inherently drive toward self-transcendence, we ask whether there is any way to achieve self-transcendence through unambiguous religion.

The answers to be correlated with the questions about unambiguous morality, culture, and religion are expressed in two Christian symbols. In Part IV Tillich correlates the symbol "Spiritual Presence" with the question of the ambiguity of every society synchronically. In Part V he correlates the symbol "Kingdom of God" with the question of ambiguity diachronically in the entire history of morality, culture, and religion.

In Part IV, "Spiritual Presence" is the Christian symbol expressive of the "revelatory experience of 'God present'" in life lived in the dimension of spirit (i.e., human life).9 "Spirit" (with upper-case S) is the most completely adequate symbol for the unconditioned, because it expresses that the unconditioned power of being is living. "God as creator" expresses the presence of the unconditioned power of being to us in regard to our essential finitude, and "Jesus the Christ as the power of New Being" expresses its presence to us in our existential estrangement, but "Spirit" expresses its presence to us precisely in our concrete reality as spiritual (lowercases) lives actualizing our potentiality. In our self-transcendence we reach for this presence. But we cannot grasp it, unless we are first grasped by it. When it does grasp us, we are drawn into its "transcendent unity of ambiguous life" and it creates unambiguous life in us.10 In this experience of "the reunion of essential and existential being, ambiguous life is raised above itself to a transcendence that it could not achieve by its own power."11

Tillich stresses that such experiences are always social and fragmentary. To be sure, they have a subjective dimension which Tillich calls "mystical."12 As the state of being grasped by the "transcendent unity of an unambiguous life," it is called the state of "faith." As the state of being taken into that transcendent unity, is called the state of "love." However, this always occurs in a communal setting, creating what Tillich calls a "Spiritual Community."13 It is not identical with Christian churches. The Spiritual Community is not one group beside others. It is "a power and structure inherent" in some groups, making them religious groups. Spiritual Community is real but immanent in many "secular" communities outside the church and it is manifest explicitly sometimes in the churches. Now, given the ontological analysis of life, this means that when Spiritual Community "happens" the ambiguity of our religious enactments of self-transcending has been overcome. Because the ambiguity of self-integration and self-creation follows from the ambiguity of self-transcendence, this means that the experience symbolized by "Spiritual Presence" is also a moment of unambiguous cultural self-creativity and unambiguous moral self-integration. In those moments, cultural and moral activity themselves become self-transcending, that is, religious. Here, Tillich's theology of culture has its theological center and context. Tillich calls such moments "theonomous"14 - living social moments whose norm (nomos) comes, not from ourselves nor from an alien "other," but from the "transcendent unity of unambiguous life" (theos), which precisely in its transcendence is nonetheless immediately present to us. "Spiritual Presence" expresses those moments when our questions about the possibility of unambiguous religion, culture, and morality are answered. Tillich insists that such moments in social life are fragmentary and paradoxical, but actually do occur in all societies. His favorite examples come from medieval European culture.

"Kingdom of God" is the religious symbol expressive of Christian answers to the question central to Part V about the possibility of unambiguous life in a historical rather than social dimension: "Is there any meaning to history?"15 In Tillich's view groups, not individuals, are the bearers of history. The three movements comprising any life comprise history also: history drives self-integratingly toward the centeredness of groups in a harmony of justice and power, self-creatively toward the creation of new and unambiguous states of affairs, and self-transcendingly toward unambiguous fulfillment of potential being. "Kingdom of God" expresses the occurrence of this in two ways: as an inner-historical movement and as a transhistorical movement.16

In one way, "Kingdom of God" expresses the occurrence in the life of any one group which is the decisive and normative instance of "Spiritual Presence" in the group's history. It is the event which serves the group as the "center of history," the one particular point in history which is of universal significance for all groups at all times because it is the most adequate overcoming of the ambiguities of human life. In its inner-historical sense, the symbol "Kingdom of God" expresses the occurrence of this event. Tillich calls such a moment the kairos (Greek: "fulfillment of time"). In such moments a group's experience of unambiguous self-integration, self-creativity, and self-transcendence in a kairos, is its experience of the meaning, the point of history.17

"Kingdom of God" also expresses a transhistorical actualization of unambiguous historical life. Here it correlates with the question, "Is there anything of permanent value or meaning in the flow of history?" The same question is often expressed personally as a question about immortality: "Will anything of me survive this life?" Ontologically, this is a question about the relation of time to eternity. "Kingdom of God" expresses how the "inner aim" of created time is the elevating of the finite into the eternal.18 Thus, there are two distinct themes in Tillich's explication of the transhistorical sense of the symbol "Kingdom of God." For the creature, the symbol expresses the insight that "nothing which has been created in history is lost, but it is liberated from the negative element with which it is entangled within its existence." Following Schelling, Tillich calls this "essentialization." It amounts to an unambiguous and permanent participation of finite life in the very life of Divine Spirit, for which the Christian symbol is "Eternal Life." Tillich says that this is not a dateable temporal event but rather what is going on all the time.19 On the other hand, viewed as it were from God's perspective, the symbol gives expression to a cosmic process. Tillich calls that process "eschatological pan-en-theism."20 In it, Divine Life realizes itself by a movement through self-alienation and engagement in creaturely existential disruption and then back to self-reconciliation, bringing the creaturely realm with it so that, fully reconciled, the creaturely realm is at the end ("eschatologic-ally") wholly "within" the Divine Life (pan - "everything" - en theos- "within God").

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