Western Apocalyptic Time and Personal Authentic Time

Bina Nir

The concept of time is culturally dependent. During different periods in the history of Western culture, differing conceptions of times competed for primacy, sometimes contradicting one another, sometimes complementing each other. Modern Westerners, I will claim, live on two timelines—a linear, historical, and cultural timeline directed to the “end of days” and a personal, authentic timeline.

The Bible is a central cultural source for the linear conception of time: In the entrenched Judeo-Christian Western conception, time has a beginning, “In the beginning,”   and an end “in the end of days.”   Time is directed, in its entirety to this final event, to the establishment of God’s kingdom. The biblical timeline depends on the actions of people in history. Augustine identifies the past with historical memory, and the future with anticipation.  This linear conception of history and its division into segments which accumulate and progress towards an end, became dominant in all cultural spheres which base their worldviews on the Bible, and even today it still serves as a basis for cultural, historical and ideological narratives.

As the processes of secularization grew stronger in Europe, the connection to mystic, eternal time was weakened, and people began to be more grounded in earthly time. This process of secularization allowed for the development of individualism in its modern iteration.  In our modern consumer society, which is wholly concerned with personal time, collective time has lost its purpose and its reason for being preserved. The relationship to time started to gradually change from the general conceptions of linear, collective time which is external to us, to a more subjective, personal conception of time. In consumerist capitalism, time becomes a personal, authentic resource.


Toward Aesthetics of Apocalypse: A Nostalgic Approach of Authenticity

Sheng-Yu Peng

In this essay I will examine Hans Urs von Balthasar’s theological aesthetics, which I will argue that it is a nostalgic approach of authenticity. And through his aesthetic lens, we can obtain more insight into our understanding of the relation between apocalypse and authenticity.

Hans Urs von Balthasar is one of the most important Catholic theologians in the twentieth century; he suggests that apocalypse and aesthetics must stand together. With its postmodern tone, von Balthasar’s theological aesthetics, calls for the re-establishment of this positive relationship by re-examining the originality of apocalyptic experience. His work has been supported by some as postmodern, while dismissed by others as pre-modern, or, more interestingly, as a type of the “postmodernity of nostalgia”.” “Postmodernity of nostalgia” means a lot to us, because it shows that while postmodernism simply deconstructs modernity, “nostalgia” for the pre-modern can be constructive in providing a basis for a new spiritual homeland for the period after (post) modernity. This, I think, is exactly presents the value of von Balthasar’s theological aesthetics with regard to the issue of authenticity.

Von Balthasar’s theological aesthetics is grounded in a return to human’s initial spiritual source, human wonder at divine apocalypse, a world in which apocalypse and beauty shine upon each other. For von Balthasar, the original feeling of wonder (awe) at the world has degraded from the rationalist era onwards; humans’ worldview has strayed from wonder (Ver-wunderung) at the world in which truth and good and beauty combine seamlessly, to simply admiration (Be-wunderung) with the characteristics of scientism and positivism. This explains why von Balthasar thinks apocalypse and aesthetics must stand together. Aesthetics as a discipline detached from the authenticity of truth and goodness not only is methodologically problematic, but also is reflective of a particular sort of worldview. More precisely, such aesthetics, in reflecting a particular sort of worldview, betrays a perspective which determines our understanding of questions. The risk of the development of aesthetics is that aesthetics no longer has something to do with the authenticity of the true and the good, it to some extent shows its own independence, and it begins to go in the direction of aestheticism. As far as the uncertainty of relativism is concerned, and the relationship between religion and culture is concerned, it is not hard to see why von Balthasar proposes his theological aesthetics and calls for a concrete ground from apocalypse.

The aim of this essay therefore is to search the history of beauty in order to investigate the manner in which humans gradually lost their ability to perceive the attractiveness of apocalypse. By doing so, I attempt to return apocalypse to the central position of beauty, and suggest that modern aesthetics requires the eternal divine apocalypse of God, especially in an era of relativism, precisely because it is the appreciation of the eternal divine apocalypse of God which can allow us to recognize the absoluteness and eternality of the meaning of beauty. Developing this insight, I explore the relation between apocalypse and authenticity and propose that the apocalypse of faith is the original source of culture.


Slender Man’s Authentic Face: issues in communal re-creation and online mythology

Vivian Asimos

In 2009, the forums on the comedy website Something Awful gave birth to a new online-based mythology centred on a strange horrific creature known as the Slender Man. The mythos began with one user’s images which was honoured with continual communally re-creation in multiple other forum posts, which subsequently spread over the next several years to include web-videos and even video games. The process of communal re-creation, essentially to both the birth and continued existence of the mythos, led to an important question of authenticity in the narratives: what made a Slender Man narrative authentic? Was any Slender Man creation an authentic creation? The forum’s response to the question of authenticity was to disregard the possibility of creating a canon in favour of individual creativity and representation. The result was a view of the Slender Man that could be constantly changing and shifting – essentially canonically allowing for each individual narrative to be considered authentic. This decision had a joint result which made the Slender Man become an incredible supernatural figure, with a belief system which mirrored apophatic theology which comes to life with a Western understanding of the esoteric Buddhist concept of Tulpas. These two combined aspects allow for every created narrative to be automatically considered authentic, and which paved the way for the mythos’s continual existence in the digital environment.

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