Sunday, April 13, 2014

Markus Buntfuss on Tillich's Aesthetic


Paul Tillich distinguishes himself by his qualities of theology, but also his ability to process his experiences and reading productively. By distinguishing between the church theologian and the cultural theologian Tillich basically described himself as hunting for traces of the Divine. Thus Tillich took material from other disciplines as heuristics for the analysis of the modern change of religion. His theory of art and perception are key for his theory of culture. The description of the problems of art and religion in the modern help each other. Art & Society (1952) asks how religious symbols could be expressed in art under the conditions of modernity. Dead symbols cannot be revived, and art cannot use forms that do not support the independent. Similar to the position of modernity in the 18th century, there is no solid tradition nor a solid form palette available. Thus a spontaneous synergy between creativity and religious sensibility can lead to new religious art. This inspirational topic, taken from the genius discussion, is coined as spiritual radicalism for Tillich. This constellation is not just illustrative, but a constitute functional role for Tillich. 

The analysis of religious modernity cannot be analyzed with the modern aesthetic. This line starts with Kloppstock in Pietismus, goes on via Herder and Schleiermacher and Lebrecht-Dewett, and Paul Tillich continues this line. But Tillich participates through rejections in this story, and thereby participates in the spirit of modernity. The avantgarde has to separate itself, esp from the bourgeois, but Tillich wants to understand how to aestheticize religion. Tillich's theory reaches back to Georg Simmel's sketches of an aesthetic religious approach. 

The aesthetic modernity and Protestant Christianity go together in the discussion. Modernity is what Tillich calls Expressionism, and begins at the End of the 19th century. Or one takes the macro-epoch, which can start with the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, or Romanticism. The terminology according to Habermas comes from the aesthetic discussion. The sense of time is modern, and there is a lost epoch and an unretrievable past; there is also an acceleration of the time experience, which are experienced as unstoppable. The claim that there is no alternative to modernity was especially an artistic claim. Only the Frontier of aesthetics is worth living at. Avantgard wanted to be ahead of the Times and prophetic leaders of society.

Tillich replicates this in the sense of rejection the bourgeois notions of art. He wanted an avantgard with a socialistic utopian streaks. The current moment, which Tillich was ready to call a kairos, was thus possibly theological. The only way of showing anything was therefore the holy emptiness. The accelerating time generated a sense for and search of alternate times; this lead to a revival of the eternity feeling. 

An expression of modern freedom is the character of the open, experimental and fragmentary work of art; because it emphasis the artistic genius. Reflexive self-consciousness permits spontaneity. This can be mapped onto the aesthetic effect, so that the receptive act becomes akin to a religious revelatory experience. Tillich calls this the Durchbruch and associates with the Boticelli painting in Berlin. The Durchbruch becomes a topos; the expressionism is tasked with fracturing the existing forms with new contents. This is indeed very modern aesthetically.

Modernity tosses out the kalistethic, so that the beauty is replaced with the investigations into the ugly, disgusting and troubling. The aesthetic of the ugly points to the experience of negativity of modernity. Alternatively, there are alternate modernities, where these contradictions are worked out and put into a relationship. The motive of aesthetic negative is found in Tillich's culture idea. This is coupled with the demonic, where the Schelling notion of Grauen blows up from the depths. There is a general ambivalence, which is prophetic-utopian and in the later works pneumatological, understood.

There is a sense of krisis, due to the radical subjectification, that points to another negativity of Modernity. The rapid changes is a complex field of structural modifications and ruptures. Simmel pointed out the identity threatening elements, and the Frankfurter Institute studied this; Adorno works out an aesthetic of this. But Tillich is anti-natural and anti-bourgeois in this context. 

Modernity is a complex dynamic of secularization and re-sacralization in aesthetics. Art and Religion as well as Kunstreligion were connected by Schleiermacher, but the Kunstreligion is also found in the modern art discourse. Is it is a replacement, or a reformulation of the confessional church into a private religion of aesthetics for the educated. Tillich rejects the Kunstreligion, because it is too 19th-century for him. The Arts have received a massive focus, so that the followers of Kant and Fichte replaced the Church with the Art. WW1 stopped this for Tillich, but that was a common historical narrative then. There were other people (Stefan George, Rainer Marie Rilke, etc ...) who saw this differently. Tillich sees Religion as the symbol for the depth structure of the Unbedingte.

Modern religion and modern aesthetic can be wrappers for Tillich's cultural religion. There is a specific affinity between them, as Schleiermacher noted. Religion loses its explanatory power for the world, and the expressions are transformed into symbolic forms, which hint toward transcendency. In the anthropological turn, the target is either the moral or the aesthetic form of the individual. Tillich worked this option out paradigmatically for the aesthetic. But under the acceleration of time, religion now needs to permanently re-actualize itself and replace its symbol palette; and the liturgical reform attempts underscore this issue. At the end is the holy emptiness, as Tillich noted.


  • FW had a moral and absolutist interpretation of Tillich; does this interact with the aesthetic approach, or are their overlaps, or do they exclude each other? The suggestion is to use a complementary explication of Tillich; take the second creator of Shaftsbury, which passes through Schelling and others through to Tillich.
  • Symbols have a dynamic, but they have a life, and they can end.
  • In the degeneration of the normative claims of dogmatics, especially when the sola scriptura breaks apart (e.g. Robert Laus (sp???) and the Psalms of the Hebrews), there is a reach for aesthetic terminology, while the autonomous art of the same time reaches for religious terminology. 


  • Markus Buntfuss, Paul Tillich und der √§sthetische Diskurs der Moderne.

No comments:

Post a Comment