Beginning with Volume 149 of the Journal, we had to discontinue distribution of our audio materials on CD (if you’re interested in the reasons for this decision, they are explained here).
I realize that this is a loss, as there is a sense of security and permanence in having a tangible product in your hands — something you can pass into the hands of others.
Long-time listeners know that I am an ardent foe of Gnosticism in all its forms. The de-valuing of the body is a perennial temptation, and the modern emphasis on the will as the ultimate human attribute has the effect of rendering bodies less and less meaningful. By contrast, the promise of the redemption of our bodies testifies to their essential goodness.
But it’s important to remember that the body has five senses, not just two. Seeing things and touching things does seem to convey a more confident experience of reality and presence. But our sense of hearing is also highly esteemed in the Christian tradition. The experience of sound is profoundly physical and embodied. Sight and touch do not always move us, but when you hear something, your body vibrates.
Maybe we intuit that sound is less real because sounds are less permanent than the things we can see and touch. But the things we eat and drink are also impermanent, and nothing conveys a greater sense of the Real than a wonderful meal. Remember too that faith comes by hearing, and the voice of a friend or lover has the capacity to settle and secure us. German philosopher Josef Pieper has made the remarkable claim that we are connected to Truth itself in the experience of mutual listening (and speaking):
“The natural habitat of truth is found in interpersonal communication. Truth lives in dialogue, in discussion, in conversation — it resides, therefore, in language, in the word. Consequently, the well-ordered human existence, including especially its social dimension, is essentially based on the well-ordered language employed.”
Distributing our audio content without sending a physical product by mail does not signal a capitulation to the Gnostic temptation; the sound of our conversations and commentary is as physical as ever. Our new medium of delivering sound to your ears (and ideas to your mind) is simply a practical response to changed economic circumstances.