Adrienne von Speyr
Bloggers to this site are participating in a pseudo-Advent discipline, reading von Speyr's The Word: A Meditation on the Prologue to St. John's Gospel at the pace of two chapters per week. This is my first stab at a response:
"Man lives in three stages: beginning, centre and fire. But since man has no centre in himself, and may not have one, he is led by the word into the fire, so that he may come to the beginning which is God. Beginning and fire are one" (20)
This enigmatic statement comes at the end of the first chapter of von Speyr's meditations. A strange kind of three stages this is, the 2nd stage not existing and the first and third stages being the same. I read and re-read this paragraph trying to figure out its relation to the chapter I had just read.
Like a good writer, though, von Speyr drew me into the 2nd chapter, where I found further reflections on her stages theory. I find these reflections to be situated conceptually within the very fine reflections my interlocutors have brought to the table on universal restoration and judgment.
First, von Speyr gives man three stages because the Trinity is three. She describes life for a man (sic) as "persistence in being himself, flight from his beginning and dread of his end" (24). In other words, a trinity of nothingness, whereas God is Trinity in God's being. The cravenness of humanity is in craving to live in this persistence, this center, in spite of its being nothing.
The answer to this human nothing is the Incarnation. By Christ coming as the Word, the beginning, centre and consummation of life are brought into the eternal trinitarian life. This is primarily so because whereas man tries to hold onto life and therefore dies, Christ streams forth life in his death, and thus the bringing together of fire and beginning.
This may sound Eastern Orthodox in tone, but if the centre of the human life is nothing without Christ, then we could also posit the parallel of the anihilationist position. There is nothing to be annihilated in the first place, and the being of a human is only predicated on Christ's coming in the flesh. And since the Word has come and lived among us, there is eternal life in and through that only for the first time. Not an annihilation, but a new beginning.
This then begs the question: Is it necessary for there to be further tempering after death (ala Matt's question on purgatory). von Speyr does not bring that piece into her reflections. She sticks with beginning, centre, fire.