I CAME ACROSS AN INTRIGUING PAPER RECENTLY THAT ASKS SOME PERCEPTIVE QUESTION ABOUT AUTISITCS AND WHETHER THEIR ‘BRAND OF RELIGION’ IS AN ANOMOLY — BASED ON THEIR ‘FAULTY WIRING’ AND A CERTAIN PERCEPTION OF PHENOMINOLOGY. HAVE A LOOK AND TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK OF THE FOLLOWING EXCERPTS:
How is it possible to reconcile such wildly divergent experiences and interpretations of autism? One possibility might be to see the way in which philosophical anthropology and theology are both concerned, ultimately, with ‘the Other’ and ‘the Self’ and have the respective resources to give meaningful interpretations of behaviour and conduct which is (mis)understood, in the first instance, as impenetrably strange and alien. The many ways in which autism has the capacity to shed light on the human condition or predicament cannot be divorced from the immediate considerations of theology. However, theology cannot be faithful to its own task without recourse to philosophical anthropology and its associate disciplines since we can only know God and ourselves by understanding the depth and the dignity of others through ‘loving intelligence’ or ‘intelligent love’.
More specifically, if religions are not just static ‘faith communities’ whose premium and goal is social conformity, but ‘Laboratories of the Spirit’ (to adopt the wonderfully fecund title of the 1975 collection of poems by R. S. Thomas, the celebrated Welsh poet and Nobel prize nominee) where individuals can communicate and work on their experience of ‘Otherness’, then clearly theology may have a useful role in understanding the significance and value of autism in scientific and artistic cultures. Alternatively, one might say that the phenomenon of autism provides an exceptional vantage point from which to make useful and genuinely profitable connections between [differing perspectives]…
The missed social clues that characterize the world of those diagnosed autistic or claim that same condition to be their own, whether boldly or reticently, are not ‘non-perceptions’ but misinterpreted perceptions that lead to unrealistic responses and behavior. According to Damien Atkins: “…a lot of autistic symptoms or autistic behaviours are really human behaviours magnified or dimmed to an extreme, like an oversensitivity or an under-sensitivity”.
The task of theology in this particular context, as distinct from the pastoral responsibilities of specific religious groups, is to assert the essential ‘oodness of the body’ as part of the goodness of the whole creation to those blessed or cursed by autism (or indeed both). It will only be able to do this, however, if it can persuade autistic people that the same challenge likewise confronts those described and labelled as ‘neurologically typical’. The fear of pluralism and the fear of ambiguity are in a sense a fear of the body. Yet the ‘body’ is the only way in which truth (about the world, ourselves and God) can find a real and genuine purchase in us. The idea that there is some pure, spiritual knowledge beyond ambiguity, beyond irony, beyond our solidarity, however weak or fitful, with others is a cruel mirage, an impediment to genuine spiritual maturity….