“For the present, we can at least say that the concept of the servile will, to which the most differentiated, the most subtle, the most internalized experience draws near, was already aimed at by the most archaic experience of all, that of defilement. The final symbol indicates its limiting concept only by taking up into itself all the wealth of the prior symbols. Thus, there is a circular relation among all the symbols: the last bring out the meaning of the preceding ones, but the first lend to the last all their power of symbolization.
It is possible to show this by going through the whole series of symbols in the opposite direction. It is remarkable, indeed, that guilt turns to its own account of the symbolic language in which the experiences of defilement and sin took shape.
Guilt cannot, in fact express itself except in the indirect language of ‘captivity’ and ‘infection,’ inherited from the two prior stages. Thus both symbols are transposed ‘inward’ to express a freedom that enslaves itself, affects itself, and infects itself by its own choice. Conversely, the symbolic and non-literal character of the captivity of sin and the infection of defilement becomes quite clear when these symbols are used to denote a dimension of freedom itself; then and only then do we know that they are symbols, when they reveal a situation that is centered in the relation of oneself to oneself. Why this recourse to the prior symbolism? Because the paradox of a captive free will-the paradox of a servile will-that is unsupportable for thought. That freedom must be delivered and that this deliverance is deliverance from self-enslavement cannot be said directly; yet it is the central theme of ‘salvation.’
The symbol of captivity, borrowed, as we know, from the theology of history, first designated a communal situation, that of a people made prisoner by its sins. This communal situation is still attached to the historical event that is re-enacted in the liturgy, as the unhappy fate from which the Exodus delivered them. In becoming a symbol of the guilty individual, the notion of captivity is detached from the memory of the historical event and gets the quality of a pure symbol; it designates an event in freedom” (Ricoeur 1969:152-153).
1969 The Symbolism of Evil. Emerson Buchanan, trans. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
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