James Joyce - Romans chapter 11 verse 32

Joseph Campbell at age 81, Power of Myth with Bill Moyers regarding James Joyce and verse Romans 11:32 in 1986... Page 143:

    The big moment in the medieval myth is the awakening of the heart to compassion, the transformation of passion into compassion. That is the whole problem of the Grail stories, compassion for the wounded king. And out of that you also get the notion that Abelard offered as an explanation of the crucifixion: that the Son of God came down into this world to be crucified to awaken our hearts to compassion, and thus to turn our minds from the gross concerns of raw life in the world to the specifically human values of self-giving in shared suffering. In that sense the wounded king, the maimed king of the Grail legend, is a counterpart of the Christ. He is there to evoke compassion and thus bring a dead wasteland to life. There is a mystical notion there of the spiritual function of suffering in this world. The one who suffers is, as it were, the Christ, come before us to evoke the one thing that turns the human beast of prey into a valid human being. That one thing is compassion. This is the theme that James Joyce takes over and develops in Ulysses -- the awakening of his hero, Stephen Dedalus, to manhood through a shared compassion with Leopold Bloom. That was the awakening of his heart to love and the opening of the way.

     In Joyce's next great work, Finnegans Wake, there is a mysterious number that constantly recurs. It is 1132. It occurs as a date, for example, and inverted as a house address, 32 West 11th Street. In every chapter, some way or another, 1132 appears. When I was writing A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake, I tried every way I knew to imagine, "What the dickens is this number 1132?" Then I recalled that in Ulysses, while Bloom is wandering about the streets of Dublin, a ball drops from a tower to indicate noon, and he thinks, "The law of falling bodies, 32 feet per sec per sec." Thirty-two, I thought, must be the number of the Fall; 11 then might be the renewal of the decade, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 -- but then 11, and you start over again. There were a number of other suggestions in Ulysses that made me think, "Well, what we have here is perhaps the number of the Fall, 32, and Redemption, 11; sin and forgiveness, death and renewal." Finnegans Wake has to do with an event that occurred in Phoenix Park, which is a major park in Dublin. The phoenix is the bird that burns itself to death and then comes to life renewed. Phoenix Park thus becomes the Garden of Eden where the Fall took place, and where the cross was planted on the skull of Adam: O felix culpa ("O Phoenix culprit!" says Joyce). And so we have death and redemption. That seemed a pretty good answer, and that's the one I gave in A Skeleton Key.

     But while preparing a class one evening for my students in comparative mythology, I was rereading St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans and came across a curious sentence that seemed to epitomize everything Joyce had had in mind in Finnegans Wake. St. Paul had written, "For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may show his mercy to all." You cannot be so disobedient that God's mercy will not be able to follow you, so give him a chance. "Sin bravely," as Luther said, and see how much of God's mercy you can invoke. The great sinner is the great awakener of God to compassion. This idea is an essential one in relation to the paradoxology of morality and the values of life.

     So I said to myself, "Well, gee, this is really what Joyce is talking about." So I wrote it down in my Joyce notebook: "Romans, Chapter 11, verse 32." Can you imagine my surprise? There was that same number again, 1132, right out of the Good Book! Joyce had taken that paradox of the Christian faith as the motto of the greatest masterwork of his life. And there he describes ruthlessly the depths of the private and public monstrosities of human life and action in the utterly sinful course of human history. It's all there -- told with love.

Now, in 1986 (published 1988) Campbell makes an elaborate point here, of how he as a teacher overlooked verse Romans 11:32 - and Joyce spent decades circling (Silhouette) verse Romans 11:32 that I personally have found neither teacher nor preacher seem to teach - with the exception of Joseph Campbell and James Joyce (of course). Then you read the next Bible verse, Romans 11:33... "How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!"  - Ha ha, ja ja ja, ha ha! This book has been at the public library since I was age 18, shortly after I graduated High School in 1988. Alas, It took me until February 3, 2024 to put it all together! - RoundSparrow, Stephen Gutknecht.