What is faith to a visual world? [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

McLuhan’s observation on faith:

I suppose it’s possible to have little faith—the Scriptures even mention it: “O ye of little faith”—it seems to be directed there to people who’ve ‘switched off,’ who just reject the sound and the Word. St. Paul’s remark that “faith comes by hearing” rather than by any visual manifestation suggests how total it is. It was the old philosophers who pointed out that the world of resonance—acoustic space—is a complete sphere, whose center is everywhere and whose margin is nowhere. In the world of faith, you have that experience of being always at the center, and the center is everywhere, and the margins are nowhere. This is the amazing structure of the resonant world of hearing as compared to the visual world, with its sharp boundaries, its rigid points of view, its antagonisms, differences, contrasts, and so on. Whereas the world of faith, with its much greater power to receive and to involve, seems to rule out a lot of these petty differences—petty points of view. (TV Interview with Father Patrick Peyton, 1971)

Notice that McLuhan’s observation regards various media as environments. I’ll explain this more during the Apostles in New Media Mini Conference, August 23.

If faith should be an all-surrounding environment, how can we communicate this amidst a visual world? (I would imagine that deaf apostolates can teach us plenty about this.)



  1. This is interesting. I wouldn’t think it’s the case that the visual has those boundaries. It’s finite in it’s presentation but it seems to have the power to transport and move the viewer…especially film. I’m looking forward to hearing more on this. Thanks Angela.

  2. I’m so glad you’re bringing McLuhan into the current discussions about media. Perhaps word and image are not so separate (or even separable) as it appears here. Words convey concepts, which the human mind can only grasp in conjunction with an “image” (the “phantasm” of Aquinas). So maybe its not so surprising that the explosion of visual media has seen a corresponding explosion in verbal media. If McLuhan were here in 2012, he would see much that he expected, but he might be surprised to find that publishing has never been bigger. “Gutenberg” has gone electronic!

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