A Bridge to the Center of the Cosmos
Frithjof Schuon writes of two key ideas, that of the origin and that of the center: “In the spatial world where we live, every value is related in some way to a sacred Center, which is the place where Heaven has touched the earth; in every human world there is a place where God has manifested Himself in order to pour forth His grace.
“And it is the same for the Origin, which is the quasi-timeless moment when Heaven was near and things were still half-celestial...”
For those of you who are familiar with my book, the nonsensuous uberchore at the beginning was my attempt to describe the badda bing-badda bang of the Origin, while the nonsense at the end was my attempt to describe the journey to the Center, where heaven and earth meet once again in the muddle of the mount, right back at the Origin. Hallow, noumena!
Most of our waking life is spent outside the Center and Origin, although one of the purposes of the spiritual life is to spend as much timelessness there as as possible. Outside the vertical world of Center and Origin, we pass our days in the horizontal categories of space and time that flow from them. But in the spiritual view, time takes on a special, eschatological meaning, as it relates to the perfection that leads to theosis--both individually and cosmically. In other words, timelessness takes time, and as some Beat up old poet once said, “walking on water wasn’t built in a day.”
To be situated in space is to be situated in a cosmology, even if it is a very boring and stilted cosmology that is not worthy of humans, such as materialism. A legitimate religious cosmology serves the function of providing the human being with all the tools he needs to discern his existential situation and to do something about it--not on his own, mind you, but with the assistance of the grace which flows through it. Religion is supposed to provide you with a vertical cosmology that helps you know your way around the interior of the cosmos. Science, on the other hand, deals only with the exterior aspect of the cosmos--its outer tier, or epidermis, so to speak.
Through grace, we may surpass ourselves and therefore become ourselves. We may realize our highest destiny, which is not found in the things of this world, but back at the vertical Center and Origin, now further enriched and transformed by our presence, which it is our duty to radiate back out horizontally into the world. And so it glows....
Multiculturalism is a pernicious crock in the cosmic egg because, among other reasons, there is no ultimate value in culture per se. Rather, we judge a culture in its vertical aspect in terms of how effective it is in orienting us to our destiny and allowing us to arrive there. There are many cultures that focus on our ultimate destiny--in a charitable mood, one could even say that this is what the contemporary Islamic world attempts to do. However, their various horizontal pathologies prevent anyone from actually achieving their vertical destiny--or at least they had better keep quiet about it if they do stumble upon it, or sufi the consequences.
Other, more dynamic societies such as ours, provide us with all the tools we require to move, to get off the dime and go forward. But forward into what? Here is the nub of the crux of the gist of the rub, my cosmonauts, for if all our wonderful dynamism is not oriented toward the Origin and Center....
Does anyone out there understand what I’m saying, or does it sound like I’m speaking of irrelevant abstractions that do not touch our day-to-day lives, much less the future of our civilization? Can I get a witness? Can I get a hallelujah? Is this thing on?
Naturally, we in the west have our well known metaphysical pathologies of materialitis and reductionosis, effectively barring the gates of heaven and installing man in place of the Creator. As a reaction to this impoverished horizontal cosmolatry, we also have our curiously muddled spiritual pathologies that reverse the cosmic order and elevate the relative to the absolute, e.g., “Nagarjuna is God.” This is the way of most spiritually barren new age alternate post-religious magic. You shall know them by their fruit cakes.
It goes without saying that no culture is perfect, just as no relative world of any kind is perfect. “There is none good but the One.” Human perfection lies in its proximity to the Perfection of our vertical lighthouse at the end of the historical tunnel. It’s a narrow path toward that tunnel, but it is only on that path that the ravages of time are essentially reversed, leading toward perfection rather than mere repetition or degeneration.
The cultural bridge that leads us from the relative to the absolute is badly broken, not just through neglect, but because some vertical errorists in our very midst--most of them terminally tenured--have been actively trying to blow it up for several centuries. It was once a very sturdy bridge that led to many blessings, such as science, democracy, liberty, and the ultimate value of the indvidual. But now, those things are in danger of becoming ends in themselves, thus enclosing us in a linear prison rather than a means of reaching the Center and Origin.
For man does not flourish in the circular world of old-fashioned paleo-paganism or the linear world of contemporary neo-paganism, but only in the open spiral of vertical faith and horizontal reason.