Belief in Belief vs. Belief in Disbelief (4.09.10)
But it is also the basis of the left's deeply irrational jihad against religion, since they believe that belief in absolutes -- which is to say, belief -- is the problem. Therefore, no beliefs, no problems. But this simply leads to the kind of spiritual nihilism we see in a supine UK that cannot rouse itself in the face of absolutist Islamic barbarians who mock the hypersophisticated moral paralysis of the neutered EUnuchs.
Schuon's position is rather nuanced, and generally will not appeal to most religious people and to no irreligious people. First of all, his metaphysics affirms the Absolute, which puts him completely at odds with any form of postmodern secular leftism. However, he situates the Absolute beyond form, which naturally makes conventionally religious people uneasy, since people believe in and practice this or that religion because they believe it embodies absolute truth. If it didn't, they wouldn't believe it. No one practices a religion because they believe it is false or partial.
You might say that Schuon gnosissed the same thing that secular leftists noticed -- a seeming clash of irreconcilable absolutes -- but came to the opposite conclusion. That is, the secularist rejects and even ridicules religion on that basis, whereas Schuon observed that religions only clashed outwardly, but not inwardly -- any more than absolute beauty cannot exist in music just because of a "clash" between Bach and Beethoven. Inwardly, orthodox religious forms represent differing views of the Absolute, and in that sense are absolute. They are the highest form of the absolute that can be known and expressed on the relative plane. As such, they are "relatively absolute."
Given the necessarily hierarchical conditions of existence, the relative absolute is something which must exist. On the other hand, the "absolute relative" is an intrinsic absurdity -- and even monstrosity -- that lay at the heart of all secular misosophies (i.e., hatred of wisdom).
Again, I realize this makes people uncomfortable, because when they hear the word "relative," they equate it with the relativism of the left or of the new age integralists, but Schuon would be horrified at such a conflation. Again, he affirms the Absolute, which must exist. Or, to put it another way, the Absolute cannot not be. But since it is absolute, how do we think about it? How do we engage it? How do we make it more than a philosophical abstraction, mere deism by another name?
We do so through real religion, which you might say is the "first fruit" of the Absolute, or O. Now, you will note that there is nothing in this point of view that prevents one from believing that one religion does a more adequate job of expressing and reconciling us to the Absolute. I have my thoughts about this, but I generally keep them to myself, because I have no desire to alienate this or that segment of a small but obviously diverse readership.
After all, we have Catholic Coons, Orthodox Coons, Protestant Coons, Jewish Coons, Christian Hermeticist Coons, Traditionalist Coons, Vedanta Coons, and even a Mormon Coon (although I must admit I am not sure I understand how the latter can be reconciled with orthodoxy, but I most definitely don't want to debate it here). I am not going to be the one to tell people that their religion is wrong and that I alone possess the absolute truth, so long as their religion is a genuine revelation that adequately embodies the supraformal Absolute.
Again, this is very different from what the secular leftist does. The secular leftist has a pseudo-tolerant attitude (at best) toward religion because he doesn't take it seriously; I have a genuinely tolerant attitude because I take it so very seriously. I see great divine truth and beauty concretely situated in diverse religious forms, but only because they are concretely situated there. In other words, in the absence of the relative form, there is no Absolute on our side of manifestation. These forms are efficacious and ontologically real in a way that mere objects or ideas from the relative plane are not; contemplation of them will change you. As Schuon wrote, they "leave durable traces in the soul, to the point that we are no longer the same man as before; they remove one from the world and draw us toward Heaven. And there is a kind of vision or inward presence that remains."
They leave durable traces in the soul. Is this not obvious? This is why scientific and philosophical ideas come and go, but Western man -- so long as he remains man, which is a fifty-fifty proposition -- will always be haunted and shadowed by the resurrection, which speaks to a part of us that transcends time and place. It is why a Jew -- assuming he is Jew, and not just a Democrat -- will always be haunted and shadowed by Torah, by the very notion of the absolute Word of God, an absolute Word that inoculates against the error of leftist relativism.
I could go on, but you get the point. We are either permeated by a sense of the Absolute, the Infinite, and the Eternal; or we are condemned to a horizontal teenage wasteland of relativism and materiality, and a timebound tyranny of mere existence with no essence.
Therefore, I tend to deflect direct questions into my particular religious beliefs, because the answer would mislead more than it would inform. In fact, it would cause undue attention on the particular and not the universal, and thus undermine my entire mission, as it were, to reach out to the lost tribe of Coons. As you know, we get the occasional crockpate accusation that I am a cult leader, of all things, but the charge would have some merit if I insisted that all Coons must adhere to my particular beliefs, which I would never dream of doing. However, I do insist, if that is the right word, that one have beliefs -- and not just manmade ones.
This undoubtedly sounds like a cop-out to some, and even an invitation to certain trolls to say, "ah ha! Gotcha! You're a postmodern relativist, just like the rest of us cynical overeducated fools!" (just watch). But nothing could be further from the Truth and closer to the Lie, if only because I believe in absolute Truth.
It therefore seems that there are ultimately only two metaphysical positions one may take: a belief in absolute supraformal truth embodied in diverse religious forms that complement and do not exclude one another, at least a priori; or a belief in relative truth, which ultimately redounds to subformal nihilism, given enough time. Is that clear? Perhaps not.
Let's put it this way. As my friend Joseph says, if someone -- especially someone with the wrong motivation -- wants to pry into his exact religious beliefs, he tells them this: I am a believer. For in the final analysis, there are only the Believers and the unbelievers; one is the upword way of faith leading to real knowledge and salvolution; the other is the downward path of manmode pignorance and superstition leading to bestial seenihility and cynicism.
I am a believer. That is all you need know of what or who I am: a sincere believer -- even a fervent one, if you like, for I am madly in love with O, with the Absolute, with the Eternal, with the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, with Satchitananda, with the Supramental plane, with Shankara, with St. Theophan, with my Unknown Friend, with Pope John Paul II, with America's founding avatars, with The Shaykh, with the Meister, with the Mother, with Father Rose, with Rabbi Moses, with the Bible, with the Upanishads, with the Tao -- I adore them all like a child loves his Father. Because, like a father, they instruct, they elevate, and they protect one from the dangerous illusions and snares of the world. And for this we cannot be anything but eternally grateful.