Sea Slugs, Crushed Ants, Talking Dogs, and the Big Teamster in the Sky
Okay. If it works for sea slugs....
"Even if you don't believe in the process, pretend a humble attitude toward Nature or whatever you perceive as the source of your spiritual urge to be. Deliberately assume an attitude of respectful, submissive attentiveness toward that part of your mind which emanates your desire for spiritual experience."
Humility? What are you implying?
"Another blockage of your emotional acceptance of the reality of God may be that your concept of It doesn't jibe with your common sense. You realize that a 'cosmic bellhop' doesn't exist but seem to believe that there's nothing too impressive about 'just' an extradimensional, supercomputational force that orders us to survive, reproduce and become aware of existence. This blasé attitude, which feels 'right' to you, is the cloud blocking the light. The fact that such a force exists at all is appropriate cause for strong feelings of awe and wonder. Don't be like the guy who visits the Talking Dog at the circus sideshow and emerges complaining that the dog wasn't that smart because it kept using 'ain't.'"
It's not that I thought the dog wasn't smart. I just thought he was being ironic.
"If you can't conjure up these emotions, again, try to fake 'em for awhile. However, if you can master the 'ego subordination trick,' the true nature of God will become clear enough (startlingly so, in fact) without my labored description. However, I can affirm that the seemingly irrational becomes rational when we truly and humbly accept it as an answer instead of a question -- i.e., that's just the way it is. The multidimensional becomes perceptually repackaged into a unified entity that the conscious mind can handle."
I see. We adapt to it, rather than vice versa. I'm O-->(k), He's O.
"God's a tricky devil sometimes. We ascribe values to some of Its aspects, but It often seems to have Its own agenda, sui generis, and about all we can do is accept that we only see part of the picture and go along for the ride. A truck, on its way to a diner, runs past two ants, crushing one, while the other survives. Can the survivor grasp that the reason his buddy died was because the driver wanted a cup of coffee? To stretch the metaphor a bit, if he can figure out that the truck is driven by Something, he's doing pretty well."
Alright. If I was understanding David correctly -- whom I never heard from again, because time slipped away and I just never wrote back -- I had to be as humble as an ant, be in awe of the Big Truck, and slowly change my brain like a sea slug. Where to begin?
As I said, I was influenced by Wilber's adage that one had to pick a particular path and stick with it. Today I'm not so sure about that, because in a way, it makes one "superior" to God. In other words, although I suppose it's better than a mixed up, new-age style "cafeteria" approach with which you assemble your own religion from the ground up, it's still a little bit like going to the "God store" and purchasing a religion off the rack. Imagine a big store with a Christianity department, a Jewish department, a Buddhist department, a Hindu department....
This is immediately problematic, because this is not the way religion operated in the past. Rather, you didn't really know about the big religious department store. You only had your own little general store that carried one name brand. As soon as one knows about the other brands, how does one avoid postmodern irony and cynicism? To be honest, this is still something I grapple with, and it's obvious to me that Schuon did as well, even though he tried his best to come up with a solution, which he called "the transcendent unity of religion."
Schuon found it inconceivable that God would operate in such a way that he would only care about the salvation of a small group, and abandon the rest to perdition. Therefore, a total revelation was given to each culture. On the surface, these diverse revelations exclude one another, but at their summit, they converge into a supraformal unity. However, one can never achieve the formless in the absence of a form, any more than one could sail the ocean without a vessel or compose transcendent music in the absence of immanent notes. Therefore -- and this is a subtle point -- formlessness is on the one hand "superior" to form, even while it is completely subservient to, and dependent upon, it.
Still... this seems like soph-deception. Human beings have a thirst for the Absolute. As soon as you suggest that there are "many" Absolutes -- just pick one -- it seems to defeat the purpose of the Absolute, doesn't it? It seems that Schuon was trying to find a way to "trick" the postmodern ego into unknowing what it knows all too well, for how can we really return to the innocent premodern dream of the One True Religion when we know about the others? How to put the truthpaste back in the tube?
Unless you just say that the other religions are all wrong, which you are certainly free to do. The Islamists believe this, as do "conservative Christians" -- which is why kooky leftists conflate the two. In reality, there is no danger of conservative Christians behaving like Islamists, but why is that? Because conservative Christians have been shaped by modernity, essentially by the live-and-let-live values of classical liberalism.
But... doesn't this lead to a situation in which people take religion seriously only because they don't take it seriously? This is how the left is. They value religious diversity not because they take religion seriously, but because they think it's a joke. This is why we have the ironic situation of liberals defending Mitt Romney from conservatives who are troubled by his Mormonism. To a liberal, it's all the same -- Mormonism, Wicca, Scientology, whatever. The only dangerous people are the ones who don't have an ironic view of religion -- who take it seriously. That's why it was important for JFK to essentially say, "yeah, I'm a Catholic, but don't worry, I don't take the Pope seriously. It's just an old family tradition, not something that actually guides my life."
So.... how did I go off on this tangent? I know -- somehow the baby is still sleeping, which provided the space for an unanticipated flight of reverie... or irreverie, depending on your point of view. It's 7:27, and usually he stirs by 7:00. He'll be awake any minute, and that will be the end of this post.
Anyway. What is a thoroughly ironicized, postmodern, space age-au-go-go guy to do with a strong religious impulse and no clear way to channel it? All blessed up with nograce to gno?
You know what this reminds me of? A poor fellow who has a traditional notion of gender roles and romance, and the impulse to idealize Woman. How does such a lad make his way through a contemporary landscape that so debases women as a result of feminism? One of the built-in ways for us to get over our narcissism is to fall in love with a kind of unattainable ideal that is idealized because unattainable. Or to put it another way, love is nurtured in the gap between desire and attainment. Eliminate that transitional space of human imagination, and we are reduced to animals.
Oops. He's up. I'll be back in a bit....
Then again, maybe not. Too late to get back in the groove. To be continued.
The brilliant Lee Harris discusses the true meaning of an un-ironicized absolutist untouched by modernity.