Atheists Sentenced to Life in Prison
We begin with Schuon's unassailable point that the effectiveness of metaphysical reasoning depends upon two principal factors, neither of which is reducible to "empirical facts" or the mechanical logic to which our minds have access (and therefore transcend). First is the depth or profundity of the intelligence in question. To cite some examples that come readily to mind, the depth and perspicacity of a Frithjof Schuon or Adin Steinsaltz or Unknown Friend far exceeds that of a Dawkins, Dennett, or Harris.
How do I know this? Easy. I've read and understand all of them. But can depth of soul be quantified like an empirical or logical fact? No. Rather, it can only be known because intelligence calls out to intelligence in a direct manner. Intelligence resonates with one's own depths, which is why metaphysical knowledge has always been associated with vertical recollection, as opposed to profane knowledge, which involves the mere passing of horizontal information from mind to mind.
If, as suggested by materialists and positivists, intelligence could be reduced to senses + logic, human beings wouldn't be intelligent enough to know it, since no logical operation can inform them of this. As Schuon writes, "reason always stands in need of data that it cannot provide or extract for itself."
The anti-theistic materialist would have you to believe that he begins his disinterested analysis "from zero," so to speak, completely free of dogma, but this is demonstrably false, for it is no less a dogma to irrationally affirm that no knowledge exists except for that supplied by reason in conjunction with sensory perception. As the philosopher of science Stanley Jaki has written, all bad philosophies begin at second base, but have no theory that can explain how they arrived at first. There's no stealing in philosophy (although it happens all the time).
In addition to intelligence, the second transrational condition of metaphysical reasoning is "the worth or amplitude of the available information." For example, our Swedish friend undoubtedly excludes revelation as a source of information with which to engage our reason, but only on alogical and a priori grounds, for there is no cosmic condition that forbids the Absolute from communicating itself to human beings in human terms, which is the essential definition of revelation (including the revelation of Being itself). You can fail to take cognizance of the Absolute, but it will always return through the backdoor. For example, it is impossible to consistently maintain that "it is absolutely true that nothing but the relatively true exists." As Schuon points out, one might just as well write that writing doesn't exist.
Just as the senses conform to the material world and our reason to the world of math and logic, our intellect -- or supralogical intelligence -- conforms to a realm of suprasensory phenomena. Here an analogy might be useful, for there is a dimension of suprasensible information readily available to human minds which is neither material nor logical, and that is other minds. Normal humans are equipped with what developmental neuropsychologists call a "mind reading" capacity, through which we may instantaneously -- without thinking -- access the "interior" of another.
This is especially pertinent in childrearing, both in the way the infant can read the mother and vice versa. Many adult psychopathologies are rooted in the "narcissistic injuries" and "empathic failures" of inadequate or distorted mind-reading. As you might expect, this results in split off, unintegrated parts of the psyche that are "unthinkable" because they were "unknown" by an empathic other. These often form the basis of mind parasites that dwell in a kind of infinite negative space -- a psychic "black hole," as it were.
Now, a gifted rabbi such as Adin Steinsaltz would, in all humility, say that in endeavoring to discern the meaning of this or that Torah passage, he is attempting to "read the mind of G-d." So too a Christian meditating on scripture. It is an elementary error of rationalists to equate the religious person's generative and fruitful dogma with their own reigning dogmas and catechisms.
In the case of tradition, we begin with what Schuon calls "an instinct for that which surpasses us," and which apprehends transcendent realities through their "superabundance of clarity." These are inclinations and perceptions that the anti-theist either lacks or is in rebellion against, which leads to the autodivinization of his own narrow ability to reason about the data given to his senses. The central difference is that traditional dogmas are not static, but furnish "pointers or keys," so that "the inward discovery" of their truth cannot be given but only discovered: O-->(n).
The materialist essentially reduces Truth to method and proceeds to close up intellectual shop, as his soph-satisfied soul has reached its carrying capacity. When "thinking" about religion, you will notice that he doesn't actually engage the object of religion, since he illogically rejects this object on a priori grounds.
To the extent that the atheist does think about the object of religion, he will simply supplant intellect with ego -- which is to say, he will try to operate in the absence of indispensable data that can only arise in the transitional space between O and our contemplation of it: "Just as it is impossible to reason about a country of which one has no knowledge, so also is it impossible to reason about suprasensory realities without drawing upon the data which pertain to them," which are supplied by 1) revelation, 2) intellection, and 3) grace.
Revelation is truly universal; it is about mankind as such -- a memo from Man to men, so to speak. But profane systems of thought are inevitably individualistic and idiosyncratic. They may convey a glimmer of transcendent truth, but it is always a partial picture, as a result of the warping of integral intelligence.
And what is intelligence? Intelligence is that which may know Truth. Likewise, Truth is that which the intellect my know with certitude. To say that the intellect cannot know God, the Absolute, is to place an artificial boundary around intelligence as such. And if our intelligence were bounded, we would not know where the boundary lay, so there would be no reason to accept anyone's boundary as anything other than arbitrary.
No. As Schuon writes, "either the intelligence by definition comprises a principle of illimitability or liberty," or it comprises "a principle of limitation or constraint, in which case it no longer admits of any certitude and cannot function any differently from the intelligence of animals, with the result that all pretension to a 'critical philosophy' is in vain."
I fully acknowledge that the materialist's intelligence leads him to the inevitable conclusions it does. But those conclusions are hardly inevitable to one with a wider and deeper intellect -- to those with more capacious and discerning souls. Countless human beings down through history have been aware of materialism and rejected it on the grounds that it excludes far too much of what we know to be the case.
Therefore, I pronounce atheists guilty as charged with intellectual cluelesside, and sentence them to life imprisonment down in flatland -- which has bars as strong as iron but weaker than the Love that removes the sin and other scars, speaking alighierically.
This brings us to another explanation of the term "idolatry," [which] refers to that which simply insists on the absolute independence of a self that is not the one God. When one sees himself as altogether independent of the absolute, he is in Galut, a state of being or place of banishment called exile.... It is not unlike captivity or subjugation, since there is no freedom to choose. --Adin Steinsaltz, In the Beginning
*I am indebted to Schuon's Logic and Transcendence for this post... both literally and figuratively.