Premises and Conclusions on the Way To God
In other words, atheists "reasonably" conclude that God doesn't exist, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they have only proven that their conclusion follows from their premise. But all conclusions follow from premises, so they haven't actually proven anything, except unwittingly -- and that would be the fact that Man is the being who employs truth to arrive at reason, not vice versa. Or to put it the Schuon way, something isn't true because it's rational, but rational because it's true.
I've been rereading one of my favorite books by Schuon, Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism. The majority of his books are merely collections of essays, with no central, unifying concept or theme. However, that would be a rather superficial characterization, since Schuon is always writing from the center itself. It is as if each essay is a fresh consideration from the center of being to the periphery of language, or what we call O-->(n). Once you become accustomed to his style -- something most people apparently have difficulty with -- you understand that nearly all religious writing is actually (k)-->O. While the latter can be technically "true," it will be in ways that couldn't be more different from the former. (Naturally, when one dwells in scripture, one is attempting to have a similar experience of O-->(n).)
I notice that Dinesh D'Souza is going to take a crack at debating Christopher Hitchens next week on the existence of God. D'Souza (whose new book is entitled -- and it's not a question, but a statement -- What's So Great About Christianity) thinks he will make more heartway than the feeble pastors who have thus far been eviscerated by Hitchens, but I doubt it:
"So far Hitchens and his fellow atheists have had it relatively easy. Hitchens has been going around the country debating pastors. Pastors are supposed to be models of Christian charity. This means that Hitchens can call them names but they cannot call him names. Pastors are required to turn the other cheek, while Hitchens gets ready to kick them in the rear end. Moreover, pastors are not used to fending off attacks from people who deny the validity of the gospels and, in Hitchens’ case, even cast doubt on the historical existence of Jesus Christ. How can you quote Scripture to a man who denies the authority of Scripture to adjudicate anything? So Hitchens has a good game going, because he gets to make outrageous claims and they are going mostly unchallenged."
My guess is that D'Souza will merely employ a slightly more sophisticated version of (k)-->O, which is no match for the nihilistic passion of ø-->(k). "Nihilistic passion" seems like an oxymoron, but it definitely isn't, something that D'Souza doesn't seem to recognize:
"I’m surprised at the vehemence and nastiness of Hitchens’ atheism. I didn’t know he harbored these deep resentments. Yes, I know that atheists present their ideas as the pure result of reason and evolution and so on, but I cannot believe that Hitchens regards the idea that we are descended from the apes with anything other than bemused irony. I suspect that Hitchens likes Darwin mainly because Darwin gives him a cudgel with which to beat Christians.
"As he admitted in a recent interview, Hitchens calls himself an 'anti-theist' rather than an 'atheist.' Most atheists say that based on the evidence, they believe God does not exist. Hitchens’ position is somewhat different: he doesn’t want God to exist. He hates the idea of God’s existence because he thinks of God as a tyrant who supervises his moral life."
So straight away, we can see why "debate" is the inappropriate forum to adjudicate this question, since we are not in the realm of reason but of passion, and as that old Brit Hume noted in a broadcast a couple of centuries ago, "reason is the slave of the passions." In the end, my guess is that both men will merely be giving voice to their passions, which is fine. It makes for good infotainment, like an intellectual rugby match.
The "nihilistic passion" alluded to above is like a pneumagraphic negative of the mystic's passion. It is what makes the writing of a Nietzsche so bracing compared to the thin gruel of the contemporary middlebrow atheist crowd -- the Dawkins, Dennetts & Harrises. Hitchens isn't like them, in that he can muster some real satanic energy, irrespective of which side of an issue he is arguing.
Anyway... That's not what I intended to write about. Back to the epistemological foundations of God in the human psyche. Schuon's first principle is that "there are truths inherent in the human spirit that are as if buried in the 'depths of the heart,' which means that they are contained as potentialities or virtualities in the pure Intellect: these are principial and archetypal truths, those which prefigure and determine all others."
You can bellow no there aren't!, but that's just (-k) riding piggyback on a particular passion. It is a Lie, but as Bion observed, the Lie is very close to the Truth, since it must know the truth in order to lie about it. Hence the passion it can generate. Many lies can be uttered with great passion, whereas a truth can be quite feeble coming out of the mouth of a person who knows it only as (k), which is a sort of carbon copy of Truth, once or twice removed. Think of the direct passion of an Adolf Hitler, or of the Islamists, or of Dailykos.
The truths of which Schuon speaks "are accessible, intuitively and infallibly, to the 'gnostic,' the 'pneumatic,' the 'theosopher' -- in the proper and original meaning of these terms -- and they are accessible consequently to the 'philosopher' according to the still literal and innocent meaning of the word."
So prior to a debate on the existence of God must come a debate on the question of the existence of an Intellect which may know Truth directly. All else stands or falls on that question. But again, can that really be debated?
No. It would be analogous to debating the existence of sight instead of simply seeing. How would you even know about vision unless you already see?
Or, as Schuon writes, "if there were no pure Intellect -- the infallible faculty of the immanent Spirit -- neither would there be reason, for the miracle of reasoning can be explained and justified only by the miracle of intellection. Animals have no reason because they are incapable of conceiving the Absolute; in other words, if man possesses reason, together with language, it is because he has access in principle to the suprarational vision of the Real and consequently to metaphysical certitude."
In other other words, "The intelligence of animals is partial, that of man is total; and this totality is explained only by a transcendent reality to which the intelligence is proportioned." As I was at pains to point out in my book -- then again, it only hurt a little -- human intelligence can never be explained "from the bottom up." To attempt to do so merely generates absurdity. Rather, it can only be understood from the top down, or from the absolute to the relative. There is no Darwinian explanation as to how an animal can escape contingency and know absolute truth absolutely. Our minds are not merely "proportioned" to the archaic environment, as Darwinism would demand, but to invisible, transcendent realities, i.e., the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, those realms that may only be seen and comprehended directly by the intellect, not by an animal's nervous system.
Likewise, Hitchens resents the idea of the Creator because he thinks it interferes with his "freedom," when it is the only possible source of real freedom. Again, to quote Schuon, free will "proves the transcendence of its essential goal, for which man has been created and by which man is man; human will is is proportioned to God, and it is only in God and by Him that it is totally free."
Seems like a paradox, but only to those trapped in (k), for just as knowledge is only possible if it is constrained by Truth, freedom is only free if it is canalized toward the Beautiful and the Good, aka, the Real.
Ah, but these are just words. The only appropriate response to a Hitchens is to concede that there is no God and that he is His prophet -- or, shall we say, blacklanded complement.