Intelligent Stupidity in the Age of the Descending Curve
Unlike most of his other books, which are collections of essays, this one -- which was originally published in the early 1950s -- consists of "extracts from letters, notes from our reading, and reflections arising independently of outward circumstances and organized only later in the form of chapters." To me, it reads like a pure exercise in O-->(n), with these perfect -- and perfectly expressed -- little gems of gnosis, straight from the firehose. It's as if they are still aglow with the fire that accompanied their celestial birth -- full of both heat and light, which is to say, heart and mind, or stern love and gracious wisdom. To use one of his formulations, his are not just thoughts that "argue," but that simultaneously "listen." (Frankly, I'm relieved that I have some fundamental differences with him, otherwise I'd be tempted to believe he wasn't actually human; as a matter of fact, I keep photos on my desk of him and the face on the Shroud of Turin, and the resemblance is rather uncanny, for what it's worth.)
The "perfect expression" is also critical, because there is an essential aesthetic and rhythmic dimension to all spiritual communication, and if one is unaware of this, something vital will be lost in the translation. It's always geometry + music, never just one or the other. This is one reason why most spiritual writing is so bad. It is an offense to that which it presumes to disclose, but which cannot be reveiled in such a vulgar manner. The closer the proximity to O, the more Beauty becomes the splendor of the True, even if it is a naive, rustic, or completely unmannered beauty. This is why I'm sure that Schuon would agree that virgin nature discloses more of the Creator than reams of human (k) that circles the Source like so much abandoned space junk around the earth.
Since I've read virtually all of his subsequent works, I can see how many of the ideas he later elaborated are contained here in seed form. I like that, because the seed is more unsaturated and "explosive" than the tree, and can work on one's own mind in unpredictable ways once planted there. They are like little depth charges of noetic potential that one may use to stimulate genuine gnosis in oneself. With gnosis, you can never "think with someone else's head," in the way you can with profane knowledge. Rather, it has to be (im)personally experienced, or not at all.
I certainly don't want to over-hype the book, because Schuon clearly isn't for everyone. As Cutsinger says in the preface, "the breadth of Schuon's erudition can be somewhat daunting," which should serve as a warning to the unserious and unprepared. The way of gnosis is not everyone's path, nor is it in any way superior to the others -- e.g., the bhakti or karma yogi (which, in Christianity, roughly translates to the ways of faith and works, or "vertical" love of God and charitable love of the neighbor (the vertical horizontalized, so to speak).
Nevertheless, all of the classical ways to God necessarily contain something of the others -- as Schuon would say, there are no stupid saints (although they may well be naive or childlike on planes below the suprasensable, which is why we needn't take seriously their pronouncements on, say, economics or geopolitics), nor are there any unvirtuous sages. Perhaps less than ten percent of the population has even the minimum qualification for the path of gnosis; nevertheless, it must be counted as the most under-served sector of the religious or would-be religious in the West. But gifted minds have needs, too, so many coondidates turn away from religion because of the absence of gnosis, and embrace its pseudo-forms in the occult, the new-age, or much of the so-called integral movement.
Of note -- and this is what I wanted to discuss today -- it has nothing to do with intelligence per se. While intelligence is a necessary condition, it is not a sufficient one, the latter being an activated intellect, or nous, which is our perceptual organ for seeing -- and it is literally a seeing, or "visioning" -- higher realities. It's also not just a matter of left-brain right-brain, but more a synthesis between the two, which facilitates a "stereoscopic" vision of the Whole -- except that, as we discussed yesterday, this mysterious "psychic third" is not just two or three dimensions, but an incalculable number. (And of course, we cannot omit the necessary component of grace to gnosis, which "blows where it will.")
Today I wanted to discuss a phenomenon that pervades our day and age, intelligent stupidity, which refers to the predominance of people in essential positions whose intelligence is only accidental, cut off from any higher reality which is the sufficient reason for man's intelligence. One immediately thinks of last night's Democrat debate, which treated us to an unadulterated stream of intelligent stupidity. Obviously, all three knaves on the stage possess average or above average intelligence, but truly, what good is it if it is not in humble service to Truth? One also thinks of the disaster of contemporary academia, as our universities have become moonuments to leftist lunacy. But make no mistake: human intelligence detached from its transcendent source becomes an evil, just as action detached from virtue becomes neutral at best.
It almost seems trivial to have to say this, but intelligence in the absence of Truth is nothing, a farce, a cosmic joke. But as Schuon says -- and you could apply this statement to the radical atheist crowd -- "Men who spiritually speaking are 'fools' are often more cunning than wise men; hence their conviction, which is sustained by a certain practical experience, that they are more intelligent than such men." As such, "we see everywhere fools who are accidentally intelligent and intelligent men who are accidentally fools."
Quintessential examples of the former would be the pretentious buffoons of the New York Times or of leftist academia. Again, these are not men of essential intelligence, only men who have jumped through the proper societal hoops and internalized the correct elite attitudes and opinions. What always strikes one about these people is their utter cluelessness, which is concealed by contempt for that which they do not understand -- a soulless cynicism that is functionally just the reverse of superstition. A Keith Olbermann comes to mind, whose rampant paranoia is a kind of faux gnosis, as he "sees" secrets concealed to the rest of us rubes.
Along these lines, you will have no doubt noticed that it is a characteristic of our intellectual elites to objectify and even (ironically) sacralize their own limitations -- as if the boundaries of their own cramped little minds coincided with the boundaries of the knowable and known! But as Schuon explains, "In order to reach the truth it is necessary to awaken in oneself if possible the intellectual facility, not to strive to 'explain' realities one does not 'see' with the reason." As such, a stance such as atheism does not end, but begins with a sort of "axiomatic blindness" that is blind to its own sightlessness and then calls it "seeing clearly." No doubt they do see clearly, in the manner in which a monkey clearly sees a banana. For that is all a monkey knows or need know. So let the media bury the tenured.
This is a subtle point, but when a man lives in mere "thought," his habitual thoughts eventually wear grooves in the psyche in a manner described by Sri Aurobindo. As a result, something curious happens, a kind of "erosion of truth." In the words of Schuon, "it is as though true ideas took their revenge on anyone who limits himself to thinking about them."
That is not the Way to the Light. Rather, Paul was clearly on the right track -- to put it mildly -- when he said "do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind," for Truth is both ever new and transformative. It is quite literally the result of forming an "open system" between O and (¶), in the absence of which, man's thought "finally slips into error even if he was not in error already, just as the ascending curve of a circle changes imperceptibly to a descending curve" (Schuon).
Intellectually, we are living through the Age of the Descending Curve. But that's okay. Resistance to it just makes our transdimensional muscles stronger.
To be continued....
Speaking of "sophisticated" vulgarity, scroll to the bottom of the Bleat for the manic, jazzed-up mockery of Do the Raccoon. You can almost smell the reefer. "College man, knowledge man, do the Raccoon," indeed. I'd like to see them try, with two left brains. Anti-Coon prejudice is the last socially acceptable form of bigotry.