Truth: What is it Good For?
Now, reader Episteme asks, to put it bluntly, what Raccoons get out of these silly verticalistenics and gymgnostics. What's in it for us? What advantage do we gain?: "What exactly are the fruits produced by this capacity of awareness that I, and many others it seems, apparently lack? What great advantages do you have being aware, as you think you are, of Truth? If you really see this whole part of reality that I can't see, what is it that you can do that I can't?"
While not unreasonable questions, they are posed in a tone that betrays a lack of sobriety, sincerity and receptiveness. Nevertheless, for readers who may be just on the other side of the membrane with their nouses pressed against the glass darkly, but who are willing to open their hearts, this is for their benefit. We know ahead of time that Episteme's intellectual pride, at least at this time, fills the space where grace might otherwise flow, and as we know, while nature abhors a vacuum, Spirit requires one.
We begin with one of those metaphysical bobservations that we know is true because it cannot not be true, on pain of eliminating the very possibility of truth. It is this: truth is the adequation of knowledge to being, and this adequation is the sufficient reason for man's intellect. In other words, our intellect was made to know the Absolute, otherwise it makes no sense that we possess it. That is to say, on any Darwinian grounds, it is absurd that monkeys could one day harbor an ability to know truth -- not to mention love and beauty. For where was this truth before the monkeys discovered it, and how did it get there?
Another unavoidable truth is that the existence of truth imposes an obligation on man to know it. Can I prove this? Only to those who already "know" it implicitly -- who bear this eternal truth within their soul (which we all do, only for some people it is buried under so many layers of ice and rock, that it is inaccessible).
Now, the need to know this truth can be more or less pressing, depending upon the architecture of the particular soul. For some -- say, "vital beings" who essentially live a sensory, quasi-animal existence -- they are not aware of this need. But for others, the need is acute, and it forms the motive passion of their lives. To paraphrase Augustine, the soul of man cannot rest until it rests in God. Or as Schuon writes, "metaphysics satisfies the needs of intellectually gifted men" (and please bear in mind that Schuon is not using the words "metaphysics" or "intellect" in their modern, debased, and profane sense understood by Episteme). "Metaphysical truth concerns not only our thinking, but it penetrates also our whole being; therefore it is far above philosophy in the ordinary sense of the word."
Now, adequation to the Real cannot be achieved by the ego, which is only adequate to a certain narrow band of the reality (both interior and exterior) to which it is an adaptation. Man is a "bicentric" being, in that he has two subjectivities, the local ego and the nonlocal, uncreated intellect. The relative corresponds to the ego, while the Absolute corresponds to the intellect. It is not that the intellect itself is absolute, but that it represents a "mirror" of the absolute within the relative plane. The Great Mystery is that, in the words of Schuon, "the Absolute has made Itself relativity so that the relative may return to the Absolute." Man is an inverted shadow of God, which is why our vocation is to invert the inversion and receive light into the shadowy world of the fallen ego: "Soul, instead of contracting and hardening in its natural selfishness, must open itself to Heaven and to the Divine Influx."
But why? What do we get out of it? Well, one thing we get is the awareness that the cosmos is not a oppressively closed circle but an infinitely open spiral -- that God has not just "opened a gate in the middle of creation," but that this gate is Man himself. Furthermore, "to slip through the human state without being truly Man, that is, to pass God by," is to reject our own soul and our very existence. It is "a waste and a suicide," especially when the brevity of temporal life is contrasted with the depth of eternity.
One of my favorite little books on Jewish mysticism is The Thirteen Petalled Rose, by Adin Steinsaltz. He writes that "The physical world in which we live, the objectively observed universe around us, is only a part of an inconceivably vast system of worlds. Most of these worlds are spiritual in their essence.... Which does not necessarily mean that they exist somewhere else, but means rather that they exist in different dimensions of being. What is more, the various worlds interpenetrate and interact in such a way that they can be considered counterparts of one another, each reflecting or projecting itself on the one below or above it."
I like this description because it is exactly analogous to the way the unconscious -- the lower vertical -- operates in psychoanalytic theory. The unconscious is another world that operates along different logical principles, but it is not "someplace else." It is not literally located in space, "below" the ego. Rather, it is right here, right now, interpenetrating everything we think and do. To "see" it, it is merely a matter of shifting your perspective. Like right now, if I open my ears, I hear a bird chirping in the backyard. In the distance is the "hoo hoo" of an owl. There's the very quiet humming of the computer. These things were always there, but it's a matter of paying attention to them.
In another way, it's analogous to these progressive bifocals I just got, which change the focal point depending upon where you point your eyes. Look up, and things that are near become out of focus, but look down, and the distant becomes blurry.
Steinsaltz discusses the differences between the vertical and horizontal, which for me is the essence of any spiritual metaphysics. Again, in speaking of the vertical, of higher and lower, he is not speaking of an actual physical location. Vertically speaking, "to call a world higher signifies that it is more primary, more basic in terms of being close to a primal source of influence; while a lower world would be a secondary world -- in a sense, a copy." Thus, viewed horizontally, we may trace the material cosmos back to a primordial event some 13.7 billion years ago.
But this is only the horizontal explanation. Traditional metaphysics deals with the vertical causation of the cosmos, which is what confuses people. From the vertical standpoint, this world is indeed a copy, as are human beings, of a divine prototype. The "logos" might be thought of as the model of all things, the nexus between the divine mind above and the creation here below. Looked at in this manner, the inexplicable beauty of the world is not somehow the outcome of horizontal cause and effect. Rather beauty is the cause of the cosmos (among other nonlocal causes, such as Love and Truth).
Because of the ubiquitous vertical and horizontal influences, every aspect of human existence is made up of both matter and spirit, of form and essence. While we are fundamentally spiritual, we are unavoidably material, which sets up a host of interesting tensions and conflicts. The fall --or exile, if you like -- is indeed a vertical one, a declension from the divine repose of celestial bliss, down to this world of toil, conflict, uncertainty and ambiguity.
In the past, I have posted on the inner meaning of "angels," which -- now, don't be too literal here -- are nothing more than vertical beings that travel in only two directions: up and down. Have you ever had a brilliant insight that came out of nowhere? That would be the gift of a vertical emissary. The more you reconcile yourself to the process and accept it on its own terms, the more messages you get. What about those lower promptings? Yes, we'll get to those momentarily.
Now that I've lost most of my readers, I'll ask the question: Did you know that you can create an angel, a vertical being? I know I do all the time. According to Steinsaltz, every mitzvah you perform -- every good deed -- is not just a horizontal act in the material world. It also has an effect in the vertical world. As a matter of fact, a holy act creates an angel, a new spiritual reality that will then go on to have its own vertical life and influence.
Let's just consider a banal but highly illustrative example, the first one that came to my mind -- Oscar Schindler. One flawed man nevertheless trying to do the decent thing in a hopeless hell of utter depravity. But how many countless angels did he create, angels that continue to bless the world in demonstrable ways!
Let's jump ahead to the shadow side of this spiritual economy for, as Steinsaltz explains, "just as there are holy angels built into and created by the sacred system, there are also destructive angels, called 'devils' or 'demons', who are the emanations of the connection of man with those aspects of reality which are the opposite of holiness." Thus it would follow that, just as good deeds create beneficent vertical beings, other actions create vertical beings "of another sort, from another level and a different reality." In so far as it is possible to do so, I try to create angels with this blog. I don't know if I am successful, but I do know that I attract demons.
Here again, you can take this literally or you can take it figuratively. But think, for example of just one awesome conjurer of demons, say, Karl Marx, who belched his new anti-revelation from the vertical depths of darkness. Could you even begin to count the number of devils, demons, and other agents of the nether world who are still being created and still making mischief as a result of falling under his sinister spell? You do see them, don't you? They're everywhere! Some things are metaphors, some are not. The term body snatcher is not a metaphor. Petey says that it explains all you need to know about the left.
If you have stayed with me this far, then you will understand that, just as there are evil beings, there are evil worlds. These are simply the "space" inhabited by the evil beings. Wisdom is a space, or "mansion." So too, creativity, love, beauty, peace. You can sense it when you enter one of those mansions. You can also sense it when you are near one of those haunted mansions where the dark ones reside.
The closest I like to get to one of these mansions is memri.org, which makes the Islamic darkness visible to us on a daily basis. Can you not feel and sense the utterly dark abyss of that black hole, where light neither enters nor escapes? If not, you may want to contact an exorcist, for something has hijacked your moral vision. There are many such vertical abysses in the world. Bottomless pits of anti-Truth and anti-Beauty.
Enough malevolent wishes and wicked deeds, and pretty soon you have created a closed world, cut off from the divine influence. As Steinsaltz describes it, "the sinner is punished by the closing of the circle, by being brought into contact with the domain of evil he creates.... as long as man chooses evil, he supports and nurtures whole worlds and mansions of evil, all of them drawing upon the same human sickness of the soul.... as the evil flourishes and spreads over the world because of the deeds of men, these destructive angels become increasingly independent existences, making up a whole realm that feeds on and fattens on evil."
Hitler. Stalin. Bin Laden. Yasser Arafat. Kim Jong-il. Ahmadinejad. Detached worlds of pure evil as an end in itself. Who could say it isn't so?
That would be the Old Serpent's vast team of useful idiots. He's got a very deep bench.