Saturday, April 19, 2008

The God in Man in God

You often hear vaguely spiritual but essentially anti-religious people say that they kinda sorta believe in God, but not in some bearded old man sitting on a throne in the sky. Therefore, the non-conformist (or coonformist) in me makes me wonder if that isn't probably the best way to think of God, short of apophatic mystical approaches in which the only thing you can know about God is that you cannot know him; or whatever you say must be immediately unsaid in order to not mislead.

While that is "absolutely" true, we nevertheless possess a relative existence, and it seems that God has revealed certain fruitful ways to think about him so that he may be grasped by the mind on this side of manifestation: king, lawgiver, father, judge, comforter, etc.

Postmodern man hates more than anything to be duped or taken as a naif, which becomes the source of his self-enclosed and self-satisfied cynicism; it is just metaphysical naivete the long way around, like a Bill Maher. Better to believe in nothing than to risk looking silly in the eyes of other sophisticated yahoos.

As such, as Schuon points out, these sophisticates "merely replace one sentimentality with another when laying claim to 'objectivity'"; in fact, their so-called objectivity is "merely a soft and pretentious sentimentality, which is far more illusory than a transparent 'subjectivity.'" The fundamentalist atheists come to mind, e.g., Dawkins, Harris & Hitchens, all lost in a sentimental and childlike "objectivity."

This is a caricature of true objectivity, which, as every Raccoon knows, is a union of complements: it "does not set up an opposition between cold and heat but transcends them both: like emptiness it stands opposed to a false plenitude, whether hot or cold, or like silence to a heavy and blind affirmation" (Schuon). The Raccoon knows the secret that God is equally a bearded man in the sky, and no such thing. He knows this because he himself has a physical form which he transcends.

Christianity is obviously not the only religion that has promulgated the idea that God has assumed human form, e.g., the "avatar principle" in Hinduism. The main point is this idea that the Absolute may take embodied form in the relative, uniquely so in man, who is the "image and likeness" of the Absolute.

Being that we are the image and likeness, we should expect to see traces of this in both our objective (i.e., bodily) and subjective (i.e., mental) states. Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that other animals shouldn't share traces of this absoluteness, only in lesser forms, as they are "descended" from man, rather then vice versa.

In other words, in relative, horizontal, and Darwinian terms, we may be "descended" from animals (or ascended, really), but in absolute and vertical terms the reverse is true. An ape is a partial manifestation of man; man is not a "perfect ape," although Keith Olbermann comes close.

As Schuon writes, there are certain lower forms of life, such as cockroaches or snakes, that repel us because they are "like living conscious matter," whereas "the law of matter is precisely unconsciousness." Conversely, monkeys or olbermen are noteworthy for the opposite reason, that "they are like men who have been deprived of the central consciousness that characterizes mankind." They are not "conscious matter," but "consciousness decentralized, dissipated." At the same time, there are other animals that are obvious symbols of transcendence and beauty, the butterfly being my favorite example. In their case, we see the higher prefigured in the lower.

Now, being that God is both transcendent and immanent, every manifested thing is actually "God in disguise." This is not to be confused with pantheism; for example, even a rock is God, but that does not mean that God is a rock. The latter would represent the pantheistic confusion. Everything points in two directions, toward its own form and to something beyond, or to something that "radiates" through it. We see this most vividly in virgin nature, which engenders a kind of spontaneous worship. The radical environmentalist converts this supernaturally naturalistic awe into a pseudo-religion, conflating an effect with its transcendent cause. Yes, the earth is sacred. But how did it get that way?

In subsequent posts we will be discussing the beauty of the human form, through which transcendence radiates with particular metaphysical clarity, since a human being is nothing other than a "lens" where the vertical "collides" with the horizontal in the most intense way. There was probably a time when it was actually easier for human beings to think of this in the objective sense, whereas now it is probably easier for us to think of it in subjective terms.

To cite one obvious example of man's subjective deiformity, our minds are both "infinite" and "absolute," just like the creator. There is no end to the human mind's inexhaustible creativity; but at the same, we are uniquely capable of knowing absolute truth, even if you are just a secular scientist who believes in the absolute truth of certain mathematical equations.

Again, being that our minds share this deiformity, it would be surprising if not impossible to not see traces of this in our physical form, bearing in mind that we are "descended" from the perfect archetype, the Cosmic man, or Adam Kadmon. For example, when we see Michelangelo's Pieta or David, are we not seeing man's formal perfection liberated from marble? Perhaps my standards are low, but I can see perfection in a three-minute pop song.

When we discuss man's deiform nature, we are talking on the one hand about his capacity to know the absolute, on the other his physical beauty, which itself is a kind of embodied truth. Schuon points out that aesthetics is nothing other than "the science of forms," or formal beauty.

But just as beauty is the splendor of the true, truth itself will conform to standards of beauty. This is why a sense of form, rhythm, and proportion all "play an important part of intellective speculation," and can be important criteria of truth. A mathematician never expects to find an ugly equation ordering the cosmos. That we expect to see ugly art come out of our elite universities tells us all we need to know about them. This art, which produces a de-divinized and therefore dehumanized picture of man, can only be produced by an infrahuman being, exiled and alienated from both God and man.

To put it another way, God cannot be a bearded old lesbian performance artist sitting in the faculty lounge (whether female or male).

This also explains the truth and beauty of scripture, for just as some things are too ugly to be true, others are too beautiful not to be.

****
Here's nice little three-minute pop confection by Brian Wilson, although you really need to hear it on the Big Hi-Fi to get the full effect of the musical production values:

11 Comments:

Blogger Van said...

And in the spirit of the post, I'll toss out some rapid-fire comments, while their source continues to ferment:

"Postmodern man hates more than anything to be duped or taken as a naif, which becomes the source of his self-enclosed and self-satisfied cynicism; it is just metaphysical naivete the long way around, like a Bill Mahar. Better to believe in nothing than to risk looking silly in the eyes of other sophisticated yahoos."

Too True to be merely factually true. Reminds me of that ol' Roman Raccoon, Tacitus; in his "Histories" he notes of the Bill Maher's of his day, that while they "... instinctively recoil from adulation, we lend a ready ear to detraction and spite, because flattery involves the shameful imputation of servility, whereas malignity wears the false appearance of honesty."

"They are not "conscious matter," but "consciousness decentralized, dissipated.""
Yes! Without the 'I AM' to contain it, consciousness just pours out onto the table, nothing of depth is able to form.

"The radical environmentalist converts this supernaturally naturalistic awe into a pseudo-religion, conflating an effect with its transcendent cause. Yes, the earth is sacred. But how did it get that way?"

Examples of Thomas Sowell's failure to engage in 'thinking past stage one', are at the root of most newagey/leftist foolishness.

BTW, yesterday's title, "Father Knows Breast, or The Story of Adam & Evolution" - an ISS & Aha! all its own!

4/19/2008 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

“Perhaps my standards are low, but I can see perfection in a three-minute pop song.”

Or at the same time they are higher, such as what we can see within a 3 letter sentence:

“I AM.”

4/19/2008 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

In reference to the video, I wonder why it is that we humans long so much to fly? Most of the things we do for thrills (extreme sports, amusement park rides, anything involving speed) these days are simulations of or attempts at flight, but man has dreamed of becoming airborne for as long as we have been able to consciously watch birds soar on thermals.

Is it the yearning for verticality, or is there something else to it? Why are we not content to be bound to the earth? Or could it have to do with the destiny of mankind? If we were content to be earthbound, would we be interested in exploring the universe?

Questions, questions.

4/19/2008 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

IMO, I think it's just about being liberated from matter and knowing a pure spiritual state, without constraints. Slipping the surly bonds, and all that. I enjoy it. But then again, I miss little things, like scratching an itch, having a cool glass of water when I'm really thirsty, or sinking down into my waterbed at the end of the day.

4/19/2008 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"In subsequent posts we will be discussing the beauty of the human form, through which transcendence radiates with particular metaphysical clarity, since a human being is nothing other than a "lens" where the vertical "collides" with the horizontal in the most intense way."

Good form, Bob!
I sense this will be an Ark of form, of epic potentialility.
Thanks!

4/19/2008 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Julie said...
"In reference to the video, I wonder why it is that we humans long so much to fly?"

Damn, Petey beat me to it!
Aye! Flyin' (or divin'), is indeed liberation!

And not just physically, but mentally, soulfully, heartedly, spiritually.

But I venture to say it isn't willy-nilly liberty of movement, whether within, or without, but rather spaciously "guided", in a sense (or senses).

Riding horses gives me the same feeling, although I haven't rode for...geez, 30 years.

I say it's the same "feeling" because I often fly in my dreams.
Not everytime, but often.

The same holds true with horseback ridin', since I don't have a horse.
It's amazing how surreal, and liberating a dreams can be. :^)

4/19/2008 01:06:00 PM  
Anonymous walmart shopper said...

Iowahawk on the Yale abortion art thing:

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2008/04/close-cover-bef.html

4/19/2008 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Just when you think there's nothing left to satirize about the left, Iowahawk finds a way. Que hombre.

4/19/2008 06:39:00 PM  
Anonymous walmart shopper said...

He's got the knack, that's for sure.

4/19/2008 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Expression from within the mind of man within the mind of God -


The sun was setting over avalon
The last time we stood in the west
Suffering long time angels enraptured by blake
Burn out the dross innocence captured again

Standing on the beach at sunset all the boats
All the boats keep moving slow
In the glory of the flashing light in the evenings glow

When will I ever learn to live in god?
When will I ever learn?
He gives me everything I need and more
When will I ever learn?

You brought it to my attention everything that was made in god
Down through centuries of great writings and paintings
Everything lives in god
Seen through architecture of great cathedrals
Down through the history of time
Is and was in the beginning and evermore shall be

When will I ever learn to live in god?
When will I ever learn?
He gives me everything I need and more
When will I ever learn?

Whatever it takes to fulfill his mission
That is the way we must go
But youve got to do it your own way
Tear down the old, bring up the new

And up on the hillside its quiet
Where the shepherd is tending his sheep
And over the mountains and the valleys
The countryside is so green
Standing on the highest hill with a sense of wonder
You can see everything is made in god
Head back down the roadside and give thanks for it all

When will I ever learn to live in god?
When will I ever learn?
He gives me everything I need and more
When will I ever learn?

Van Morrison (of course)

4/20/2008 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Better to believe in nothing than to risk looking silly in the eyes of other sophisticated yahoos

Dang it! Right there, in one sentence, something I've been mulling for weeks now. And now I'm free to think about something else, since you've so succinctly knocked that out of the park.

WV: zyaxe (Olaf, brink me zy axe!)

4/21/2008 04:46:00 AM  

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