Memos to Mysoph on Knowledge and Being
As an aside, it is remarkable to me how much of the book is highlighted. As I look back through it, I rarely highlighted things that were new to me -- like a historical fact of which I was unaware. Rather, in nearly every case, it was simply the recognition of something I already knew. What makes this remarkable is that, in the spiritual realm, we are obviously dealing with a supposedly "subjective" and totally non-empirical space. And yet, this space turns out to be as reliably objective as the lower orders of reality -- in fact, more so, since scientific theories come and go and undergo constant changes, whereas the perennial wisdom, by definition, never changes.
The weirdness of this is insufficiently grasped by human beings, in large part due to the fact that the average contemporary human is so alienated from this hyper-real reality. And the foolish people who have no contact with this realm are ironically the ones with the most confidence that they are grounded in "reality," as our trolls never stop proving. As a fired up Philo -- the "Jewish Plato" -- said, they are "laden with vanity and gross stupidity and vast pretense, you that are wise in your own conceit!" Yes, you who "spin your airy fables" about existence! Why, I orta!
In my book, I made reference to the "subjectively objective" nature of this realm, although I managed to convey it in a page or two instead of 1,100. Wait a minute, let me look it up.... Here it is -- page 192: "While it may seem presumptuous to refer to spiritual 'facts,' all esoteric traditions -- from the early desert fathers, to the Vedic seers, to Tibetan Buddhist monks -- speak of a trans-empirical realm [n] corresponding to our inner spiritual intuition [¶] that is as real as the empirical realm that answers to our five outward senses.... While there are, of course, different scriptures and theologies, these must be understood as multiple views of a hyper-dimensional, trans-human manifold irreducible to a single exterior formula." Yeah, boy!
Or page 203: "Truth, if it is actually Truth, is beyond any single expression of it, and yet, present in each of its expressions. If something is true, it is universal and compels our assent.... In point of fact, Truth is inexhaustible, flowing as it does from the direction of the Absolute (which is beyond image and form) into the relativity of formal language." In turn, this is why "absolute Truth is ultimately concrete and not symbolic, in fact, the most concrete experience available to mortals." The symbols merely point the way to what is clearly beyond them (which is true of all symbols). Boo-yah!
I then go on to quote a number of authorities -- and had I been aware of The Spiritual Ascent at the time, I could have cited thousands more! -- but Aurobindo summarizes it as well as anyone: "It is a fact that yogic experience runs everywhere on the same lines.... admittedly, we are dealing with a many-sided Infinite to which there are and must be many ways of approach; but yet the broad lines are the same everywhere and the intuitions, experiences, phenomena are the same in ages and countries far apart from each other and systems practiced quite independently from each other.... That would seem to show that there is something there identical, universal and presumably true -- however the colour of the translation may differ because of the difference of mental language." Ho!
If The Spiritual Ascent doesn't prove Aurobindo's point -- over and over and over again, with extraordinary specificity -- then there is no proof (at least for you, pal). For example, the reality of this "many-sided Infinite" is far more certain than the metaphysically rootless and intellectually sterile speculations of reductionistic Darwinism. Truly, only a deeply anti-intellectual person could possibly believe such nonsense, bearing in mind, as always, that we are referring to the intellect properly-so-called (i.e., the illuminated nous), not to the contemporary caricature of mere intellectualism, i.e., those whose lack of wisdom is only matched by their pomposity and bovine absence of curiosity.
Indeed, here is a fine quote by Plato that describes the essential problem with such people: "I must first know myself; to be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still in ignorance of my own self, would be ridiculous." This is manifestly true of the higher realms: "I say, no man knows God who knows not himself first" (Eckhart). "The high peak of knowledge is perfect self-knowledge" (Richard of Saint-Victor). "If a man knows himself, he shall know God" (Clement of Alexandria). "No one can be saved without self-knowledge" (St. Bernard). "Woof!" (another St. Bernard).
To turn this formulation around, what it means ipso facto is that the atheist does not know himself -- which is why, baseballically speaking, it is such an inadequate "stance," being that it starts on second base with no explanation of how it got -- or how human beings could possibly ever get -- to first. Any "philosopher" who tries to inform you about the nature of reality without first explaining the nature of the mind that may supposedly disclose the nature of reality, is simply talking through his ass. We know it. They never will.
In this regard, the naively reductionistic and self-refuting Darwinists probably bottom out the scale. For they have inverted the cosmic situation, precisely: "Thou believest thyself to be nothing, and yet it is in thee that the world resides" (Avicenna). To them, we say "Woof!"; for they are barking up the right tree, except that it is upside-down, so that they are howling at the wind-blown leaves and branches instead of the stable root. The cosmic caravan shall pass them by!
Lao Tse: "He who knows others is wise; He who knows himself is enlightened."
Yea, let us bobnoxiously add: he who knows neither is an idiot, properly-so-called (idiot being related to the Latin, "without possession of oneself").
And again, this is a special kind of knowledge, very much unlike the knowledge of mere material reality. For as Eckhart wrote, "In the case of God, being and knowing are identical." But on this point, Christianity converges with the Upanishads: "If there were no elements of being, there would be no elements of intelligence. Verily, if there were no elements of intelligence, there would be no elements of being." Sat-chit-ananda, or being-knowledge-bliss. That's what it's all about, baby.
Obviously, the cold-dead hand of abstract scientific knowledge extracts knowing from being (and life from Truth), which is precisely why it is always one or more steps removed from reality, or at least half-dead. Religion is about the "recovery of being" -- or of O -- and of real "knowledge of being," or what a Raccoon calls O-->(n). In this context, the following statement by Schuon is quite lucid: "If our 'being' must become 'knowing,'... our 'knowing' must become 'being'; if in place of 'existing' it is necessary to 'discern,' it is necessary, in place of 'thinking,' to 'realize.'"
Which is why a famous Jewish scholar approached the sage "not to learn Torah from him but to watch him tie his boot-laces." Why? Because the sage has become the Torah, so to speak, and radiates it from every pore. He is indeed "word made flesh," if one may put it thus. Petey, of course, wears no shoes. But if he did, know that they would be both fashionable and comfortable, sensible and stylish.
Perry makes an important point, that "Realization itself is not within reach of the volitive faculties, it being rather a matter of ripeness and maturity -- volition of course being presupposed." In other words you must give it all your effort -- body, mind, and soul -- while knowing full well that the discontinuous alchemical transformation cannot take place in the absence of grace, and that there is simply no common measure between the preluminary effort put forth and the light-filled gifts received. You might even say that the effort is one of the "first fruits" of the grace!
However, what is realized must then be integrated and assimilated. This is the ongoing conversion of knowledge to being, and vice versa, until the two are One. Might as well save that for tomorrow.