This is a timely re-run, because I was thinking about careening into a new area that expands upon some of the ideas discussed herein. Specifically, I had the opportunity to reread Robert Bolton's Self and Spirit
. I first read it about a year ago, but I raced through it so quickly that I didn't really have the chance to "dialogue" with it and assimilate its considerable light.
The book definitely illuminates some of the points raised in this post, and I believe that it may help to expand upon many ambiguities, subtleties, and outright evasions of Raccoon theology. So I guess that's where the cosmic bus is headed next week.
There are some things that human beings may know with metaphysical certitude. In fact, our access to truth and our knowledge of the Absolute are two of the related principles that define us as human (truth itself being a reflection of the Absolute).
Obviously, no other animal can know truth, much less absolute truth. The moment one realizes this -- assuming one really and truly does -- one understands that the human state is not a Darwinian "extension" of the animal state, but something fundamentally inexplicable on any materialistic basis. It is, in fact, a gate of exit out of mere animality -- indeed, out of the relative cosmos itself. Humans are a "hole" in creation that allows them to know the whole of creation; in our heart is a mysterious absence that potentially holds all the Presence.
For in knowing absolute truth, human beings may participate in eternity on this side of manifestation -- in the relative world. The trick is to, so to speak, "prolong" eternity on this plane. We do this by 1) aligning ourselves with truth, and 2) assimilating truth. By "assimilating," I mean that we must metabolize truth so that it is "interiorized" and becomes mingled with our very psychic substance. We must "eat and breathe" absolute truth in order to become it and live it.
Authentic religion is the vehicle of absolute truth. You might say that absolute truth, the Godhead, the Ain Sof, the Supermind, Nirguna Brahman, or the God-beyond-being, are analogous to white light, whereas each authentic revelation is analogous to a color in the rainbow. This is why religions cannot be mixed "from below," lest you produce a manmade blending of colors that eventually ends up black
, not white. However, this hardly means that one religion cannot be more complete than another, or illuminate this or that doctrine more effectively than another.
Christianity, for example, is obviously a complete religion. Nor will I argue with anyone who maintains that it is the "best" or most complete religion (indeed, what other religion is capacious enough to produce and contain both Bach and Aretha Franklin?). Nevertheless, it is obviously the case that some of the greatest Christian thinkers -- true theologians such as Meister Eckhart, Origen, or Denys the Areopagite -- exist only at the margins of contemporary Christianity, if they exist at all.
And once you immerse yourself, say, in the genius of Meister Eckhart, you immediately see the parallels with, say, the greatest Jewish theologian, Moses Maimonides. Then you cannot help seeing certain unavoidable parallels with perhaps the greatest pagan mystic, Plotinus, then it's hard to distinguish him from the immortal Vedantin, Shankara. You needn't "blend" any of these truly celestial beings in order to appreciate how they are reflected in one another, each a particular color that carries and transmits real light.
Most of us cannot know the white light, but each color is in the end nothing other
than light, just as rain or snow are nothing other than water. It's a bit like being able to appreciate, say, Arvo Part, Van Morrison, Duke Ellington, Merle Haggard, and James Brown. Each is a musical "avatar" who conveys real musical light, but I wouldn't want to blend them.
Apparently, it is difficult for most rank and file human beings to conceive of the Absolute on its own absolute terms, so they create a human substitute to stand for the Absolute. In short, they intuit the Absolute and believe in the Absolute, but the only way they can "think" about it is to elevate something on the relative plane to the status of Absolute.
This is fine as far as it goes, and it does help those who are not metaphysically gifted to think about ultimate things. Nevertheless, it can end up elevating religion to God, and thereby become a form of idolatry. At the very least, it can place sharp limits on transcendence, and end up being (k)-->O, except on a grandiose scale.
There is a way to "dwell" in religion to use it as a launching pad into O -- which is the actual purpose of religion in its highest sense. But let's not kid ourselves. Most people must be satisfied to align themselves with an exoteric religion in order to gain what might be called a "second hand" sense of the Absolute -- which is again fine, by the way, and certainly preferable to disbelief or to belief in frank nonsense such as atheism, materialism, or reductionistic Darwinism. It is certainly a way of salvation. It is just not our way.
In an article entitled Are You Certain About That?
, Jonah Goldberg discusses one of the latest leftist memes. However, it is not so much a meme as the central core of leftism, which in the end embodies an assault on truth and a rejection of the Absolute -- which is impossible both in principle and in fact, which is why leftism is fundamentally and irretrievably incoherent.
Goldberg writes, "Have you heard the news? Belief is bad. Pick up an eggheady book review, an essay in Time
magazine, or listen to a thumb-suck session on National Public Radio for very long and you’ll soon hear someone explain that real conviction -- dogmatism! -- is dangerous."
For example, "Andrew Sullivan, in his new book The Conservative Soul
, declares a jihad on certainty, by which he means the certainty of fundamentalist 'Christianists' -- the allusion to Islamists is deliberate. The New Republic’
s Jonathan Chait proclaims that liberalism is the anti-dogmatic ideology. Sam Harris, a leading proselytizer for atheism, has declared a one-man crusade on religious certainty. Intellectual historian J.P. Diggins writes in the latest issue of The American Interest
that there’s a war afoot for 'the soul of the American Republic' between the forces of skepticism and infallibility. And so on."
Superficially, this leftist meme reflects their concern about the alleged “messianic certainty” of President Bush, which "is dangerous and evil in the eyes of supposedly meek and nuanced liberals." Goldberg notes that the meme has naturally trickled from the laughty mountains of academia, where the nonsensical air is rarified, down to the rivers, streams, and crocks below, including Hollywood. For example, in Star Wars III
, "a young Obi-Wan Kenobi proclaim[s] 'Only a Sith lord deals in absolutes!' Translation: Only evil people see the world as black-and-white."
Which is ironic, "since it was Lucas himself who originally explained that the entire universe is divided into light and dark sides." Goldberg also cites retired New York Times moonbat columnist Anthony Lewis, who famously wrote in his last column that the one thing he had learned in his long and tedious career was that "certainty is the enemy of decency and humanity in people who are sure they are right, like Osama bin Laden and John Ashcroft.” As if there is anything more beligerently certain than the idiotorial pages of the New York Times.
But absolute relativism is the sine qua non
of metaphysical nonsense. It is one thing thing we can know with certainty that cannot be true, for if the relativist’s belief is true, then he has left relativism behind. Then the question becomes “which Absolute is true?” But there can be only one Absolute, so the question is absurd. However, as Schuon points out, although there can be no absolutely relative, there can obviously be a "relative absolute," which is what I regard as the realm of O-->(k). This is where a Meister Eckhart or Jakob Boehme lived
, which is why they can at times appear heterodox.
I remember a remark made by Eckhart at his trial that touches on this. He said that some of the more "rare and subtle" passages in his works "had to be explained in light of his good intentions and within the context of the preaching genre" (McGinn): "The whole of what was said is false and absurd according to the imagination of opponents, but it is true according to true understanding." Of another controversial blog post, he commented that "It must be said that this is false and an error, as it sounds. But it is true, devout, and moral of the just
person, insofar as he is just..." In other words, right being
was a prerequisite for right understanding
. Ain't it the truth!
This principle doesn't just apply to contemplatives but to men of action whose shield is Truth, for Goldberg writes that most of the truly heroic figures in human history have been animated “by certainty, by the courage of their convictions” -- by O-->(k), except on the plane of action
. Our founders knew with metaphysical certitude that human liberty could only have come from a creator, and that a
creator cannot be other than the
Creator. For truth is one and liberty is a condition of knowing it: no liberty, no truth, no truth, no liberty; and there can be neither truth nor liberty unless it is principially absolute
, like the Creator from whom they flow.
Again, the leftist rejection of absolute truth cannot avoid being incoherent. As Goldberg writes, “Martin Luther King Jr. -- to pick liberalism’s most iconic hero -- was hardly plagued with doubt about the rightness of his cause. A Rosa Parks charged with today’s reigning moral imperative not to be too sure of herself might not have sat at the front of the bus. An FDR certain that certainty is the enemy of decency and humanity might have declined to declare total war on Nazism for fear of becoming as bad as his enemy.”
Thus, the rejection of absolutes -- which flow from the Absolute -- is steeped in hypocrisy, since leftists “aren’t offended by conviction per se, but by convictions they do not hold.” “Certainty” has simply “become code among the intellectual priesthood for people and ideas that can be dismissed out of hand. That’s what is so offensive about this fashionable nonsense: It breeds the very closed-mindedness it pretends to fight.”
Imagine if this country were actually founded upon a wimpy rejection of metaphysical certitude and the leftist embrace of relativism?We hold these preliminary observations to be more or less adequate, at least convenient for the time being, that all cultures have equal validity, and that each culture has its own ideas about rights and entitlements and so forth and so on and blah blah blah. In our case, we have hit upon this idea -- no offense, but we have this tentative notion -- subject to further studies, of course -- that we would like the government -- that would be your government -- to cut us some slack so that we can do what we want to do -- basically acquire property and "do our thing," whilst trying not to infringe upon anyone else's thing...
Anyhoo, it is our culturally conditioned idea that Governments -- not all of them, of course, but ours -- should actually derive their power from the people, although we have respect and tolerance for the contrary view that you folks hold. Nevertheless, some of our more headstrong citizens think that we should be able to form a government based upon these vague hunches of ours, which, after all, are as good as your hunches. No, that was rude -- let's just say that our hunches are different than yours, and leave it at that.... No one can presume to be a judge of whose hunches are best.... At any rate, since, as the saying goes, "different strokes for different folks," we....