The Whole Point of this Living Cosmos
(Let me say at that outset that I probably can't give this book a general recommendation, unless you either already know your Thomism or are prepared to immerse yourself in that world, with its particular traditions, assumptions, categories and nomenclature. You would probably have to start with something more foundational, in particular, at least an intro to Aquinas, before tackling this. Also, I know that some of his more accessible works are available for free online, such as The Hollow Universe.)
My first thought is that I'd like to see Bill Maher debate this guy. Not really, because it would be like the Pope appearing on the Jerry Springer show. But I see that last night at the Oscars, Maher complained that his reduculous film Religulous probably didn't get nominated because "it's a touchy subject. But someday, we all have to confront the notion that our silly gods cost the world too greatly." The point is, not only does Maher not understand religion, but he is not intelligent enough to do so.
Religion is at a profound disadvantage here, because it is not primarily about intellectual debate, but about saving souls. And in order to accomplish the latter, it must be presented in such a manner that most anyone can understand it. Imagine, say, how difficult it is to produce a Hollywood film that appeals across the spectrum, from the most intelligent to the most simple, from adults to children, male and female, the educated and uneducated, people from all times and cultures. That's a rare achievement. Anyone can make a film that appeals to no one, as Maher proved.
Now, it would be easy enough to form a religion only for people capable of understanding DeKoninck, or Schuon, or Balthasar -- or more precisely, to present it only in their highly sophisticated terms. But for starters, that would be a grave disservice to the billions of people for whom the realm of pure metaphysics is more or less of a closed book. Besides, anyone who wants to pursue a religion to it metaphysical summit is free to do so.
This is why anti-intellectuals such as Maher or Queeg -- not to mention a Dawkins, Dennett, or Harris -- are not just wrong. Rather, they are just plain lazy. Either that, or just too stupid to understand the arguments. They're really engaging in a kind of gross fallacy -- like attacking a Ben Affleck film festival in order to prove that all movies are bad. This strategy is beyond bad faith. One can only conclude that it's satanic, even if only unconsciencely.
Now, one reason why DeKoninck is of interest to me is that he is an example of someone who was quite clearly drawn into the identical cosmic attractor I have been exploring for the past two or three decades. Here we are, two isolated people with no direct points of contact, and yet, in many striking instances, our thoughts are quite parallel. Again, it is as if we are identifying the identical contours of the nonlocal object.
In the past, I have compared this to the early explorers -- Columbus and all the rest -- who stumble upon a "new world." At first, their descriptions are quite varied and subjective. The are also very empirical, drawn from immediate experience. Only later will someone come along and be able to collate all of the individual maps, and place them in the context of a higher cartography.
This, I think, is the value of someone like Schuon, who could have only appeared in the 20th century, because only from that surpassing vantage point does one have access to all of the maps of the great interior explorers. Note that the maps are just fine without the collation -- they'll still get you where you need to go -- but there is obviously something in the nature of the intellect that demands consistency and universality. However, unless you are a born gnostic, you probably won't spend much time worrying about that. Rather, just leave it to the experts.
To a certain extent, what you "discover" is going to be a function of that which you are passionate about -- not just in the sense of some transient excitement. Rather, we are talking about a particular "soul constellation" that sponsors a lifetime passion from which one cannot escape on pain of causing serious damage to the soul. Think of this as your "guiding star" in transpersonal space, that which tells you what you are by showing you what you are to do, to know, and to eventually be -- the latter resulting from the successful assimilation and actualization of the first two.
Also, remember the adage that "the answer is the disease that kills curiosity." This is not to laud an inappropriately grasping and intellectually concupiscent curiosity that usually ends in shallow cynicism and facile skepticism, a la Queeg or Maher. Rather, this is a protracted openness to your soul's own inclination. Your passion is the engine, but your soul must provide the direction, otherwise your passion will merely drive you into the abyss.
So I see right off the bat that DeKoninck shared a number of my passions. For example, he was concerned with how we can "understand the growing chasm between our scientific world pictures and the world as it appears to common sense." He also wanted to know how it could be possible to accept the insights of modern science "while maintaining our most central and traditional religious beliefs."
In this regard, it would again be easy enough to create a kind of new religion for The Special, as the new agers and integralists do. But to paraphrase Schuon, to think that you could ever invent a religion is to not know what religion is, precisely.
That is a key point -- the idea that science increasingly reveals a world that is detached from our common experience. While vulgar materialism or bonehead reductionism are surely serious problems, a deeper problem may be that our supposedly "best" way of knowing tells us nothing about life up here where it is actually lived -- i.e., the human world. As I have mentioned before, religion is about this specifically human world, a point that I will expand upon later.
The "major preoccupation" of DeKoninck's life was this "relation of science to experience." He makes the subtle point that the everyday objects "available to us in experience are much richer than those described in modern mathematical phyiscs," and that it is critical to maintain the distinction between "the real world" -- again, the human world -- and our scientific abstractions from that world.
The fundamental problem with scientism is that it takes its abstractions as more real than the reality they describe, which soon enough leads to a kind of intellectual totalitarianism, which always occurs when ideas are deemed more important than people. (This dynamic is also at the foundation of the soul pathology of the left.)
As I mentioned in my book, science strips the world of all its primary qualities, relegating them to an ontological limbo. Once one has done this, one has devalued the human world, with all of its richness and particularity, beyond redemption. Or, there is no ontological grounding for the richness -- it becomes just a kind of entirely subjective epiphenomenal luxury with no intrinsic meaning whatsoever. Truly, that way madness lies. And cultural death.
The scientistic world is a simple world, far too simple to ever account for the intellects capable of abstracting from the world in this manner. It is this abstract scientistic world -- that is, when taken as the fundamental reality -- that DeKoninck called the "hollow universe," but the hollowness is really in the heads of the spiritually impoverished simpletons.
Running out of time here, but last night I was doing a little thought experiment. Imagine, for the sake of argument, that it were possible for conscious beings to exist at the quantum level, where all of the richness of the cosmos is bleached out. Through their sophisticated experiments, they "discover" this unexpected macro realm floating "atop" their sea of quantum energy, which features all kinds of things that seem impossible based upon the laws that govern their realm. "Ah ha!," they proclaim. "We've finally discovered the point of this otherwise meaningless cosmos. It's human beings!"