Picking Up the Pieces After Discovering the Repulsive Truth About God
Allow me to explain. While knowledge begins in perception, it does not end there. Rather, "sensory intuition can do no more than introduce the image into the space of the subject" (Balthasar). But then what? How is it that human beings are able to escape the immediacy of perception and rise above it into the realm we call knowledge? -- which, if it is not objective, is no knowledge at all, just opinion at best (and often anti-knowledge or -K).
Furthermore, it is one thing to accomplish this "distancing" with material objects, much more tricky to do so with one's own mind. In other words, for all of us, our consciousness is simply "given" to us, as in any animal.
But man -- potentially anyway -- possesses a "double consciousness" that allows him to distance himself from the objects of his own mind and to analyze and judge them. In short, man is able to attain to objectivity toward himself and the world, which is synonymous with truth.
Which, when you think about it, is a little odd, because it means that, in becoming objective, the subject is back to being a kind of object, as it were. This is confusing, because your typical village atheist or bonehead materialist would claim that he is the one who is being "objective," whereas the Raccoon position maintains precisely the opposite: that the materialist is lost in his ethereal, subjective, and manmode abstractions, whereas only the Man of Spirit dwells in the Real.
Now, the question is, who is right -- besides me, that is?
This reminds me very much of psychoanalytic therapy, which does not just consist of two objects hashing things out for an outrageous fee. Rather, first of all, you must imagine a "bi-personal field" that is co-created by analyst and patient. Everything that occurs in therapy will actually take place in this field, not in one or the other of its constituents per se.
In my mind, I picture a couple of children at play. One of them (the patient) comes in and dumps his bag of toys on the floor. The two of us proceed to play with them. Why this toy? Why not that toy? Hmm, you seem overly attached to this one here. And why is that one always turned upside down so no one can see it? Any ideas why? And why can't I touch that one over there? Why are you hiding it? And why do you keep playing the same game over and over, even though you never win? Or always win in a predictable game that is too easy? And you seem to think I want to steal your toys, even while you are envious of the wonderful toys you imagine I have stashed away somewhere. Etc.
I remember one patient whose transference to me was so intense, that it was impossible to conduct therapy. She essentially "fell in love" in the first session, not in a therapeutic way, but in the usual way. There was no "space" in which to interpret her feelings, because they would simply be met with words to the effect of, "no, you don't understand. I am in love with you. You are perfect." So in this case, what she called "love" was actually a defense mechanism against knowledge. Many women with histories of abuse do this, i.e., disable their objectivity with a kind of intoxicated auto-hypnosis that feels like love, but is in reality surrender to a powerful predator. If I were the predator type, I would have no problem getting dates with this type of woman.
Back on track. Now, there is obviously a world of difference between objectivity toward matter (or the physical world) vs. objectivity toward Mind or Spirit, and if we fail to appreciate the differences, much mischief will ensue. For in reality, science is irreducibly subjective, whereas only religious metaphysics discloses the objectively real, i.e., a realm of perennial truths that simply cannot not be -- for example, the idea that truth exists and is anterior to man. If this is not true, then there is no truth, period.
As usual, Schuon had many useful things to say about this subject. And when I say "useful," I am being coy, for what I actually mean is "true beyond the shadow of a doubt." For unlike the typical pagan logician, he is employing what might be called transcendent logic, or "the logic of logic."
For example, "By 'objectivity' must be understood not a knowledge that is limited to a purely empirical recording of data received from outside, but a perfect adequation of the knowing subject to the known object.... An intelligence or a knowledge is 'objective' when it is capable of grasping the object as it is and not as it may be deformed by the subject."
Even more, we could say that objectivity implies a more general “conformity to the nature of things,” which surely includes the "inner space" of the subject, on pain of eliminating the one place in the cosmos where Truth may be known and loved. For this is none other than "the contemplative withdrawal into the 'heart,' given that 'the kingdom of God is within you.'"
So we should not confuse subjectivity with any kind of sentimental or romantic "perception-is-reality" nonsense. Rather, it is again the expanding space where reality -- which can only mean "truth" -- may be known and loved for its own sake, not for ours. And of course, we must be willing to "die for love," or it's not much of a love, is it? Schuon:
"Objectivity is a kind of death of the subject in the face of the reality of the object." However, "the subjective compensation of this extinction is the nobleness of character," among other things, i.e., serenity, centeredness, radiance, the "peace that passeth understanding," etc.
Not only that, but in the final Oquation, "the transcendent Object is at the same time the immanent Subject, which is affirmed in the knowing subject, to the extent that the latter is capable of objectivity. Objectivity is none other than the truth, in which the subject and the object coincide, and in which the essential takes precedence over the accidental -- or in which the Principle takes precedence over its manifestation -- either by extinguishing it, or by reintegrating it, according to the diverse ontological aspects of relativity itself."
Here again, I think this goes to the very heart of a trinitarian view of things. For this is not to say that in knowledge of God I am identical to God. Again, we are talking about a "non-dual trinitarianism," in which -- in some sense -- we might say that "I and the the Trinity are not-two."
Therefore, to trancelight what Schuon just said, God is a kind of Subject that is purely objective; or, an Object who is transcendently subjective. In God there is no "potential," for he always Is Who He Is. And yet, he eternally generates what he is not (so to speak), which would of course include us. As such, the knower who knows is made of the most precious substance in all of creation, a spiritual substance that is a spark of truth itself -- not the central fire, but then again, not radically separate from it, either.
Thus, looked at one way, we are obviously "not God." But to the extent that God became man (and not just a man, but Man as such), then we may share in God's objectivity and Truth, and therefore, eternity. Again, the “Kingdom of God” is “within you,” but this hardly means it is "subjective," even though it requires a subject to get in -- the subject being "inwardness as such." No subject, no "in." But what we want to enter is the Transcendent Object. As Balthasar explains, "The object's immanence in the subject's consciousness is the prior condition for understanding its transcendence."
Is any of this making sense, or am I just rambling to a polite but uncomprehending choir?
Without the subject, there can be no unity in the cosmos, most particularly, the unity of subjects and objects. Only the subject can heal the ontological wound of subjectivity, not by immolating itself in the world of physical objects, but by its higher flight to their very source. This is not an escape but a spiraling inscape where unity flows into multiplicity and back again.
And this is why perfect objectivity would also have to be perfect nonsense of the type spewed by any great mystic, because only this type of nonsense is "adequate" to an object that always transcends what we can say about it. You could say that human speech will pour off the Logos like water off a duck's back, but that's okay, for if words could actually contain the Divine, then I would be God, and this would be a very boring cosmos. You know how it is -- "Words crack and sometimes break under the burden" (Eliot). But in so doing, we understand that there is a Mighty Big Object against which our words are shattering into pieces -- as in the case of this shattered piece I just wrote.
Really, it's quite a thrill and a privilege to be constantly repulsed by God. It very much reminds me of my son, who, when he greets me, takes a running start and tries his best to crash into me. In turn, I will use his momentum to lift him up in a kind of spiral around my vertical axis.
That image will do nicely.