Image is Everything: Man and Other Mirrorcles of the Absolute
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 that whatever you say must be immediately unsaid in order not to mislead.
While God must have an absolute truth known only to himself, down here we partake of relative existence. In short, we are not God. That being the case, it seems that God has extended the courtesy of revealing 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, shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls, etc.
Postmodern man hates more than anything to be duped or taken as a naif, which typically results in a kind of self-enclosed and self-satisfied cynicism that can only belligerently (and narcissistically) affirm what it does not know. While this stance may mimic "sophistication," it is just metaphysical naivete the long way around, like one of our typical trolls. Better to believe in nothing than to risk looking silly in the eyes of other sophistical yahoos and faculty lounge liztards.
Schuon points out that these modern mytherfolkers "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 notion of 19th century "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 old man in the sky, and no such thing. He knows this because he himself has a physical form which he transcends (or, to put it another way, is infused with transcendence).
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. Without getting into ecumenical squabbles, let's just agree on the principle 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 degrees, as they are ultimately "descended" from man, rather then vice versa. A man isn't ape + X; rather, the ape is human minus X.
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 converse 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 transcendent and therefore 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 hardly means 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 reverence. 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, knucklehead?
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, very much in the manner that a hologram is produced.
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 and morality. For example, secular scientists routinely affirm the absolute truth of certain facts and theories, while many leftists can dimly apprehend somewhere in their tarnished souls that innocent human life is of infinite value, even if it is only their own life.
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 hear 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, beauty being 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 excreted from our elite universities tells us all we need to know about them. This distorted art -- which produces a de-divinized and therefore dehumanized picture of man -- can only be produced by willfully infrahuman beings, 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.
The unbeliever, on earth, believes only what he sees; the believer, in Heaven, sees all that he believes. --Schuon