All For One and One For Three
Gairdner writes in an exceptionally clear and compelling manner about what I regard as the Mother of all Mind Parasites, relativism in all its forms. You might say that it is the mind parasite that opens the bloodgates to all of the others, whether spiritual, political, moral, philosophical, or scientific. It shows with ironyclad logic how leftism (among other pathological isms) in all its ghastly mutations is just plain illogical, incoherent, and self-refuting. I love this book. It's going straight to the sidebar of perennial raccoomendations.
The bigbrained Roger Kimball nails it in his review: "A brilliant analysis of the chief intellectual pathology of the modern age.... Writing with wit and erudition, William Gairdner goes to the heart of the defining spiritual malaise of our time, showing (among much else) that relativism and tyranny, far from being opposing forces, actually collude to undermine genuine freedom. The Book of Absolutes is sure to emerge as a modern classic of political and moral maturity." Amen.
Now, back to John the Scot. I'm trying my best to make his ideas clear, but not sure if I'm succeeding. Let's just say that this topic isn't setting the site meter on fire. Sometimes I'll reread a post and think to myself, "now, that was a model of clarity." Then I can glance at it later in the day and think, "what a mess!" It was the same, by the way, in writing the book. Which leads me to believe that it's not just the writing, or even the subject, but the "set," as Timothy Leary -- of all people -- used to call it.
That is, in conducting psychedelic research, he talked about the importance of dose, set, and setting. Dose is self-explanatory, as is setting. With regard to the latter, don't take LSD or read one of my posts in a place teeming with negative vibes or uncool people. The vibes will just contaminate the post and give you a bad trip.
But "set" refers to "mindset." You have to approach these things in the proper frame of mind. True, to a certain extent the posts are designed to put you in the right frame of mind, but they can't do so completely. Rather, they can only meet you halfway. Even God can't -- or generally won't -- do that, which is why you don't go to church in Grand Central Station, but in a quiet and dimly lit sacred space.
So before we take another ego-flattening dose of John the Scot, let's get in the proper frame of mind, shall we? And I'll do my bit to calibrate the dose, so nobody ODs on O.
Let's begin where we lifted off yesterday, because it bears repeating: Thus, both the beginning and end of the world subsist in God's Word, indeed, to speak more plainly, they are the Word itself, for it is the manifold end without end and the beginning without beginning...
I hate to be so self-referential, but this is important, mainly because my book has fallen out of the top half-million on amazon, which is a bit embarrassing, so someone needs to step up and purchase a copy, pronto. But with the circular structure of >MY DAMN BOOK<, I wasn't just trying to be cute or different. Rather, I was attempting to elucidate something in a way that literally reflected the Something I was trying to elucidate, which is the "circular" structure of creation, of the eternal cosmic emanation and return to God.
It's one thing to talk about this, another thing to actually understand, experience, and convey it to others in a non-intellectual manner. And another thing entirely to do so in a way that actually makes people want to read the damn book. It's like the difference between a musical score and a performance. I was trying to perform this idea of the beginning and end of the world subsisting in the divine Word, which, from our relative standpoint, is finally "nothing."
But again, as John emphasizes, this is a very special type of nothing. It is not to be confused with the nihilism that (de)animates the left, or materialism, or radical Darwinism.
Rather, it has to do with what we discussed last Monday, that God is present in his absence and absent in his presence. If God could be "absolutely present" to us, it would be indistinguishable from nothingness, for we would be annihilated in the Light, i.e., no one sees my face and lives. (Remember what we said about dose! A little God goes a very long way, especially at first, as his bright purity collides with your dark impurities.)
Again you have to read what follows carefully, for it can sound like blasphemy and you'll end up miscoonscrewed. Basically, just add "so to speak" or "in a manner of speaking" after each sentence, so I don't have to.
McGinn writes that "If all things are God manifested, then humanity is God manifested in the most special way." That is, we know that we are the image and potential likeness of God, or a microcosm of the whole existentialada. Like the God-before-creation we spoke of yesterday, we know that we are, but not what we are until we create -- which is to say, draw a boundary and externalize ourselves.
For what is civilization -- all of it, all of the art, science, literature, and everything else -- but the exteriorization of Man's soul? And what is the soul but the interiorization and assimilation of civilization? This is why it is said that to be ignorant of the past is to remain a child forever. To be educated in the "humanities" is to become a (more) fully formed human, precisely. This is not to be confused with being educated in the subhumanities, which is what occurs at elite universities.
John's negative theology is obviously rather daring, but again, I caution you to try to appreciate its ultimate orthodoxy: "Humanity does not know God, but God does not know God either (in the sense of knowing or defining a what); and humanity does not know itself, nor does God know humanity insofar as it is one with the divine mind that is the cause of itself."
What this means is that there is a part of human beings which is of the same essence as God. As such, our knowledge of God is again God's own self-understanding: it is God contemplating God through the medium of divine-human sonship: To quote John (speaking for God), "It is not you who understand me, but I myself who knows myself in you through my Spirit, because you are not the substantial Light but a participation in the Light that subsists through itself." Thus, "to know humanity in its deepest hidden darkness is to know God" (JSE).
McGinn goes on to explain that creation (so to speak!) "occurs in two 'places': first, in the second Person of the Trinity; and second... as a thing made, in human knowledge." And the identity of these two modes is none other than the God-man "who restores the whole of creation to its ultimate origin." "Man and God are one in that they are dialectically united in the concealing/revealing dynamic of the Word."
So, if I'm following him, John is essentially saying that as a result of the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, human beings may participate in the eternal creativity and endless self-understanding of intra-trinitarian life.
What this ultimately means is not so much that we "become God," but much more importantly, that we become real persons through the imitation of, or participation in, the Real Person -- who simultaneously is and is not God. Or to express it affirmatively, we are talking about love, which requires difference and sameness, for it is the recognition of the sameness beneath the difference. All is One, but only because One is Three. Now and always.