Gastrocosmology and Theophagy: Eat, Drink, and be Mary
That's no joke. As I've mentioned before, the purpose of reviewing these books -- some of which require ten, twenty, thirty or more posts -- is to actually assimilate their content. This is especially important with books of this caliber, which are not merely "books" but "transmissions," so to speak.
In other words, it is not just information that is being conveyed, but a whole plane of being, without which the information makes no sense. It's analogous to when you must first download an application in order to do something with your computer (and always be careful about what you download -- one must beware of hidden viruses, especially retroviruses that only manifest later).
And when I say "assimilate," I mean this quite literally. It is analogous to eating, which somehow results in the pizza or apple or broccoli weaving itself into your own substance.
How does this actually happen? Who knows. But there is a certain sequence one must follow: preparation, taking in, chewing, swallowing, breaking down, digesting, etc. And there are things that can go wrong -- deeply wrong -- at each one of these stages. It would require too much of a sidetrack to get into details, but this is one of the bases of Melanie Klein's theories of psychological development, which formed the basis of Bion's thought.
For example, in therapy, you give the patient an "interpretation," which is like a kind of psychic/emotional food intended to result in growth. But what will the patient do with it? You have no control over that. And you'd be amazed at the range of possibilities that deviate from "assimilating" and "understanding."
Some people spit it out immediately. Others swallow it so quickly without chewing, that there's no time to think about it, and then they ask for more (which excludes gratitude). Others are so emotionally starving that they just want to be fed more interpretations for the feelings of intimacy with the therapist-mother (thinking about the interpretation would imply too much separation). Others store it in their cheek, and then chew on it by themselves only after they have safely left the session. Others swallow it, but vomit it out afterwards. Some are hungry again an hour later ("Chinese psychiatry"). Some bring their own food to the session, and try to feed the therapist. Some pretend that they feed themselves, and that they do not require anything from the outside. Some accept the nutrition, but not the generous spirit in which it is given, splitting off the one from the other. Some devalue it as a toxic poison; others idealize it as manna; and so on.
Yes, it probably sounds crazy until you see it in practice. Then you realize that it is crazy.
The subtitle of Bolton's book is A Defense of Theistic Religion. Why "theistic religion?" Isn't that a pleonasm, a redundancy? No, not at all. For Bolton is a dissenter within the Traditionalist camp, which, as we have noted in the past, sees a "transcendent unity of religion," but at the cost of essentially downgrading the personal God to a secondary principle (if you're not yet familiar with Schuon's metaphysics, don't worry -- everything will become clear as we proceed).
That is, the Guenon-Schuon school of Traditionalism reconciles the major orthodox revelations by essentially situating them within a closet nondual (advaita) Vedanta. Therefore, their first principle is the "beyond being" of the nirguna brahman, in which personal identity is completely swallowed up and obliterated. If you dine with the Brahman, bring a long spoon!
Indeed, there's no way of getting around it: not only are you on the side of maya -- or cosmic illusion -- but so is the personal God. Both you and God are ultimately absorbed in the One; which, to extend our little gastrointestinal metaphor, is a little like eating the pizza and becoming the pizza instead of vice versa. For this is the ultimate goal of traditional yogic practice: to throw oneself under the cosmic bus, and merge with the Infinite. No self, no problem.
Now, I've greatly simplified the nondual position, but nevertheless, there is no way to reconcile it with a metaphysic that places the personal God at the top of the cosmic hierarchy. Only one approach can be the absolutely correct one. It is in this context that Bolton's book is "a defense of theistic religion." However, as we shall see, the arguments he puts forth cut both ways, into nondualism on the one hand, and materialism on the other.
In fact, one of Bolton's most provocative insights is that nondualism is ironically a kind of approach to religion that is intellectually acceptable to the soul who has been so shaped by modern materialism that it can no longer accept traditional religion. For nondualism and materialism share the underlying commonality of being intrinsically monistic, whereas Christianity is intrinsically dualistic (and actually trinitarian, but we'll get to that later). In a way, nondualism is a mirror image of materialism, for neither has a place for the individual human soul as a truly real reality.
Another important point raised by Bolton is that nondualism isn't actually the only interpretation of the Vedas, let alone the predominant one. That is, there are dualistic interpretations of the Vedas that are compatible with Western religion, most notably, in Ramanuja, who came a couple hundred years after Shankara, and disagreed with the latter's radical nondualism. I used to think that Ramanuja was a kind of degeneration from Shankara, whereas now I would consider him an evolution to a higher and deeper understanding.
Well, I don't think I have time to actually get into the book this morning. Just consider this a desultory preramble. To be continued...