Meaning, Unity, Creation, and Salvation
As we have discussed in the past, meaning, purpose, and unity (or wholeness) are all functions of one another. To see the whole is to understand the meaning, and vice versa. For example, you can't understand the purpose of the heart if you don't situate it in the context of the body it serves. Likewise, words take on entirely different shades of meaning depending on the sentence in which they are situated.
Again, one of the important points Bolton raises is that nondualism is nihilism; or, you could say that the meaning of existence is its ultimate meaninglessness. He points out the irony that the principle of karma -- of moral cause and effect -- is central to Buddhism.
And yet, when it comes to the totality -- the whole -- "they deny that there is any cause for the world as such. Their passion for causality suddenly evaporates just where causality approaches its most significant consequence." (And please bear in mind that Bolton is not being remotely disrespectful, only trying to clearly describe the differences, and their consequences, between atheistic nondualism and theistic dualism.)
One reason why Bolton's analysis is meaningful to me, is that it exactly describes the trajectory of my own interest in religion. Religion meant nothing to me until I found a form if it that was acceptable to my existential commitments, which were rational, materialistic, and essentially atheistic.
Again, another of Bolton's points -- and it was certainly true of me -- is that Buddhism (especially "bare witnessing" or Zen varieties, which are almost purely technical) is the ideal religion for jaded Westerners who are convinced that they have "risen above" their own "mythological" tradition. Looked at in this way, Zen looks "scientific" (cf. Zen and the Brain: Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness) while Christianity looks very much pre-scientific. Which is why I would now call my approach "post-postmodern," more on which later.
But consider what Buddhism and scientism have in common: "the whole conceptual world of science is absurdly imagined as functioning just the same as though none of those minds which create sciences were part of it," just as "religious anti-personalism imagines a perfect consciousness without any conscious person." This "parallel between them is so close that the two systems may well proceed from the same deep flaw in human consciousness, a selective mental blindness" (Bolton).
Indeed, it is almost as if western science sees the world through the lens of the left brain, while the east sees it through the right (and there is actually scientific confirmation of this idea -- cf. The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently... and Why).
But Raccoon doctrine insists upon the centrality of the transcendent position, or psychic third, that is simultaneously born of, and unifies, left and right, east and west, conscious and supraconscious, wave and particle, boxers and briefs.
Bolton notes that "the final destiny of all beings cannot be separated from their origin," which, of course, was the point of the circular structure of my book, in which everything revolves around our descent from, ascent to, and descent back from the Creator. Again, the world of scientific materialism is purely linear, in which case my book could only have ended with, say, an eternal ellipsis (.... .... ....) or perhaps something like pi, which just goes on forever: 3.141592653589793238462643 and on and on and on...
But as Eckhart observed, "Being is God's circle, and in this circle all creatures exist."
Only if there is an end can there be a meaning. And Bolton observes that "if we hold that all things are created by God, this final destiny must likewise be God. Conversely, if there were no Creator, there would be no origin and therefore no ultimate destiny for existing beings" -- in which case, nondualism can by no means offer what we call "salvation," since it goes about systematically obliterating precisely what Christians wish to save!
Bolton does not mention -- but I believe it to be the case -- that we needn't first posit God in order to know that existence is meaningful. Rather, it is possible to have experiences of such surpassing meaning that God must exist by implication. To know, for example, that your child is of infinite worth, is to know that God exists. To know that murder is wrong is to know that God exists. To know that we are surrounded by natural beauty is to know that God exists. Etc. Each of these "bears upon" God, and could not exist in the absence of that cosmic vector of metaphysical transparency that draws us back up to our repenthouse mansion. The celestial eschatolator is everywhere!
Conversely, if the world is not created -- if it is not meaningful -- then the most sublime knowledge or beauty are just illusions that must fall into that first principle's orifice. And the converse is equally true: if one does not know love, or truth, or beauty, one surely will not "see" or know God. Rather, one will assume that the cosmos is every bit as meaningless as one's one life. Thus, the "non-God" is just a projection of an alienated ego prematurely exiled from our cosmic womb with a pew.
For in reality -- as Eckhart knew -- we give birth to God as he gives birth to us, in a kind of circular or spiraling flow of intrinsic -- and deepening -- meaning: "Wherever I am, there is God." The I AM "boils over" from the ground of being, until it then overflows into something surpassing it. It doesn't just flow out of the pot and into the flames below. Rather, "In my flowing-out I entered creation, in my breakthrough I re-enter God." Or, "just as God breaks through me, so do I break through God in return" (Eckhart).
Or just say, "All creatures flow and return to their source. Transformed knowledge and love draw up and lead and bring the soul back into the first source of the One, the Creator of all in heaven and on earth" (Eckhart). Please note that this is not "poetry" but a literal description.
No, this here is poetry:
I know, I know... no Plan at all
Is thought by some to be the plan,
And yet what is this sheen of thought
That seeks to measure more than man?
To stand Once within a meadow,
And feel the hands of wind,
Is ample compensation
For the Gift the years rescind. --Vanderleun
To be continued...