I AM, Therefore I Think
Which reminds me. On a purely psychological level, the final net is the Mother, or M-Other (see comments beginning about halfway down for further belaboration of the point). In order to understand and appreciate this, you must go much deeper than the usual associations of the word "mother." Rather, you have to think like an infant, which is of course difficult to do, since, in order to do it, you must abandon speech, logic, memory, and boundaries. Yes, sort of like Howard Dean.
But what's left, you ask, when one does that? That's a good question, and one that people such as Melanie Klein, W.R. Bion, and D.W. Winnicott set out to answer. Freud took psychological investigation back to the oedipal stage (ages 3 to 5), but regarded the period prior to that as a sort of dark and impenetrable jungle. In order to go there, it required a kind of inspired visionary lunacy, which is where Melanie Klein comes in. For in order to see into that dark world, one must be "broken" -- either willingly or unwillingly -- along one of its fault lines, so to speak, permitting one to either enter into it, or, more likely, to be flooded by its primitive material. Then it's a case of sink or swim.
I won't go into all of the details, which would be impossible anyway. The point is that human beings are ontologically open at both ends, the "above" and the "below." Only the most naive sort of rationalist could believe that his ego is a thing unto itself, unconnected to any other realities and requiring no further explanation. But a rationalist begins with reason, which is his whole problem.
The more someone is identified with his empirical ego, the more closed off he will be to the unconscious on the one hand, but the transcendent on the other. Either way, once you get over (or under) yourself and realize that your ego is a kind of floating condensation on a roiling sea of consciousness, then it's not any kind of stretch to believe in the thing called God, but which I prefer to call O, in order to avoid tainting God with egoic associations. We want to know O as it is, not as the ego thinks it is.
In a discussion of the differences between philosophy, theology, and gnosis (or intellection, if that word makes you uncomfortable), Schuon correctly points out that in one sense, the differences are relative, but in another sense, absolute. In the contemporary world, the differences tend to be quite stark, since philosophy is usually reduced to some variety of rationalism, while theology is reduced to dogmatic pneumababble about things no one can prove, but which must be taken on faith (the same way the rationalist must take his egoic reason on faith).
And intellection doesn't even enter the picture -- and not only for the profane thinker, which goes without saying, but for the "religious thinker" as well. Which is why he is not really a thinker; either that, or only a thinker. In other words, when the ego thinks about spiritual realities, it tends to generate stupidity, since the ego is of a "worldly substance" and not well adapted to celestial realities that have their source above the world.
But as Schuon points out, the differences between these modes are "only relative when one understands by 'philosophy' the fact of thinking, by 'theology' the fact of speaking dogmatically about God and religious things, and by gnosis the fact of presenting pure metaphysics..."
I think I would modify -- or expand upon -- this slightly, in that I would define theology as speaking "about God," whereas gnosis is speaking in God (or the Holy Spirit), so to speak.
Better yet, in order to avoid any misleading associations (and as fully explained in my book), I would designate theology O-->(k), and gnosis O-->(n), for we're really talking about two very different types of knowledge, and two very different means of accessing them. For example, anyone can acquire dogmatic (k) about O. This is not to put it down, only to draw a distinction between it and (n), which must be "undergone" as opposed to "acquired."
We've talked about theology and gnosis. Where does this leave garden-variety philosophy? That depends. If it comes from the ontically closed ego, then it amounts to what I call in my book (k)-->ø. That is, instead of beginning with "reality" -- a reality that clearly transcends, even dwarfs, the ego, it begins with the empirical ego and its little reasoning faculty. It then applies its reason to "the world," but it's not really the world -- i.e., O -- just a little egoic representation of it.
This is why the ego necessarily reduces O to ø, irrespective of how intelligent the person is. If one imagines that one can map reality with reason, one has rendered oneself stupid, for one is simply engaging in one of the numberless varieties of (k)-->ø. Get in line.
Schuon makes another critical point about the difference between profane philosophy, or (k)-->ø, and gnosis, or O-->(n). That is, -- ironically -- the former can't really know anything with certainty. Except for one thing: that it doesn't know, or is not sure.
In this regard, Descartes was absolutely correct. If we limit ourselves to the ego, we can only begin with the radical skepticism of doubting that we even exist. But since we can doubt, then we exist. As a result, the rationalist is always fighting against nagging doubts about his own real existence, and certainly about his significance. This is what happens when you put Descartes before the Force.
So rationalism is founded upon the principle of doubting that we exist, which is a pretty paltry thing to hold onto. In contrast, theology is founded upon the a priori certainty of dogma, which for many people is enough: God said it, I believe it, that settles it. Nothing wrong with skiing between the lines as opposed to extreme seeking in the ungroomed areas of the Sacred Mountain.
But gnosis or intellection begins with another kind of certainty, the certainty of metaphysical truths that cannot not be, but which must again be "undergone" and assimilated. Indeed, Truth must be suffered, or as Petey prefers to say, sophered. Why is that? Because to know a truth -- i.e., genuine objectivity -- is death to the ego. But once the ego is out of the way, it doesn't hurt at all. In fact, it kind of tickles.