The Meaning of It All
As I have mentioned before, I am quite certain that Schuon wouldn't have been pleased to be associated with the likes of me, because as much as I regard him as a peerless sage and probable saint, the feeling would not by any means have been mutual (not that it should have been).
To the contrary, even before getting into the questionable content, Schuon would have been appalled at my breezy style of metaphysical comedy -- not to mention my freewheeling jazz age theological improvisations in the manner of unschooled American negro musicians -- which he would have no doubt regarded as vulgar and lacking in sobriety (unaware, of course, that comedy is much more difficult than drama, but we'll let it go).
Also, it is hard to envision Schuon allowing one of these infernal blogging machines into his house, but impossible to imagine him permitting open comments so as to expose the perennial wisdom to the grubby likes of anonymous, who cannot help sullying anything that proceeds from his ghastly piehole. Schuon took seriously the parable of pearls and pigs in a way the blogger cannot.
Like Schuon, I try not to draw attention to myself, but nevertheless, if you put yourself out there in any way, the darkness will find you. I'll bet you anything that Schuon had his share of wackos who pestered him with letters and even showed up at his doorstep. At least by blogging, one can keep the crazies at a safe distance and just ridicule them. And if the trolls insist on coming back, it's their problem, not mine. It certainly can't harm the truth they can't touch anyway. Plus, they are an endless source of good-natured comedy.
As I have mentioned before, I have some fundamental disagreements with Schuon in several key areas, including the value of science, the meaning of modernity, the actual conditions in which most premodern men lived (e.g., illiteracy, famine, plague, oppression, unpleasant rashes, bad smells, et al), the relative utility of psychoanalysis, his placement of metaphysics over revelation, the providential role of the United States, his idealization of American Indian culture (and "primordial culture" in general, what with its psychotic levels of violence, not to mention human sacrifice), and the contributions of people like Teilhard and Aurobindo, who tried to reconcile evolution and Spirit (not to suggest that I fully agree with those two either).
And again, even though I have my disagreements with Schuon, I would never dream of placing myself on the same plane as him. Analogously, even though it is easy enough to disagree with Isaac Newton, it would be absurd to place oneself on his level of genius. A schoolboy can know about the theory of relativity, but that hardly makes him more brilliant than Newton.
I think much of my divergence from Schuon has to do with temperament and with culture. Again, he was a man of extreme sobriety. But also, I can't help thinking that my Americanism has much to do with the differences -- and beneath that, a metaphysic that was essentially Vedantin rather than Christian.
In America we value -- and even hold sacred -- certain things that Schuon would have regarded as peripheral at best, diabolical at worst. And perhaps the most important of these is the value of the unique individual. He often rails against individualism as one of the worst features of modernity. I happen to agree, but it very much depends upon the way one looks at it.
There is no question that the individual self as we know it is a modern phenomenon that only emerged on a widespread scale several hundred years ago (cf. Taylor's magisterial Sources of the Self for every last pedantic detail). Now, the question is, was this a good -- and even providential -- thing, or a kind of going off the rails into error, disorder, rebellion, hedonism, nihilism, and Obamism?
Yes. And no. Another modern development Schuon hated -- psychoanalysis -- explains the difference. This is not the place to go into all of the details, but modern psychoanalysis (which I take to be any version that is rooted in neurodevelopmental attachment theory) converges on the health or pathology of the modern self alluded to above. In short, it is not the self that is to be rejected outright, only pathological versions of it (cf. Dr. Sanity's Encouraging a Culture of Narcissism).
Which leads directly to the next topic discussed in Schall's The Order of Things, the order of mind. For it is only possible to say that a particular self is pathological if the self as such has a function, or a proper end. A self that fails to achieve this end is in a state of pathology, no different than a heart that has no rhythm or a pituitary that won't ptoo.
Now, because of its pervasive flatland materialism, the West tends to collapse all of the orders above biology into one murky mess (indeed, sometimes even reducing it all to biology, as the evolutionary psychologists and sociobiologists do).
But in reality, there are several fundamental domains that we must keep separate, including spirit, soul, ego, and mind. Even religion -- especially exoteric religion -- tends to collapse spirit and soul into one entity, which severely limits its explanatory power (similar to how they collapse God and Godhead).
When we talk about the culture war, we are really talking about the irreconcilable differences between theists and nihilists. In the end, you are either one or the other, and if you don't realize it, it is only because you cannot be intellectually honest with yourself and draw out the ultimate implications of your metaphysic. But as we have mentioned in the past, there is a strange convergence of Vedanta and nihilism, since both again devalue the infinite value of the individual, i.e., the soul.
When we say "soul," exactly what are we talking about besides Aretha, Brother Ray, and Al Green? I see it as a sort of "condensation" or "crystalization" that results from the descent and infusion of Spirit into matter (and I believe this would be consistent with the Kabbalistic view, e.g., The Thirteen Petalled Rose). First of all, please note that this involves the descent of a higher dimensional reality into a lower one, so that the lower one can never actually "contain" the higher -- and which is why the light "leaks" from every pore of the illuminated soul.
This is a good place to stop before we get into the purpose of the soul, which converges on the purpose of existence. For one thing a Raccoon believes is that the world is worthy of our being in it, and that we are worthy of having been put here. In short, there is an ultimate purpose to our doing time here in time -- or no purpose at all. In the absence of a transcendent goal, existence is just a fleeting gaol.