Truth Decay and Mental Hygiene
As there are diverse forms of beauty and goodness, there are diverse forms of truth. That itself is a true statement, but what sort of truth?
Another way of asking it is, "what is the truth about Truth?" There is empirical truth, rational truth, aesthetic truth, moral truth, revealed truth, even a person who claimed to be Truth. Given these diverse expressions, are we really dealing with the same thing? Or is it some kind of failure of language that causes us to confuse these categories?
Obviously, there must be some relationship between truth and intelligence, so that even if it is only in some vague, implicit sense, to say "intelligence" is to imply "truth" (and vice versa). For, as we have noted before, if intelligence doesn't know truth, then it isn't very intelligent. And yet, we know full well that there is a disconnect between human intelligence and truth, especially among the more tenured among us. The typical liberal intellectual not only believes things that are untrue, but things that could not possibly be true.
Naturally, the intellect must be subordinate to Truth. Thus, real intelligence -- assuming it knows Truth -- should automatically engender a spirit of humility, because it is aware of its inferior position. But due to a number of character flaws -- mostly pride -- the intellectual may come to value his own intellect more than the truth that may be known through it.
This is again why we should value good character over intelligence, since good character implies a kind of intelligence that is faithful to the transcendent object of human existence, whereas a dismembered and ontologically isolated intelligence entails no such concordance. The former implies "cardiac comprehension," or intellection, which transcends mere mental knowing. A truly intelligent person is a humble person, since he does not fundamentally seek recognition but transcendence: "he is interested in surpassing himself; hence in pleasing God more than men" (Schuon).
Schuon summarizes what has gone wrong with the "unintelligently intelligent" person, whereby "the most capable mind may be the vehicle of the grossest error":
"The paradoxical phenomenon of even a 'brilliant' intelligence being the vehicle of error is explained first of all by the possibility of a mental operation that is exclusively 'horizontal,' hence lacking all awareness of 'vertical' relationships; however, the definition 'intelligence' still applies, because there is still a discernment between something essential and something secondary, or between a cause and an effect." But the systematic, even intentional, exclusion of the vertical -- and we see this all the time, especially on the left -- "creates a void that the irrational necessarily comes to fill." (cf. The Varieties of Liberal Enthusiasm, and a tail waggle to Mizz E.)
And this is why irreligious people tend to be so extraordinarily irrational in their beliefs. It is not that religious people cannot also be irrational. Hardly! But that is the fault of the individual believer and of fallen humanity as such.
A proper Christian is never surprised when he encounters someone who believes nonsense -- whether religious or irreligious, it doesn't matter. Indeed, he expects it, since his religiosity both predicts and accounts for it. But secular extremists such as Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens are surprised by irrationality -- as if human beings are not fallen and not prone to inhabit illusions (secular extremism being one of the most pernicious illusions).
Because to be a secular extremist is to be a fully horizontal man, and thus, to commit not only spiritual, but intellectual, suicide. It is the ultimate cosmic inversion, for it is to elevate our fallen state to the highest virtue. It is "to love only terrestrial life, to the detriment of the ascending and celestial path," to be "exteriorized," and to "love only outer things, to the detriment of moral and spiritual values." Ultimately it is "to sin against transcendence, thus it is to forget God and consequently the meaning of life; and outwardness is to sin against immanence, thus to forget our immortal soul and consequently its vocation" (Schuon)
And finally, it must be insisted that this willful horizontality engenders a kind of uniquely "human animality" that all persons with activated cOOnvision can see "is situated beneath animality as such, for animals innocently follow their immanent law and thereby enjoy a certain natural and indirect contemplation of the Divine Prototype; whereas there is decadence, corruption and subversion when man voluntarily reduces himself to his animality" (Schuon).
Schuon points out that there are four functions of intelligence: objectivity, subjectivity, activity, and passivity. In the human mind, these correspond to reason, intuition, imagination, and memory, respectively.
To be “objective” -- as in everyday science -- means that our knowledge "is inspired by data which are exterior to it." This is referred to as the "correspondence" theory of truth, and it certainly has its place. But to imagine that intelligence is nothing more than a mirroring of the external material world is to make intelligence subordinate to matter instead of Truth. Thus, to remain mired on this concrete level of reality is to codify stupidity in the manner of the devout atheists referenced above. It is to elevate a small portion of truth and a limited aspect of intelligence to the totality.
But there is also subjective intelligence, which "operates through existential analogy," as in, say, scripture ("as above, so below"). Scripture is only "effective," so to speak, because it is not ultimately about "the world" but about us. You might say that it is the truth about humans, including the world humans inevitably create in the absence of this saving knowledge.
The capacity to know this kind of truth is not fundamentally different from our ability, say, to know the subjectivity of another. For example, as a psychologist, my primary data is never merely rational, empirical, verbal, or objective. Rather, it is direct and intuitive, mind-to-mind. Only here do we begin to enter the specifically human world.
For example, an autistic person -- the real kind, not the newer variants that may or may not be related to true autism -- is specifically barred full access to this human world. A severely autistic person is a true materialist, in that he lives in a bizarre sea of objects from which he cannot escape "upward" or "inward," so to speak. This transition was captured vividly, if apocryphally, in the film The Miracle Worker, when Helen first makes the connection between concrete water and abstract wetness. Suddenly she gains access to a whole new world: the human world.
But something equally dramatic happens -- does it not? -- when we suddenly gain access to the "divine world" through our comprehension of revelation. There is definitely a "phase transition" in spirtitual growth, where one rather suddenly goes from knowledge to understanding (i.e., the "second birth"). To realize that this understanding will continue to deepen and grow is the thrill of a lifetime, as we enjoy the flow of energies from the Great Attractor along our keel.
As water leads to wetness, the experience of the divine (or of the sacred, the holy, the transcendentally beautiful) leads to Divinity. All are passages out, up, and in, however you wish to conceptualize it. But the exact word is not of fundamental importance. Rather, the experience is. Let your words be shaped by the divine object and anchored in the ground of real experience, or of O-->(n).
Now, in its active mode, intelligence "relives, recreates or combines the possibilities which are known to it, and this is the imagination." Conversely, in its passive mode, the intelligence "registers and preserves the data which present themselves to it." Thus, at once we appreciate the subtle balance of, on the one hand, fixed dogma and orthodoxy, and on the other, our active engagement of it with our higher imagination. Revelation must be "worked over" in the higher imagination.
I believe you will find that all of the greatest theologians are great precisely because they respect and maintain this subtle balance between imagination and doctrine. To default on the side of dogma creates a sterile conformity with no possibility of organic spiritual growth watered by the grace of personal understanding, or (↑↓); while to default in the other direction places one in the solipsistic and narcissistic realm of the new age fantasists such as Deepak and Co.