On Making Oneself Useful to a Useless Mankind
One final thought about Hitchens, since that's where we left off yesterday. I only mention it because it happens to have relevance to the subject of faith, and how only the rigorously self-consistent nihilist can live without it. In Hitchens' case (and he is hardly the only one), he lacks both the intellectual consistency and personal insight to embrace the true nothingness he commends to everyone else.
Horowitz concludes his lengthy piece with the observation that "One of the oddities of Hitchens’s compartmentalized life is that the author of God Is Not Great and of its brazen anathema of a subtitle -- How Religion Poisons Everything -- should be so passionately attached to this political version of an earthly redemption" (referring to his avowed Marxism).
Actually, I don't find this "odd," or even "ironic," but entirely predictable, for how can someone hate as passionately as Hitchens does without some basis in love, however perverse or disappointed? In fancying himself to be such an ironist, he takes evident delight in attacking religion, but without ever realizing that in so doing, he is demolishing his own, for no one places more hope and faith in an impossible fantasy than the Marxist.
The problem with a mere polemicist and a "stylist" is that one cannot really learn anything from them. Everything Hitchens has spent his life writing will perish with him, because even if you judge it on its own plane as "stylistic," it is not nearly enough so to compete with any of the true literary masters.
Rather, it falls more into the category of "angry pamphleteer," except with elegant grammar and sometimes clever put-downs. But in the end, it was all a waste of his obvious (God-given!) intelligence.
And again, please bear in mind that this is not about Hitchens, but about anyone who insists on the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth, for to believe such nonsense is to make one's own ego a God. I might add that from a psychoanalytic standpoint, one might say that such a person most likely has unconscious issues around omniscience, which is simply inflected through the ego. In other words, they still implicitly believe in their own unconscious, infantile godhood. In this reverse version of Genesis, the omnipotent baby-god exiles mommy-Eve and daddy-Adam from infantile paradise for the sin of reminding him of his helplessness and dependency on them. How dare they!
As Schuon expresses it, such an approach "exalts fallen man and not man as such," which results in making oneself "as useful as possible to a humanity as useless as possible."
Do you see the necessity of this equation? If Hitchens -- or anyone else -- is correct in his crude materialism, then humanity is quite literally useless. But he nevertheless bent all of his talent toward making himself useful by helping people realize their cosmic uselessness. Why then can't he just laugh at himself and at his own absurdity? Why all the anger? I don't even know what to compare it to -- perhaps like an AIDS patient who tries to infect as many people as possible so they too can understand that all is futile and that they will soon be dead.
Being a stylist is fine, but if one is going to devote oneself to writing, wouldn't one first want to be a "substantist?" But because he wasn't the latter, his writing will again soon be forgotten. In contrast, -- and I hope you'll understand that this is not a statement about me, but about the subject matter -- I am one hundred percent certain that someone, somewhere, will always be reading this blog, long after I'm gone. In fact, I wouldn't spend all this time on it if that weren't the case.
Again, please understand where I am coming from. A hundred years from now, no one is going to care about Hitchens and his Marxist heroes, his homosexual affairs, his hates, and his socialist fantasies of sugar candy mountain. But human beings -- so long as they remain human beings, which is admittedly a fifty-fifty proposition -- will always be interested in God, faith, hope, love, wisdom, courage, justice, temperance, beauty, transcendental truth, ultimate meaning, etc. So it's not about me, except insofar as I am a live wire between O and my readers.
My model is someone like Schuon, who spent his life simply doing his best to remind Man what he truly wants and needs to know, but in a dispassionate manner, free of any investment in how he was regarded by others. But I cannot imagine a world so completely off its axis that some small minority, however tiny, will not eagerly imbibe his works like water in the desert. And the same goes for other fully O-therized Spiritual Doctors from throughout history. I'm sure that no regular readers fail to realize that I am both standing on the shoulders of giants and in the shadow of their common source.
Damn, sometimes it's difficult to confess one's humility without sounding grandiose, isn't it? But I fully relate to something Unknown Friend wrote, and I hope you do too. The point is that in standing on those shoulders and in that shadow, we take our place in line as a living link between them.
So ultimately it's not about the writing, but about the ability to consciously stand in and be a witness to this transcendent stream of perennial and therefore indispensable truth. This truth courses through -- can only course through -- the human heart, but in the form of "potentialities" or "pre-conceptions" that need to be filled out by experience, or being.
Absent the re-cognition and assimilation of this truth, man literally has no reason for being (or just a made up one). I can perhaps help one to identify and awaken these potentialities, but the rest is up to you (and God, of course). Once you establish this flow, then you yourself are "in the stream," and qualified to "baptize" (so to speak) others in its waters. But only if they sincerely and selflessly seek it, and only if they are qualified to receive it. If they're not, then you're both wasting your time.
Again: we recommend our writing to no one, especially you, fathead, so you needn't remind us that it isn't helpful. We know that already. Can't we just agree to agree?
I'm looking for the exact quote from UF, but I don't think I'll find it. But I'd recommend re-reading the whole of Letter IX, The Hermit, to get a sense of where I'm coming from. Come to think of it, I'm probably past due for my annual re-read of MOTT.
I suppose this one will do: "The initiate is not someone who knows everything. He is a person who bears the truth within a deeper level of his consciousness, not as an intellectual system, but rather as a level in his being.... This truth-imprint manifests as unshakeable certainty, i.e., as faith in the sense of the voice of the presence of truth."
This is why for the Raccoon there can be double-entry bookkeeping, no rupture between being and knowing, as in the case of Hitchens. Rather, one must not only know what one is, but be what one knows. Nothing I write is worthwhile if I am a hypocrite, which is to say, if there is a gulf between who I am and what I write, for that is self-deception or charlatanism or worse.
I'm still not saying it right. Here is another angle, presented by Schuon, who again had no interest in putting forth novel ideas but only in transmitting perennial truth, which, rather than exalting the ego, extinguishes it: "Objectivity is the essence of intelligence," which is why "in many instances to be objective is to die a little."
Know also that "Everything has already been said, and well said; but one must always recall it anew, and in recalling it one must do what has already been done: to actualize in thought certitudes contained not in the thinking ego, but in the transpersonal substance of human intelligence."
It sounds like a paradox, but it is true: it is precisely because we cannot know everything that we can know anything. Conversely, in claiming to know it all, the materialist actually knows nothing, because there is no truth to know.
In reality, truth is what exists, and what exists is true. Knowledge is an effect of Truth, which is to say Reality, so that the inexhaustible knowability of things rests upon their absolute unknowability -- or, the Absolute's knowledge of them, which is none other than their "createdness." Only because you are created can you be so stupid. Or wise, depending on the case.
Along these lines, Pieper quotes Pascal, who wrote that "If you do not take the trouble to know the truth, there is enough truth at hand so that you can live in peace. But if you crave it with all your heart, then it is not enough to know it." Rather, one knows that there can be no end to it, and that "those who truly throw their souls open to the whole of truth expect... that there will always be an additional new light beyond what they already know" (Pieper).
Bottom line: to live in faith is to throw open one's being to O, and to realize that O has already thrown itself open to oneself. Then just go with the flow.