Silence About God Goes Without Saying
Indeed, if one does that, then in many ways the matter (and mind) clarifies itself, as certain consequences inevitably flow from one's first principles. Conversely, as Thomas wrote, "An error concerning the Creation ends as false thinking about God." Garbage in, tenure out.
These first principles are, of course, embodied in those tidings from the father shore known as revelation. In fact, this is one of the two central purposes of revelation, i.e., doctrine and method for the purpose of upward salvolution. In other words, revelation provides 1) an adequate representation of the cosmos in its vertical aspect, and 2) a means for ascending it back to the sOurce.
There was a time when it was unnecessary to spell it out in such a cutandry and wideawake manner, because man lived in an almost inconceivably different soul-environment (e.g., ancient or medieval times). Unlike Schuon, however, I do not necessarily believe that this premodern environment was "normative," partly because no terrestrial environment is going to be completely normative for man, who always bears within him traces -- or recollections, or memoirs of the future -- of paradise, i.e., Raccoon Central, or Toots' Tavern in the Sky.
This is why one can say without fear of cliché that it is always the best and worst of times. For example, while I deplore the backdoor judicial redefinition of marriage, I wouldn't even be here to see this fellatious judge's blow to the foundation of western civilization in the absence of modern medicine. It is always Even Steven.
My point is that there was a time -- just yesterday in world-historical terms -- that man was a qualitative being living in a qualitative world. Quantity doesn't really come into the picture in any appreciable way until the conclusion of the Middle Ages and the rediscovery of Aristotle. Again, Thomas's project in many ways involved trying to keep these two worlds -- empirical and spiritual -- from flying apart, but fly apart they did. As a result, man found himself living in an increasingly quantified -- which is to say, abstract -- world.
Thomas "emphatically accepted" the reality of this new, external world, and bent all of his intellect toward the articulation of a synthetic vision in which it could be harmoniously integrated with the vertical world, or the Great Indoor.
For it is not healthy for man to live in an analogical world of only symbols; but nor is it healthy for him to live in a barren world of pure quantity, stripped of its symbolic character. Rather, it is healthy for man to live in reality, which always includes both. After all, there is a reason why we have two very different cerebral hemispheres that resolve themselves into a Higher Third (or third I).
It cannot be overemphasized that this quantitative world is not the real world, nor is it man's proper world. Remember what we said above about doctrine and method vis-a-vis revelation. The quantification that ends in the misosophy of scientism or metaphysical Darwinism begins in method, but then reifies the results of that method.
These human abstractions are then seen to be concrete, when they are anything but. Just because this or that scientific theory can explain the phenomena under its aspect is no proof of its truth. There are countless false theories that adequately explain some aspect of the phenomenal world. In fact, the progress of science involves the successive discarding of false theories. No real scientist would ever conflate this method with "truth." To paraphrase Thomas, the clarity of one's terms should not blind one to the inexhaustible mystery of stuff.
This grave subject is covered in my book, so I don't want to undertake a re-hearse of that corpse here, dig? The point is that man's true home is the imagination. But this imagination must be furnished with the proper materials in order to function as it should, just as our innate reason cannot function in the absence of material provided from the extra-rational world. In other words, the choice of what to reason about cannot be reduced to reason.
Now, it should go without saying that revelation speaks to man's divine imagination. Which is why, if the Real Estate of one's mythopoetic imagination is enfeebled or foreclosed, one will be barred from the nonlocal world disclosed by revelation.
Remember, revelation is a means, not an end. Religion is always about something that is not religion. What we call a "religionist" is just the flip side of scientism. One might call it "religiolatry," since it turns one's religion into God, when religion is the means to God. See "Islam."
As Pieper writes, "we simply cannot succeed in living" in a world "wholly divorced from all supramundane calls. It is likewise impossible for us to live, without uneasiness, in terms of a 'religionistic' religiousness wholly divorced from all obligations to the world." Man lives under the auspices of two great principles -- or a Principle and its existential prolongation -- i.e., God and world.
But again, because man -- at least postmodern western man -- finds himself in this alien quantitative world, he needs to have things spelled out for him.
Thus, we begin our metaphysical adventure before the beginning, with the necessary distinction between Being and Beyond-Being, or "between the ontological and existentiating Principle and the supra-ontological essence" (Schuon). And the reason we begin here is because the Absolute is beyond name and form, untied by any tongue and untainted by anytroll.
You may think that this deustinction is unnecessary, but Thomas himself drew a bright cloud between the God we may know vs. God as he is in himsoph, and he was entirely correct to do so: "This is what is ultimate in the human knowledge of God: to know that we do not know God." God is mirrored in the herebelow, most especially in man, but an image is not the thing itself. We are only dusty mirrorcles of the Absolute.
To be continued....