Reality and Illusion in Science and Religion
This distinction, according to Schuon, "concerns all domains of the universe," whether scientific or religious. After all, science only developed after it was understood that aspects of the universe could be abstractly described by excluding whole dimensions of contingent being e.g., the laws of physics.
For example, it is possible to describe, say, an apple, with mathematical equations, but at the cost of ignoring what an apple tastes like, let alone how Eve was tempted by one.
It seems that there are two types of uniqueness, one essential and the other accidental. A thing, in order to exist, must be something and not another. Every rock is different, but the differences don't amount to much. They don't add to or detract from the rockiness of the rock.
Similarly, we can talk about "humanity," even though each human being is unique. However, this raises the interesting point that among all existing things, only for human beings is their uniqueness essential (or is their essence unique) and not accidental.
In other words -- and this is the original sin of leftism -- the unique individual is prior to the abstract and anonymous group/state. (And mother-infant and husband-wife are the prior groups upon which the larger group is founded; here again, the left wishes to destroy this truth, and impose their own warped version of reality on the rest of us.)
As we have discussed before, there is the essence and the form. God is essential being, but in order to communicate himself to man, he must take form.
Now, exoteric (or conventional) religiosity tends to overvalue the form, sometimes to the exclusion -- or at least occlusion -- of the essence. This is why it can be difficult to relate to theologians who only think "mythologically," which is somewhat like trying to do physics without math.
But again, this was the situation before the development of modern science.
Consider medicine, which revolved around Galen's ideas about balancing the four humours, or theories of classical alchemy involving earth, water, air, and fire. These terms are too concrete to do the descriptive work required of them. Instead of being explanations, a deeper theory was needed that explained their existence.
This is not to say that a conventional theologian cannot be inspired; but there is inspiration and the form taken by the inspiration, two very different things, one vertical, the other horizontal.
Schuon writes of how "religious enthusiasm, coupled with a thirst for information about heavenly things and a quasi-conventional over-estimation of religious mythology as such, cannot but give rise to a margin of dreams, not to say illusions."
This would explain my discomfort with the so-called "religious right." These are usually nice people, even though I cannot relate to their theology.
Schuon notes that "Christian theology rightly teaches that such mirages are not opposed to sanctity as long as they are simply human and not diabolical." Nevertheless, they are mirages, or "pious fantasies," in the same way that water is a kind of mirage for the chemist who understands it as H2O.
But again, there is much more to water than what can be captured or conveyed by H2O, so in reality, there is a kind of epistemological dialectic between water ←→ H2O. Clearly, the chemist would know nothing of H2O if he weren't first confronted with the reality of water. So which is more "real?"
This is about the best analogy for the exoteric-esoteric dialectic that I can imagine. In other words, as applied to the higher world disclosed and described by religion, esoterism is analogous to science, whereas exoterism is analogous to empiricism.
And just as we would know nothing of H2O without first experiencing water, we can know nothing of esoterism (or a limited amount) without the exoteric clothing, or "veils" of religion.
Thus, pure esoterism in and itself could never "be" a religion, any more than one can take a shower in the equation H2O. Schuon says that esoterism is actually "without a homeland," and that it simply tries to establish itself "wherever it can."
I believe this was the attitude of our Unknown Friend, who was a Catholic -- and probably became Catholic -- in order to have a proper "home" for his esoterism. And he emphasized that not only were both necessary -- rigid skeleton and beating heart, Peter and John, spirit and letter -- but that the institution was by far the more important of the two.
And this is because holy water is not just H2O, just as the communion wafer is not just a quantity of carbohydrate. Call them mirrorages, in which you may see yoursoph.