Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hollowed Be Thy Name

One cannot help defining things, but care must be taken not to limit them too much in defining them. --F. Schuon

I don't know about you, but I'm still in Canto XI, in the midst of Dante's invocation and paraphrasing of the Lord's Prayer. The question is, why is the Name to be hallowed -- or praised, as Dante puts it?

Hallow: to make holy or set apart for holy use; venerate.

Pope Benedict has a helpful meditation on the subject in his Jesus of Nazareth. Please note that the reasons for preserving the sanctity of the Name are in no way sentimental, or "procedural," or merely customary, but very much rooted in metaphysical principle.

First, God -- the Absolute -- has a name. Secondly, we cannot know this name unless it is disclosed to us. It is not for us to name God; for one thing, doing so would presume knowledge of what we are talking about.

In other words, when we name something, it is founded upon recognition of a thing's boundaries -- how it is set apart from other things. But since the Absolute can have no boundaries -- nor is it a thing among other things -- it can have no personal name we could give it.

Furthermore, since the Absolute is One, it can have only one name. As the Pope expresses it, God is not "one among many; he cannot have one name among others."

In an important sense, God cannot actually have a name. Rather, he must have a name that is simultaneously no-name -- a kind of algebraic "place marker," or empty category, that we may use to talk about him, without pretending to know what we're talking about.

Thus, when Moses asks his name, God simply says "I AM THAT (or WHO) I AM"; but my friends call me "I AM" for short. This designation is "My name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations."

The Pope says that this name conveys the idea that the Absolute is "without any qualification": it "is a name and a non-name at one and the same time."

Thus, the icandescend Israelights were "perfectly right in refusing to utter this self-designation of God," instead giving Him the unpronounceable tetragrammaton "so as to avoid degrading it to the level of names of pagan deities."

And now you know, my children, why we prefer to call it O. This pneumaticon was first used by Toots Mondello, who was a little dyslexic, and thought it read "hollowed be thy name." Since nothing is more hollow than an empty circle, the unname stuck. But it serves its purpose, as Raccoons go one step further than Jews in preserving the name of the unnameable.

It was always presumptuous and wrong -- and defeated the purpose -- to convert the nameless name to the name "Jehovah." Such chutzpah!

As the Pope says, Israel always regarded the Name as "mysterious and unutterable." To treat it as "just any old name" is to drag the mystery of God "down to the level of some familiar item within a common history of religions."

This is, of course, the ubiquitous problem of atheists, who necessarily deny the existence of some pagan god of their imagination. They are correct to deny this entity, but presumptuous in the extreme if they pretend that this personal god is the Absolute -- the I AM.

The Absolute is. To deny that It Is is to deny that anything at all essentially is. It is to sunder the very possibility of knowledge and meaningful discourse at the roots. It is the cosmic nul de slack of Truth.

God is not the object of my reason, nor of my sensibility, but of my being. God exists for me in the same act in which I exist (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).

One of the metaphysical principles that flows from the Name is: I AM, therefore I think. Thought is posterior to, and rooted in, Being, not vice versa. That Being the case, we really can know reality, whether through science, aesthetics, mysticism, or other modes. The I AM guarantees it "to all generations."

It strikes me as a matter of some consequence that the more accurate translation appears to be I AM WHO I AM, which immediately suggests an interior, as opposed to THAT, which implies an exterior, or IT, that we can somehow place boundaries around.

Simply put, THAT is an object, whereas WHO is a subject. And to say "subject" is to say "relationship," for there can be no relationship in the absence of the subject, only external interaction, like billiard balls knocking together.

In the words of Don Colacho, If we believe in God we should not say, “I believe in God,” but rather, “God believes in me.” We cannot relate to God unless he first relates to us.

The Pope agrees that the Name "creates the possibility of address or invocation," and thus "establishes relationship." In other words, "God establishes a relationship between himself and us. He puts himself within reach of our invocation. He enters into relationship with us and enables us to be in relationship with him."

However, in doing so, he is creating the possibility -- no, the certainty -- that his Name will be dragged through the mud, man being what he is.

You know the mentality -- they build you up in order to tear you down. The worst offenders are without question the religious idolators who hijack the Name and essentially engage in cosmic identity theft.

Repetition of the "Jesus prayer" of Orthodox Christianity is considered the very essence of the faith, so long as one is aware of the underlying principle, which again comes down to a name God has revealed to us.

Schuon writes that the Name, "when ritually pronounced, is mysteriously identified with the Divinity. It is in the Divine Name that there takes place the mysterious meeting of the created and the Uncreate, the contingent and the Absolute, the finite and the Infinite. The Divine Name is thus a manifestation of the Supreme Principle, or to speak still more plainly, it is the Supreme Principle manifesting Itself; it is not therefore in the first place a manifestation, but the Principle Itself."

12 Comments:

Blogger Van said...

"The Absolute is. To deny that It Is is to deny that anything at all essentially is. It is to sunder the very possibility of knowledge and meaningful discourse at the roots. It is the cosmic nul de slack of Truth."

Absolutely True.

4/14/2011 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"One of the metaphysical principles that flows from the Name is: I AM, therefore I think. Thought is posterior to, and rooted in, Being, not vice versa. That Being the case, we really can know reality, whether through science, aesthetics, mysticism, or other modes. The I AM guarantees it "to all generations.""

And now you know why modern philosophy, which developed out of "I think, therefore I am", is fundamentally opposed to all that is Good, Beautiful and True.

How else could things have developed from that 'principle', than as they have?

4/14/2011 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

I think it can be gleaned from the Bible itself, never mind archeology, that the early Israelites did indeed think of God as Yahweh, the strongest of the gods who could beat up the other gods any day. Only after perhaps a hundred thousands Sabbaths had did the idea slowly seep in that the Most High was not just in a class of his own, but a category of His own, and eventually beyond categories. For all I know the process may be still ongoing in Judaism.

This is one of the things that makes me cautious about the desire to go "back to basics", in Christianity the desire to live in the 1st century, or (failing a reliable time machine) imagine doing so. This can be a refreshing and useful exercise, but... I think a lot of things that were implicit back then have gradually released their active ingredients into humanity over the centuries since, much like in the good old covenant.

And yet we have come so short. But one thing at a time.

4/14/2011 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Schuon writes that the Name, "when ritually pronounced, is mysteriously identified with the Divinity. It is in the Divine Name that there takes place the mysterious meeting of the created and the Uncreate, the contingent and the Absolute, the finite and the Infinite. The Divine Name is thus a manifestation of the Supreme Principle, or to speak still more plainly, it is the Supreme Principle manifesting Itself; it is not therefore in the first place a manifestation, but the Principle Itself." "

Hallowed be thy name.

If that does not draw reverence from you, nihil will.

4/14/2011 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

As the Pope expresses it, God is not "one among many; he cannot have one name among others."

I never paid much attention to popes prior to JP II, in fact, I didn't pay much attention to him until I heard him leading a chant on probably his first visit to the U.S., "John Paul Two, he loves you." I thought that was pretty cool.

Pope Benedict seems like the real deal as well.

4/14/2011 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

This is one of the things that makes me cautious about the desire to go "back to basics", in Christianity the desire to live in the 1st century, or (failing a reliable time machine) imagine doing so.

Magnus, that's an excellent point. And yet there are so many who long for just that - not only amongst the progressives who would bring the world into a new dark age, but among many of the faithful who imagine that if only the simplicity of olden times were again the norm, all would be well.

They forget that for the mustard seed to be of any value, it must be allowed to grow, and for the leaven to be of use it must make the bread rise. Not only in the course of a lifetime, but over the generations of mankind. After only 2000 years, who among us can say that the tree has reached the fullness of its growth? And should it need pruning, who is big enough to wield those shears and make the right cuts?

4/14/2011 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Magnus said: And yet we have come so short. But one thing at a time.

In eternity everything happens at once.

I know what you mean as I used to be a fairly vehement First-Century-Christianity advocate, and it is important that we not "lose [our] first love". As you say, though, we have to realize we are at a different place, and we have yet a long way to go.

4/14/2011 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous scory said...

It seems to me that man's knowledge of God is always evolving. The Truth of God is eternal and unchanging but its fullness is unfathomable so men pray and practice and study and meditate and the body of revelation keeps expanding as we plumb the bottomless depths.

As I understand it one of the rather large features of Judeo/Christian thought is that the world can be known. Because God created it as an orderly construct obeying laws that can be discovered and studied and used by man to improve his lot (or sometimes, when misused, make his lot even more miserable). By learning the laws and relationships of the material world we can gain insight into God Himself. The interconnectedness of the manifestations of creation are amazing. Only the mind of God could conceive, design and then create such marvelously intricate and subtle systems. As I recall it was for precisely this reason - that God can be approached through His creation - that scientific methods were developed and used. This ideal has been largely lost and replaced by the material idolatry of what Bob has labled "Scientism".

So I am not shocked when humans say they have received revelation. For some reason this does cause consternation among some who apparently believe that God's efforts to reveal Himself to mankind ended some 2,000 years ago with the Ascension. I do not believe God is a being who would deny His children the greatest gift of all which is the gift of Himself. The ancient scriptures are very important in part because they provide us with a standard by which to judge claimed revelation and to sift the true from the false.

4/14/2011 01:17:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

>>It was always presumptuous and wrong -- and defeated the purpose -- to convert the nameless name to the name "Jehovah<<

I wonder though if the name Jehovah did not refer to the Absolute, but rather to the then manifesting aspect of the Absolute, the God of the green earth, so to speak. This possibly was the aspect of the Absolute which at that time could not manifest fully through humans, or any human for that matter. It was an aspect of the Absolute mostly exterior to human affairs and thus could speak to Moses and affect human affairs through such as the parting of the Red Sea.

With Christ, however, the Absolute could and did manifest fully through a human, accomplishing It's ultimate Purpose. (thus blocking satan for a period of time). Since then, Jehovah no longer exists. The Absolute waits for the rest of us to imitate Christ so that we too can fully manifest the Divine.

Also, this means, in a sense, that Christ is now Jehovah, for all power in heaven and earth was given to Him Who overcame the world.

Or so I perceive it.

4/14/2011 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Incidentally, thanks for taking the extra bit of time on this Canto, Bob. I only reached the Pope's chapter on the Our Father this morning, so the timing couldn't have been better from where I'm sitting :)

4/14/2011 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"One cannot help defining things, but care must be taken not to limit them too much in defining them. --F. Schuon

Excellent advice! By limiting in defining we tend to insert our self instead of realizing what is (Truth)(perhaps ego is a better description than self but you guys gno what I mean).

Okay, now it seems to make less sense after I inserted my 2 cents...which is no doubt for the best.
So I'll quit inserting and take it at phase value. :^)

Great post and series, Bob!

4/15/2011 02:13:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"If that does not draw reverence from you, nihil will."

Good un, Van! :^)

4/15/2011 02:14:00 AM  

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