Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Restoration of Faith through Reason

Books such as Meditations on the Tarot are generally regarded with suspicion by the typical religious believer, perhaps rightfully so, since it seems that there are no doctrinal safeguards once one is off the groomed slopes of the cosmic mountain and engaged in extreme seeking.

At that point "anything goes," or at least so it seems. There is no way to determine whether the person is speaking truth, whether he is a narcissistic sociopath trawling for attention, or whether he is just eccentric or even insane. Better to just stick with what we know: straight up scriptural revelation, even if it often clashes with other truths of the world, and sometimes flirts with frank absurdity.

This occurred to me in thinking about the idea of a universal metaphysic that is revealed through religion, even while religion can never be reduced to a mere metaphysic. As Schuon writes, "all esoterism appears to be tinged with heresy from the point of view of the corresponding exoterism," for it gives the appearance of man elevating himself above the plain meaning of this or that revelation. It seems to be an invitation for clever knaves to justify anything.

And yet, man has a mind and therefore a will to truth. This mind -- our most precious inheritance -- seeks not just information but understanding. As such, it is impossible for me to believe that our Creator would want us to assent to any doctrine that makes less than total sense to us.

In other words, he wants us to assent not just with body and heart -- or with will and sentiment -- but with our minds. And a mind that assents to what it doesn't understand has devolved to mere will, i.e., the will to believe. This has its place, of course, but faith should be a prelude to understanding, not an end in itself.

This occurred to me while speaking with a friend who is engaged in a "spiritual search," but who is already deeply involved in the Jewish faith. He was raised in a strictly orthodox world, and although he is now involved in a less rigorous branch, he nevertheless has obvious problems with what he regards as a kind of minute attention to iterations of the Law -- for example, avoiding broccoli since there might be a tiny insect lodged inside the flower, or not tearing perforated toilet tissue on the sabbath because it is a form of "work."

That said, he greatly appreciates the wisdom, certain traditions and rituals, the community, and the transmission of values to his children. But in Judaism, one has no right to pick and choose the parts one likes, for where does one draw the line? It reminds me of Neusner's A Rabbi Talks With Jesus, in which he listens to the Sermon on the Mount with "Jewish ears" and likes much of what he hears. But when Jesus places himself above the Law and puts himself in place of the Torah, it's a deal breaker.

In a way, we might say that there is a kind of dialectical flow from experience to doctrine to experience and back to doctrine. For example, Moses had some profound encounters with God, which are embodied in the Torah. Jesus comes along and seems to reverse the sequence, but after Jesus comes the Church that creates an updated doctrine -- the Catechism of the Catholic Church runs to almost 800 pages. But then Protestants come along and reject the whole thing. Protestantism becomes reified, so then numberless sects split off, especially in America, where people take religious experience seriously. But most of them make no sense, and are intellectually negligible.

It's probably easier to accept the idea that various experiences of God are all related, than the notion that there could be a kind of central doctrine that unites particular expressions of it. But this is what Schuon seeks to accomplish; or rather, simply "discern," since he was of the belief that it was already there to see, so long as one is capable of seeing it.

For example, he writes that only an esoteric approach can explain "and restore the lost truth by referring to the total truth; this alone can provide answers that are neither fragmentary nor compromised in advance by denominational bias. Just as rationalism can remove faith, so esoterism can restore it" (emphasis mine).

That is indeed a key point, for it implies that esoterism is a kind of "higher Reason" from which profane reason must be a descent. To paraphrase another comment by Schuon, something isn't true because it is logical, but rather, the reverse: things are logical because they are true.

By definition one cannot ascend to truth via (profane) reason, since reason can only prove the consequences of premises that reason cannot supply. Therefore, any time one accepts a truth, one is operating outside the closed system of logic (which was one of Gödel's points, precisely -- not that truth doesn't exist, but rather, that there are permanent truths not provable by logic).

So the truth embodied in revelation is clearly a descent from something higher. To try to ascend to this truth using only human tools is doomed to failure.

Rather, in order to comprehend it, one must make the effort to conform oneself to the plane from which it arises. This is not fundamentally different from any form of knowledge, say, quantum physics. Try as we might, quantum physics is never going to be reducible to, or explainable in terms of, Newtonian physics. This is because the Newtonian world is a kind of "descent" from the quantum world, the latter of which is "higher" or "deeper," at least theoretically.

Now, truth comes to man in various ways. Sometimes it comes from the outside, as when we were in school. But oftentimes -- especially as we grow older -- truth comes more from within. Schuon writes that the first kind is "formal," as it can be clothed in communicable symbols that are readily transmitted, received, and decoded without too much distortion (math would be the ideal of this form, since it can be conveyed with no loss of meaning at all).

But the interior type of knowledge is "direct and essential," Importantly, this is especially true of revelation, even though it would appear to come from the "outside."

But no one should believe that revelation is in any way analogous to mathematical knowledge that can be conveyed without ambiguity or distortion. Rather, as Schuon explains, the purpose of revelation is to awaken "interior truths" so to speak, by providing us with symbols to think about them, and without which truth is unthinkable. We could still "experience" it, but would be hard pressed to communicate and make sense of it.

Thus, for Schuon, "Revelation is Intellection in the macrocosm, while Intellection is Revelation in the microcosm."

This is again no different from any intelligible reality, for example, physics. In the case of physics, we confront an intelligible world that comes fully encoded in mathematical terms, as if the one mirrors the other.

How is it that the mind of man and the deep structure of the natural cosmos just so happen to harmonize in this transcendent manner? Why, it's almost as if the physical world is the objective instantiation of the math, whereas the mental world is the subjective apprehension of same. One might say that the sensible world is the macrocosmic revelation of mathematical truth, whereas mathematical intelligibility is its subjective revelation in the microcosm.

In any event, there is a Truth and a Way. And this Truth is not, and could never be, fully horizontal or reducible to something less than itself. Rather, it is a descent and appears before us as a hierarchy, as do the modes appropriate to various degrees of reality. One might say that it is a symphony.

29 Comments:

Blogger John Lien said...

"As such, it is impossible for me to believe that our Creator would want us to assent to any doctrine that makes less than total sense to us."

I couldn't agree with you more. I have thought that for years.

(back to the post)

10/18/2011 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Probably better to say "sense of the totality."

10/18/2011 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

And this Truth is not, and could never be, fully horizontal or reducible to something less than itself. Rather, it is a descent and appears before us as a hierarchy, as do the modes appropriate to various degrees of reality.

Without a mind to conceive of the cosmos, there could be literally nothing, for meaninglessness cannot beget meaning.

But in Judaism, one has no right to pick and choose the parts one likes, for where does one draw the line?

That's interesting; I knew Orthodox Judaism was very strict, but had no idea it went that far. But to the point about picking and choosing, I'm reminded too of Catholicism. There are plenty of points where reasonable people may disagree with church doctrine, but once it's decided the rules are bendable, one ends up with the Church of England. Or Unitarians.

10/18/2011 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The problem is that the Orthodox are serious, whereas liberal Jews tend just to be Democrats. Dennis Prager seems to have found a moderate position, in which he is very devout without obsessing over the trees.

10/18/2011 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"what he regards as a kind of minute attention to iterations of the Law -- for example, avoiding broccoli since there might be a tiny insect lodged inside the flower..."

Hmmm... as good a reason as any I suppose...

"... or not tearing perforated toilet tissue on the sabbath because it is a form of "work.""

Ummm... I think some things are worth working for. Just saying.

10/18/2011 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

AHH!!! EGADS & GAFZOOKS!!! What in the name of nightmares is that red in tooth and claw and eyeball creature in your profile now, Gagdad?!

About spit my coffee out at it in self defense.

Yikes.

Cuz get himself a pet?

10/18/2011 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gabe Ruth said...

Very good post, but I am starting to think that you should post a disclaimer on the masthead. Man has little difficulty in thinking himself great and great difficulty in realizing he is little.

10/18/2011 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

True, true. Personally, I've found that as a seeker for truth, whenever I begin to get a fat head, something happens to deflate it pretty quickly.

Sadly, the same is not so true for the rest of me...

10/18/2011 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

This is unsurprising. When the covetous gather to demand that others surrender property, they will just as willingly take what is right in front of them as demand what is presently beyond their grasp. No honor among thieves...

10/18/2011 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

For that matter, there again is the distinction between the OWS and the Tea Party - one group demands handouts, while the other demands to be left alone.

10/18/2011 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

OT. I figured that before delving into UF's work, I should finish KF's book first. Thank you Bob for writing "The Book." It was all good but Book 4 was especially helpful in getting me off my butt and back onto my butt for some daily (__).

You also helped me adjust my aim. It was a bit too low.

Yeeha! It's back to the Cranial Ranch for some daily mental-cat-herding.

10/18/2011 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

This has its place, of course, but faith should be a prelude to understanding, not an end in itself.

That's true, and it's one of those spiral things.

I've quoted before George MacDonald's favorite verse, John 7:17 -- if any one may will to do His will, he shall know concerning the teaching, whether it is of God, or--I do speak from myself. We start out willing, and we wind up finding out that it is true.

Also it seems we recognize truth when it clicks into some empty, uniquely shaped space in our lives -- often one we never noticed until it was filled.

Go Cards! If horatio comes by, he can assign me the appropriate penance for my heretical lack of faith.

I assumed that avatar was from "Night of the Living Roadkill".

10/18/2011 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

The raccoon looks completely normal compared to this.

10/18/2011 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

@mushroom. Yikes! I feel sorry for the guy. The self-loathing it would take to do that. He must be in hell.

10/18/2011 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Yikes - I think you're right, John, but I bet he does his best to spread the hate. At least with the markings, everyone can tell he's a predator...

10/18/2011 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

The Exoteric gives the structure, The Esoteric gives the living flesh to your faith.

Both are needed.

You blog is a veritable feast, Bob. As Dudley Dawkins would say: Master!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2GdQvQgqcw

Stop typing so fast, I can barely keep up with my reading (I'm already behind as it is!).

10/19/2011 04:30:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

"At least with the markings, everyone can tell he's a predator..."

I think thats natures way of saying "Do not touch". :)

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_TMi-5I5BZvA/RmAziD0eMJI/AAAAAAAAARY/LU8L9ppW8Js/s320/FarSideNoTouch%2B001.jpg

10/19/2011 05:11:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

"Losses are taken in joining a religion; judgements laid down. Things get serious. The light dims. Fences go up. Yet many need it. Why?"

Provides spiritual traction: otherwise everything reduces (or decays) to moral relativity and nothingness.

As with snowflakes, what is needed is a 'flaw' (or series of flaws know as articles of faith), otherwise a code of conduct cannot form. For me, it started out with "God... is" whereupon (like a snowflake) other bits of logic formed together and other articles of faith were realized - and I was thus removed from the slow decay of Agnosticism (and eventual madness that we see in the Secular Humanists views - Example: Multi-culturalism and its view that all cultures are equal).

The closer to Universal-Truth your views are, the better (and easier) you navigate through life. Its just like choosing the North Star as your reference point (verses the Dog star :D ) in the constellations that make up the sky (and the voids in between the stars). The hard part is choosing wisely - and understanding the fact that all religions/paradigms are NOT equal and some are outright poor vehicles for the soul to reside in (Like the Death-Cult of Islam: which ought to be banned, btw).

For my part, Catholic Christianity seems to be the best fit for my understanding of Gods plan for us - besides being the most benevolent and good way to view creation with volumes upon volumes of truth dedicated to knowing God (besides helping Science to spring forth form these theological excerisizes)

10/19/2011 05:42:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

@Tench:

Oops... forgot the funny stuff:

http://www.dribbleglass.com/interview/index.htm

Enjoy!

10/19/2011 05:48:00 AM  
Blogger Gabe Ruth said...

Banned? That will show them. If you believe in the Absolute, you believe in its universal accessibility. By all means ban polygamy, spousal abuse, child abuse, etc. But Islam is more than these things. How would you respond if Christianity was banned? Before I get jumped on, let me explain that I'm not advocating sentimental/empathetic policy making here, just conducting a thought experiment. I suspect that those that really believed would double down, and in accept the persecution as a badge of honor. This is how I pray I would have the strength to respond, anyway. And unfortunately Islam as a religion and as a culture is not big on cheek turning. So the only recourse is basically reconversion by the sword, because they have taken it up already and will not put it down voluntarily.

10/19/2011 06:15:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

Gabe...

Pretend... just pretend that ...Islam... was actually a Christian Cult (Which, btw, is how Islam was viewed by Christians in its early years).

Pretend it had only a small following instead of 1 billion followers.

Anyone who leaves Islam is killed.
Adultery - stoning.
Infidels - killed.

Etc...

No small christian cult could EVER get away with what Islam gets away with (and I get alot of reading in about Islam)

There are many, many, websites out there that document teh crazy with the Islamic Death Cult and its Demonlord 'Allah'.

Here's one:

http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/

Check it out.

10/19/2011 06:45:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

Its just a matter of time where there will be world confrontation with Islam.

Just a matter of time.

10/19/2011 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

"How would you respond if Christianity was banned?"

Christianity? The 'Hans Blix' of Religions? Hahahahahaa!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSXNJMP8ir4

Careful now, Gabe, or I will go and write an angry letter to you about your ridicule of 'Christianity'.

(Example: What ever you do... don't dunk a Cross in a glass of urine and call it art! or I will get VERY angry!)

Gee... I bet your trembling in your boots, now... :D

10/19/2011 06:55:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

The problem with politically banning Islam isn't with doing away with Islam, it is with enabling the government to do away with a set of personal beliefs, religion, etc.

Govt should of course outlaw and punish any such practices, stoning, etc. It should aggressively pursue any organization that conspires to commit such crimes - if that org happens to be a mosque, then it just happens to be a mosque. Religion cannot be used as a front for criminal practices. But Govt should not get into the practice of banning a system of beliefs.

People should reject and shun sets and systems of beliefs which as they understand them to be anti-life, anti-American, etc, but putting political power behind that, is a danger.

To complicate matters, during a time of war, a set of beliefs explicitly supporting those you are at war against... then you've got a foot to stand on... but there's still going to be a lot of hammers swung at your toes.

Gotta be careful.

10/19/2011 07:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gabe Ruth said...

Do we not punish murderers? Also, the possibility of banning religion on spurious grounds should not be ridiculed. The objectives of worldly power are not constrained by logic, as we see. Is Christianity a threat to socialism? What do you think, based on the actions of socialists? Threat elimination is priority number one for any worldly power.
I am trying to imagine the consequences of a ban. The zeitgeist unfortunately has the effect of making something popular carry more weight, and making those that suppress it seem bent on domination, not Truth seeking. Your counter-thought experiment only works for small bands of weird heretics, preferably violent ones. When applied to a religion of a billion people, with an extensive history that, despite developing some serious pathologies, is certainly not all bad, it must take into account political possibility. I submit that no new laws are necessary, only enforcement of old (and a return to sane immigration policy). And further, that your new laws, besides being counter productive, betray our principles.

10/19/2011 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Van - indeed. That would open up quite a can of worms, wouldn't it? What we should be doing, though, is taking up a hard-line stance against the practice of Sharia law when it comes up against the American legal system. Criminal acts in the name of religion need to have serious consequences. Personally, I'd favor the death penalty for honor killings, for instance.

Instead, right now we have a government that is busy trying to change the inner workings of the Catholic Church. Not because they're doing anything criminal, mind you, they just aren't playing "fair" enough to suit the present secularist power structure.

In a way, as with much of Western Europe, leftist policies allow for lenient treatment of Muslims in the name of multiculturalism, while at the same time taking a hard-line stance against Christianity - also in the name of multiculturalism.

In a not-shall...

10/19/2011 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "What we should be doing, though, is taking up a hard-line stance against the practice of Sharia law when it comes up against the American legal system. Criminal acts in the name of religion need to have serious consequences. Personally, I'd favor the death penalty for honor killings, for instance."

Yep, any attempt to institute any set of practices as Law, by other than lawful means, not to mention their being unconstitutional in nature, should not only be forbidden and criminally punished, but charges of sedition should be seriously considered.

And personaly I favor the death penalty for killings... the fact that they are 'honor' killings, is just another layer of deliberate intent, such as killing for gain, or payment. After all proper legal avenues are explored, then the end of the trail should be ZZZZzzzttt...tuh (electrocution), or Click... swish... THunK (hanging), or BANG!!!.

No meds.

10/19/2011 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

@Gabe

"When applied to a religion of a billion people, with an extensive history that, despite developing some serious pathologies, is certainly not all bad, it must take into account political possibility."

So 10 people in a Death Cult is bad, but 1 billion people in a Death Cult is A-Okay? Your logic is unsound.

Sometimes a cancer needs to be cut out. Since I am against the slaughter of millions, a ban is more appropriate to my views. Mass forced conversions have been done before in history and will probably be necessary in the case of the violent political/religious Death Cult of Islam. Though this seems preposterous given the 'zeitgeist' of this era, an Islamic-induced disaster will change all that - and the issue of banning it won't seem so ridiculous.

Its just a matter of time. You'll see.

10/19/2011 10:16:00 PM  
Blogger Cond0010 said...

@Van

"The problem with politically banning Islam isn't with doing away with Islam, it is with enabling the government to do away with a set of personal beliefs, religion, etc....Gotta be careful."

So true.

Once the political machinery is in place to surgically remove a religion, why stop there? Why not ban others too? This is socio-political nuclear weapons and in the hands of the wrong-headed, the ramifications of the action of the ban are almost endless.

But, nevertheless, a ban on Islam is what it will take.

Half-measures & enforcement of given laws will not work. The swamps need to be drained, the fanatic-generators need to be blown up. The Muslim people need to be freed from their submission to the Demonlord 'Allah' and find another way other than Islam.

10/19/2011 10:26:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home