My Absolute Can Beat Up Your Absolute!
"Nine out of ten authentic mystics agree that the unKnown God is 'superior' to the known God. How could it not be so? It is foolish to imagine that we could ever contain the uncontainable within our borrowed being" (from yesterday's post).
I was about to say that this ought to be an uncontroversial statement, but the comments from yesterday suggest that it isn't. And I can see why not, because it challenges the absoluteness of one's religion. But it shouldn't, because religion is about the Absolute, not the Absolute itself.
As Schuon writes, "the sense of the absolute is situated in each [religion] on a different plane, so that points of comparison often prove illusory."
For example, in Christianity, the Absolute is located in a person; in Judaism, a book; in Buddhism, an experience. Each of these conveys a sense of the Absolute, which, for most people, is "sufficient."
Problems arise when people begin fighting over their version of the Absolute, when we should be much more concerned with the values that flow from recognition of the Absolute.
As Dennis Prager says, it is irrelevant to me whether a person shares my religion. After all, Obama claims to be a Christian. What is much more important is that he share my values, which are the very opposite of his. He too has a sense of the Absolute, but he perversely locates it in the state -- which is only the latest iteration of the progressive "instinct" for tyranny and absolutism.
Speaking of which, I'm currently reading this book about Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism, and one thing that immediately jumps out is that the truth of modern liberalism is even worse than how contemporary conservatives characterize it. Back then, Wilson could innocently present pure liberalism, without spin or deception, equivocation or dissembling.
For Wilson, it was absurd to suggest that the Founders were dealing with universal truths and natural rights. Rather, they were just creatures of their times. We -- meaning state officials armed with Ivy League degrees and good intentions -- needed to toss aside the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, if we really wanted to get things done.
For Wilson, the separation of powers prevented the state from doing what it needed to do for your benefit, you ungrateful peasant. As he said, "if you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface" -- you know, all that abstract stuff about life, liberty, and natural rights conferred by the Creator instead of the almighty state.
Back to where we were ("Nine out of ten authentic mystics agree that the unKnown God is 'superior' to the known God.") Ironically, I think exoteric Christianity conveys this idea on an intuitive level via the Trinity. God the Father "sends" his Son for our benefit. No one has seen the Father, but we can see the Son.
And yet, "I and the Father are one." Wha... Shouldn't the Father "superior" to the Son? It is impossible to answer that question without getting into theological trouble, but from our perspective it would appear so. Which is why the doctrine that they are actually one is non-obvious, and could only be given to us through revelation and faith.
Incidentally, I think the same basic complementarity applies to the exoteric/esoteric dimension, and Unknown Friend even says so later in the book.
Reader Gabe says that "the phrasing [about the superiority of the unknown God] leads me to think this is mostly just fun, but please, what does this mean?"
The question -- and I don't mean this in any pejorative sense -- reminds me of what the fun-loving Meister Eckhart went through in his day. He was considered an eminent and completely orthodox teacher until the very end of his life, when he ran afoul of Church authorities, but for completely political reasons.
I found a copy of the complete vernacular sermons that costs under a hundred dollars, and the introduction points out that Eckhart was basically caught in the crossfire between rival gangs of Franciscans and Dominicans (sounds like a Monty Python skit).
Blame the church? Yes and no. You must remember that back then, there was yet to be a distinction anywhere on earth between the sacred and profane, between power and faith, between politics and God (that had to wait until 1787).
Today we worry about religion encroaching on politics, but back then it was the other way around. Think about the extent to which politics seeps into everything these days (especially for the left), even though we have a specific category for it. Now imagine what it must have been like before we had a separate category to contain it! All of those corrosive impulses got into everything.
This is precisely what the Founders were so concerned about -- not just separating the realms of politics and religion, but then trying to see to it that the realm of politics didn't tear itself apart, as it usually does, redounding back to anarchy or tyranny. Time and again they spoke of the danger of what they called faction, which they treat as analogous to some kind of political "original sin."
For example, Federalist 10 says that "the latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man." For the Founders, "human nature does not improve, and there is no progress to a point where we can stop worrying about the factious nature of men and the pernicious ends toward which it might direct the power of the state" (Pestritto).
Beware most of all the administrative state, the pragmatist, the independent, the moderate, the neutral "problem solver," since these are all just the latest covers for the worst kind of faction. In 2008, America thought it had elected such a person -- you know, just a non-ideological smart guy who would solve our problems.
But today, no less than in Eckhart's time, there is no thinkable thought that is radically separable from religion, and this is especially true of the left, since they have no sophisticated, separate cognitive category with which to articulate their innate religiosity (except for that which they fancifully project into the religious).
As usual, the Bible has more wisdom about the nature of faction than one will encounter in four years of college with three years of graduate school thrown in. What is the first faction? One can look at it in different ways. First there is the rebellion against God, creating the "faction of man" against the Divine. This always leads to disaster, from Babel to Communism to National Socialism to the European Union.
Then there is the faction of man against woman, instead of the cosmic complementarity (and union) of man and woman, i.e., male-and-female he created them. Denial of this complementarity leads to any number of abominations, from compelling women to live in black bags to forcing the "impossible possibility" of homosexual marriage upon the citizenry.
Remember, America was uniquely created in order to preserve and protect our natural rights, one of which is marriage (which is obviously prior to the state, and even a necessary condition for the state). In no metaphysic -- whether religious or biological/scientistic -- could homosexual marriage be considered "natural."
The next faction in Genesis is between the brothers Cain and Abel, and it is characterized by envy. The envy is, of course, located in Cain, but envy victimizes both the host and its target. The envier can kill the envied but will be none the happier for it.
The OWS protesters live in a kind blissful ignorance of this psychic fact, giving free play to their destructive envy, when one of the purposes of life is to transcend envy. It is indeed a key to any kind of personal happiness.
You might call it Chinese politics: you can eat the rich, but you'll be hungry again an hour later.