At Long Last Love: Is it a Birthquake or Simply a Crock?
He has a distinct recollection of this, for the words were written in big block letters on the wall behind the podium of the Sunday school he was forced to attend. He remembers thinking to himself, "If God is Love, then why do I have to suffer through school five days a week, only to be dragged to this boring place on one of my precious days off?"
It just made no sense, and continued to make no sense for many years thereafter. Maybe even until today, depending upon how this post unfolds.
It still strikes us as naive, sappy, and mawkishly ernest to proclaim Hi-diddly-ho neighborino, God is Luv! But it is intended to embody a metaphysical principle, not a schmaltzy greeting card or hippy-dippy sentiment.
It is also intended to be shocking, which it most certainly was in the context of a brutal and barbaric ancient world. Just on the face of it, how does one reconcile a God of love with a tortured man on a cross? If this is love, could we please have a little less of it?
Yesterday we discussed the idea that ultimate reality is intersubjective, meaning that it is at bottom a unity of two subjects related by a love that reveals oneness without extinguishing twoness:
"This forms a unity, to be sure, but one that, 'through the unifying power of love,' doesn't 'destroy the twoness of I and Thou, but welds it into a profound oneness.' It is the losing that is finding, the giving that is receiving, the surrender that is victory, the supreme attainment that is abject humility. Ultimately it is the Love that is our cause."
It reminds us of an aphorism, in that "the materials are not fused in a new alloy; they are integrated into a new element."
Ratzinger goes on to explain that love is a kind of independent causality operating in the world: "As a cause, love does not vitiate the world's mechanical causality but uses and adopts it. Love is the power that God exercises in the world."
Love, like its causin' cousin, Truth, is the quintessence of freedom, since it cannot be compelled and remain what it essentially is. Just as you cannot compel someone to understand, you cannot force them to love. Thus, "to put oneself on the side of this love-causality" is to align one's energies with the "causality of freedom, in opposition to the power of necessity."
Love does not come from "below" -- i.e., physics, chemistry, biology -- but surely enlists the latter in order to express itself in the world.
This is fundamentally no different from any other higher reality that uses the boundary conditions of a lower order in order to progress in- and upward -- for example, the manner in which the twenty-six letters of the alphabet are used to create words, which are in turn used to create sentences and paragraphs, and ultimately to reveal meaning as such.
To put it the same we around, as we sit here typing we are attempting to transmit various "meanings" as they pop into our melon. The fingers are just following orders, even though material causation can only work in the other direction, from the bottom up, not the top down.
To even affirm that top-down causation exists is to have left the scientistic world far behind and below. You might say that materialism can account for everything except for the one who believes it. Drawn to its logical end, it inevitably paints itself into a coroner who proclaims it metaphysically dead on arrival.
Now, love is a two-way street, flowing from Creator to creature and back on up. Schuon expresses it well:
"Love is on the one hand our tendency towards God -- the tendency of the accident towards the Substance -- and on the other hand our consciousness of 'myself' in the 'other,' and of the 'other' in ourselves; it is also the sense of beauty, above us and around us and in our own soul."
This is precisely what we have been saying about the intersubjectivity of the human world. When God says to "love the stranger," he is essentially talking about a horizontal prolongation of his trinitarian love.
And it is only possible to do this because we are already members of one another. And again, love, freedom, truth, and beauty, all converge upon the One. All are simultaneously disclosed, so that God must be Love just as he is Truth, or Beauty, or Justice.
Thus, "Love is the tendency towards Union: this tendency can be a movement, either towards the Immutable, the Absolute, or towards the Limitless, the Infinite." And "to the extent that it transcends itself in the direction of its supernatural source," it "is the love of man for God and of God for man, and finally it is Beatitude without origin and without end" (Schuon).
We all intuit that love is both eternal and infinite -- for example, when we fall in love. No one tells their new loved one, "I am madly in love with you. Today anyway. But it's just a trick of the hormones. I'll get over it soon." Would the latter involve waking up from the illusion or falling back into it?
This is the point of marriage, not to force two people to love one another until death do they part, but to orient coonjugal love toward its higher source in the Oneness that is Two, and vice versa.
Frankly, I don't know how a marriage can survive in the absence of this higher love, because merely human love does indeed wear off without the divine infusion of a renewing grace. Schuon: "Pure love is not of this world of oppositions; it is by origin celestial and its end is God; it lives, as it were in itself, by its own light and in the ray of God-Love."
This is the only way we know of to always have that "new wife smell."
Likewise, "progress" is only possible if it is rooted in truth, freedom, and love. This is the only "path" that leads anywhere. All other paths not only proceed in the wrong direction, but can only lead "nowhere" -- like the genetic shuffling of merely Darwinian "evolution."
As Bob has discussed in the past, evolution in the original sense of the word is strictly impossible in a Darwinian metaphysical framework, for there is no higher or lower, no good or evil, and no meaning at all. When they say "evolution" what they really mean is "change!" And certainly no hope.
In the words of Ratzinger, "progress into new territory is made possible precisely because the right path has been found."
Isn't this obvious? This is certainly how science progresses. As it does so, any number of false paths must be cast aside. The same is true of Life, quintessentially. I mean, haven't you ever been on a false path? If you haven't, then it's probably because you're on one now.
The true path leads one onward, inward, and upward toward the alphomega of our ground and source. It is covalent with our dynamic integration, drawing us toward a communion that is simultaneously creative and full of meaning. In other words, it is where the crystal waters flow from their inexhaustible source.
I wish I was a fisherman, tumblin' on the seas
far away from dry land and its bitter memories
Castin' out my sweet line, with abandonment and love
no ceiling bearin' down on me, save the starry sky above
With light in my head, and you in my arms...