The Beginning and the Beyond
Let me preface this by saying that what follows will have been inspired by an essay by Voegelin called The Beginning and the Beyond, although the end result may or may not (probably not) comport with his understanding, and certainly not with his style. The problem is, he's not always the clearest of writers. Perhaps it has to do with the intrinsic difficulty of the subject, but sometimes he's quite lucid, other times impenetrable. Or maybe it has to do with the fact that he took no graduate students, and thus wasn't used to communicating to mortals, or that his editors were too intimidated by his big brain.
He starts off the essay with the following observation, with which I fully agree: "Divine reality is being revealed to man in two fundamental modes of experience: in the experience of divine creativity in the cosmos; and in the experience of divine ordering presence in the soul."
So you could say that divine reality is revealed in objective and subjective, or exterior and interior, modes. Or, one could simply say Intelligibility and Intelligence, which are obviously unified on a deeper level. In other words, Truth and Reality must be One, and "within" this One, word is essentially deed (which is how the Creator "speaks" the creation into existence).
This immediately reminds me of something Schuon wrote in a similar-but-different vein, about the Center and the Origin:
"In the spatial world where we live, every value is related in some way to a sacred Center, which is the place where Heaven has touched the earth; in every human world there is a place where God has manifested Himself in order to pour forth his grace."
This Center is simultaneously the Origin, "which is the quasi-timeless moment when Heaven was near and terrestrial things were still half-celestial." And "it is also the period when God spoke" in a more direct -- or less veiled -- manner, thus creating a kind of bond -- i.e., covenant -- with the people involved.
It seems to me that the difference between the two thinkers has to do with the matter of the Beyond, because, as alluded to in the opening paragraph, the Beyond implies such things as Direction, Destiny, Development, Telos, and Salvation. I believe this causes Schuon's metaphysic to be entirely "backward looking," so to speak, whereas Voegelin's very much looks up or ahead, to the future.
However, Voegelin makes it quite clear that this is not a future we could ever arrive at or achieve. Rather, the enduring reality of the human situation involves living in the "in between" -- specifically, in between the Beginning and the Beyond, neither of which can be understood or conceptualized in any merely rationalistic manner, but both of which are necessary for human-qua-human existence (in other words, to live in ignorance of the Beginning and the Beyond is to live outside or below the human station).
To put it another way, if we eliminate either of these two poles, or collapse them into a dimensionless present, we will have entered a state of pneumapathology, more on which as we proceed.
In considering these questions, we need to be mindful of the reality of time, because our world is much more "temporal" than it was for premodern man, both for good and for ill. Schuon writes of "traditions having a prehistoric origin," that are "made for 'space' and not 'time,'" so to speak. That is, "they saw the light in a primordial epoch when time was still but a rhythm in a static beatitude and when space or simultaneity still predominated over the experience of duration and change."
In contrast, a historical tradition such as Judaism or Christianity "must take the experience of 'time' into account," and therefore "instability and decadence." Here time becomes "like a fast-flowing and ever more devouring river," so that the focus shifts more to "the end of the world."
I think I would respectfully disagree slightly (or maybe more than slightly) with Schuon, who seems to have a wholly negative attitude toward time. But for Voegelin, time is where we live and must live: again, in the in-between, between the Beginning and the Beyond. Leaving the "spatial" world of the Beginning (or Origin) and entering time was an achievement, not an intrinsic deterioration, for the same reason it is an achievement for a human being to leave the timeless world of infancy for the timebound world of adulthood.
Indeed, there are some traditions that maintain that this is what the expulsion from paradise is all about. Or, if you prefer, it is certainly what Exodus is all about. To live in time is to embody the Exodus, which is not just a chaotic and meaningless disperson, but a sojourn, a spiritual adventure. However, it cannot be an adventure unless the path is illuminated by the Beyond, which casts its light down and back, into history.
O yes it does!
So in reality, we have the Beginning, the Human Betweening, and the Beyond; or the Roadmap, Both Hands, and Aseity. You are of course free to reject this schemata, but only from the In-Between postion that stands outside or above the flow of time and is capable of surveying the whole existentialada.
If we are consciously aware of standing in the In-Between, then God will surely "speak" to us (listen!). Specifically, he will speak to us of Essential things and of Beyond thingness, or in the modes of immanence and transcendence.
Again, there are two meta-cosmic "directions" from where we stand, "the direction of the divine creativity toward a Beginning of things," and "in the direction of the ordering presence within [the] soul toward a divine Beyond as its source" (Voegelin).
Or, if you want to be abstract about it, you could just unsay (↕).
The point is, neither the Beginning nor the Beyond are among the "things" of this world. If we attempt to look at existence in this manner, we end in absurdity. For example, we can trace physics back to a "big bang," but this is like tracing a ray of light back to the sun. You still need to account for the central sun, with reference to something that transcends it.
So Beginning and Beyond are directions, not things in existence. To put it another way, they do not exist, so it's no use looking for them there. Rather, they are. They are "in" Being, not existence. And existence is derived from Being. For this reason, the Beginning is not really a temporal "before," any more than the Beyond is a temporal "after."
Rather, these two poles "articulate, first of all, the divine reality that draws man into the quest; they express furthermore the structure of consciousness in its questing tension toward the divine ground of things and of itself; and they finally bring into view the structure of reality that channels both the divine drawing and the human questing" (ibid).
Push and pull.
To be continued...