What is Man that Man Should be Mindful of Him?
What exactly is a person, anyway? Remember, we're talking about the interior, not the exterior, form.
Man may be defined in an exterior sense by, for example, the use of tools, or by the ability to reproduce with another member of the species. But what is man in the interior sense?
I think Schuon provides the most useful answer. To paraphrase him, man is composed of will (i.e., freedom and virtue), sentiment (i.e., love), and knowledge (i.e., disinterested truth and detached objectivity).
Thus, we begin with the premise that man is free, that he has a conscience that distinguishes good from evil, and that he has a mind that may discern the reality behind appearances.
But what is the source of these remarkable abilities? As mentioned yesterday, the scientistic mindset attempts to explain them away with recourse to an essentially reductionistic argument.
Such a simplistic approach holds no appeal to the intellect, although it may help its proponent to be less troubled by the promptings of his soul.
In any event, such arguments are self-refuting, for if there is no truth we couldn't know it, and if there is no freedom we could never conceive of it. There is nothing in us that compels assent to, or rejection of, truth.
Unlike animals, we can sink below ourselves, but for the same reason may rise above and transcend ourselves. And because we are human beings, we are privileged to see that nature points to trans-nature.
When we say that man is in the image of the Creator, this cuts both ways. In other words, I take seriously the idea that if we understand man essentially, this provides important clues as to the nature of God.
As alluded to above, there is no -- and will never be any -- naturalistic explanation for truth, free will, and knowledge of the good, as these emanate from above, not below.
But at the same time, this understanding of man's essence suggests that God's essence may also revolve around this trinity of love, truth, and freedom. Furthermore, these three must ultimately be one, in ways we don't normally think about.
However, as soon as we do think about it, we understand that there can be no truth in the absence of the freedom to pursue it, just as there can be no freedom unless we are free to choose what is good and true.
Likewise, love cannot be compelled, just as everyone knows that it is wrong to choose and love evil.
Now, man may know the absolute, which is just another way of saying that he may know, period.
In other words, any knowledge is underwritten by, or partakes of, so to speak, the absolute. As such, to say "man" is to say "God," just as "the very word 'relative' implies 'Absolute'" (Schuon).
To affirm "that man is made of intelligence, will and sentiment," writes Schuon, "means that he is made for the Truth, the Way, and Virtue." In other words, the way an object is made tells us something about its purpose.
Now, the purpose of religion is to remind man of the Purpose of purposes; or in other words, to stay focussed on reality and to steer clear of the illusions.
A religion may be reduced to doctrine and method, which is simply truth and the means of assimilating it. Note that we do not say "attaining," "acquiring," or "possessing" truth.
For obviously it is possible to have knowledge of the doctrine without it having the slightest impact upon one's being. Or, a mind parasite may warp the truth into its own image, which covertly elevates it to the status of a god, or a little human beastling.
Which provides another clue into both man and God, i.e., being. Genuine love, genuine knowledge, genuine virtue -- all are imprinted, so to speak, upon being; or, one could say that they are imbued with being.
And being is where subject and object merge into one. Thus, ultimate truth, which one might think of as being subjective, is also the most objective thing imaginable.
Which reminds me of an aphorism for you to chew on:
I distrust the system deliberately constructed by thought; I trust in the one that results from the pattern of its footprints.