A Completely Selfish Post
That is, I write in order to find out what I think. But when I get boxed in, it's usually because I'm unselfishly thinking of my readers, which means that instead of writing to discover what I think, I'm doing so in order to tell what I know.
Which isn't much. Moreover, whatever it is, it must be rediscovered every day.
This also explains why, just as I begin to pick up more readers, I lose them, because things get weird again. But it would never occur to me to write for "the day." Why bother? Rather, the only purpose I can see in writing is to try to do so for ever: to infinity, and beyond! Or in other words, to try to write "from" eternity. I'm not saying I succeed, only that a man needs a hobby.
The bottom line is that to write unselfishly ends up a kind of self-centered and self-aggrandizing act. Conversely, to write selfishly results in a more selfless product.
Of course, this is all predicated on the notion that to plunge Bobward eventually ends in something universal. We all have to "look within" to discover anything, but that doesn't mean that everything we discover there is hopelessly tainted by our own beastly presence.
So in this post I'm just going to forget about you all, leap into the Subject, and see where he takes us.
In yesterday's post we embarked on a discussion of the complementarity of individual <--> group, or personal <--> universal. For Perry, this comes down to "remembering our divine essence, on the one hand, without forgetting our human nothingness, on the other." In short, "Noble radiation and humble effacement."
You might say that Perry's prescription involves simultaneous recollection of two opposites. Which isn't invalid, but does omit an awful lot of the in-between where we actually live.
It's as if there is nothing between complete nihilism and mystical union; or that nothing short of mystical union has any real value. But if that's the case, why do we have this magnificent cosmos? Why does the Creator go to all the trouble?
This last question is critical, I think, and cannot be resolved in the purely metaphysical and extra-revelational manner of the Traditionalists. For they come very close to suggesting that the cosmos springs into being of necessity (i.e., "emanationism"), and that it is subject to inevitable decay for the same reason. It is in the nature of the Sovereign Good, they say, to radiate itself, which results in a Manifestation, i.e., the cosmos. But then the cosmos, as it inevitably becomes more distant from its ground and origin, succumbs to entropy. Game over. (But which then begins a new cycle.)
Some of that is true as far as it goes, but it cannot ultimately be reconciled with the Judeo-Christian view of a creation that is pure gift and completely unnecessary. The Traditionalist would probably say that the real purpose of such an assertion is to remind us of our nothingness -- our pure contingency -- before God; but this then implies a very different sort of God, one that is rather impersonal and doesn't really care about individuals.
To jump ahead to our conclusion, we believe that person is the ultimate category of existence; and that personhood is neither thinkable nor derivable from any kind of purely monadic metaphysic. I believe one comes from two, not vice versa. Which means that love is not so much "higher" than truth, but rather, the truth of existence. And love is impossible in a matrix of unalloyed oneness, unless you have a very different definition of love, or you are Barack Obama.
I hope this isn't getting too abstract, but it is important. The Traditionalist (and they would say universal) metaphysic begins with Beyond Being. I do not disagree with this, because it is fully consistent with the apophatic Godhead about which we can say nothing. Unless we are very sneaky. Eckhart, for example, has many fine orthoparadoxical descriptions of the Godhead. In Sermon 2 he tells us that the intellect -- man's highest faculty --
"is not worthy even for an instant to cast a single glance into this citadel... neither power nor mode can gaze into it, not even God himself! In very truth and as God lives! God himself never looks in there for one instant, in so far as he exists in modes and in the properties of his persons..."
It is here "wherein God ever blooms and is verdant in all his Godhead, and... ever bears his only-begotten Son as truly as in himself, for truly he dwells in this power, and the spirit gives birth with the Father to the same only-begotten Son, and to itself as the self-same Son, and is itself the self-same Son in this light, and is the Truth."
As you can see, words begin to fail at the threshold of the Godhead; language begins to disintegrate -- or perhaps we should say "re-aggregate" in the light of the divine darkness. At the very least, we must try to outfox language in order to see around the coroner, or past our own headlights.
In Sermon 101, Eckhart speaks of "the eternal birth which God the Father bore and bears unceasingly in eternity, because this same birth is now born in time, in human nature." He quotes Augustine, who asks "What does it avail me that this birth is always happening, if it does not happen in me? That it should happen in me is what matters."
No. Contemplating the complementarity of individual <--> group leads in a very different direction if we begin in a Christian rather than, say, Vedantin metaphysic. The orthoparadoxical Christian view is that the Godhead is a kind of "group," even while not being anything other than one.
Conversely, the Vedantic view (at least for Shankara) is that the illusion of twoness ultimately dissolves into the Oneness of Brahman. For truly, when all is said and done, it never happened. The illusion of separateness was just a dream, for all This is That.
I used to believe that. For one thing, you don't need revelation to tell you that "all is one." Rather, you need revelation to tell you it isn't. Or at least to confirm your suspicions and let you know you're on the bright trek.
And if you understand what I just said, then perhaps you can understand Eckhart's understanding that "It does not now seem to me that God understands because he exists, but rather that he exists because he understands."
For it takes three to understand: knower, known, and knowledge. Or better: lover, beloved, and love.
Just because I like the photo. Captures that interior we've been talking about: