On the Necessity of Esoterism
However, it has always been understood that, for example, scripture is susceptible to multiple levels of meaning: the literal or plain meaning; the allegorical, or implied meaning; the conceptual meaning; the moral meaning; the more abstract and esoteric meaning; etc.
I just found this helpful post on the Four Ancient Assumptions of Biblical Interpretation, which points out that, not only is the full meaning of scripture "hidden" or cryptic, but harmonious despite superficial inconsistencies. But in my opinion, the only way to harmonize the inconsistencies is via esoterism. Which is why fundamentalism is entirely soph-defeating, because to insist "that the surface or literal meaning of the text is always relevant and never contradictory requires great skill in sophistry."
Here is one way of looking at it. As we have said many times -- either because or in spite of its obviousness -- human beings uniquely span all the vertical degrees of creation. Rather than representing a point of light, we are more like a line of light, extending from the Source at Raccoon Central all the way down "below" matter, and into the infrahuman realms inhabited by criminals, psychopaths, MSNBC hosts, etc.
The light is naturally brightest at the top, but becomes less luminous the further it descends from the source. I might add that there is more coherence at the top, hence, identity and individuation. The further from the source, the more anonymous, collective, reactionary, conformist, etc. There the differences (to preview Letter IX) blend into -- or are hidden by -- the darkness of the Black Point.
Paradoxically, the Light still shines there but the little darklings can't see it. Nevertheless, darkness is always a function of Light (for the converse could never be true), so the shadows they worship down there are still a kind of left-handed tribute to the BrightOne.
One must also realize that our human home is a kind of middleworld which we inhobbit. Especially with the development of modern science, we can all see for ourselves that we are immersed in "other" hidden worlds, say, the worlds of modern physics, or DNA, or quantum cosmology.
We can of course "tell the story" of our DNA -- or evolutionary biology can attempt to tell the story of human beings via DNA -- but the most complete possible genetic story will never describe man as he is, any more than an analysis of photons entering your eyes at this moment will tell you anything about what those photons mean.
For these are message-bearing photons that I have personally encoded with a weightless semantic freight. This cargo has no effect on the speed of transmission, which is why we say that in this cosmos, by God, thought travels at the speed of light.
Now, anything that exists is intelligible, or it wouldn't exist: to exist is to be the instantiation of an intelligibility. Or in other words, in order to be anything you have to be something, or else you're just nothing: every is is a what. If this weren't the case, then everything would be all mixed up with everything else and completely unintelligible, like the mush in Deepak's head.
Some religions don't like such intrapneumatic divisions and boundaries, which is why the cultures resulting from them are stuck in history and go nowhere. Such religions are defensible, of course, so long as one of your core values is going nowhere.
In other words, in such a metaphysic time is not just illusory, but a kind of cancer on the body of eternity. This was the error (or virtue, if you swing that way) of Parmenides, but it also applies to Muhammadanism and to aspects of Buddhism.
Some of our best friends, the Jews, thought otherwise, and voted for an enthusiastic embrace of history. Which is why time is on their side. Since then every contemporaneous ancient civilization has exited history: Rome, Greece, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, etc.
And yet, the Jews are still here -- despite being the most persecuted people in history -- now prolonged into Christianity and the American founding. Notice too how the left's ceaseless attack on America (and its Judeo-Christian tradition) is an iteration of the same dreary attack that has been going on for roughly 5773 years. Get in line, Barry. We'll survive you too, assoul.
And make no mistake: it is not just an attack on Judeo-Christian values, but on history, on morality, on intelligibility itself. For absolute relativism (and there is no other kind) absolutely negates the Absolute from which all these good things flow: truth, meaning, virtue, unity, love, beauty, etc.
Now, a big part of the leftist negation of truth and reality revolves around its crude materialism. I myself am an enthusiastic and even crude materialist, but that is not all I am. Again, for us, matter is just one of the vertical degrees of being. It's a great place to visit, but we wouldn't want to live there.
But as it so happens it is the easiest one for us to negotiate, since it is so sensual and ponderable. Other realms are just as intelligible but not as sensible, and this applies to both the above and the below. For example, the quantum world isn't sensible -- or even imaginable -- but it is surely intelligible.
Likewise the spiritual world. It too is obviously intelligible, but not necessarily on its own terms. Rather, in order to encode and communicate it, we must generally use language borrowed from the sensible world. Hence the power of myth, which embodies a truth (or multiple truths) that are difficult to express in lingo that is fully wideawake & cutandry.
Or, consistent with what we've been saying about left and right brain differences, there is a certain manner of speaking to and from the right brain that completely eludes the left (which may even denigrate the wisdom of the right, depending upon how far left it has fallen). Just last Sunday I attended a religious ritual -- a baby naming -- that quite effectively bypassed the left brain and went straight into the heart via the right. Either that or I'm just getting soft.
Of myth, James Schall writes (in Pieper) that it "seeks to find a truth that does not seem to be expressible by philosophic argument."
You will have also gnosissed that we learn from myth or parable "from hearing," and "not from argumentation." Or, the myth is the argument, only in a different mode. Genesis surely involves many sophisticated arguments, but fully explaining them -- at least for most people -- may actually be less effective than simply hearing them.
Indeed, this is why the myth survives: because it is a true story that never happened but which happens every time. Pieper speaks of an "original revelation" that seems to be embodied in world myth, and people such as Jung, Campbell, and Joyce would certainly agree on that score.
"Could it not be the case," asks Pieper, "that the reality most relevant to man is not a 'set of facts' but is rather an 'event,' and that it accordingly cannot be grasped adequately in a thesis, but only... in the presentation of an action -- in other words, in a story?"
Note also that man cannot actually live without myth, which is precisely why the myth of leftism persists despite a total lack of logic and practicality, and an unblemished record of failure. Many thinkers (such as Voegelin) have seen that the left is essentially a secularization of the ancient myths, which is why the initial "denial of eternity" soon enough begets "the effort to replace it by political or scientific movements in this world." At which point the bodies begin piling up.
Much of what human beings urgently need to know cannot be conveyed in purely abstract, left brain terms. As the title implies, the author of MOTT meditates on the universal-mythological images of the tarot in order to deepen our understanding of Christianity. Thus, it is fundamentally the type of R --> L --> R brain verticalisthenic we've been discussing in recent weeks.
Just as science takes place in the space between the human mind and its object of study, the science of theology takes place in the space between man and O. Revelation too takes place in this space. If you think about what revelation is, it is a divine message that must be clothed in human terms in order for humans to apprehend it. But again, arguments aren't the only way to encode the message. It can also be encoded in stories, historical events, parables, a book, and even a human being.
As Socrates remarked, "it is difficult, my friend, to express higher things without recourse to sense images. In this we are like the person who knows everything in a dream and in waking no longer knows anything."
You might say that the myth or image is a way for the Dreamer to directly convey what he knows. Thus, as Pieper writes, the "heavenly realm" can be spoken of as a banquet, a wedding, a treasure buried in a field, a fishing net, a mustard seed, a day of reckoning, etc. It is simultaneously each, all, and none of these things.
In the beginning, writes Plato, man "has the shape of a sphere," which has connotations of wholeness, perfection, and eternity. But soon enough we lose that wholeness and enter the linear world of the left brain.
Bottom line: I don't think esoterism is necessary for everyone. Maybe just people who are too bright for their own good.