Thursday, July 11, 2013

It's a Boy, By Jove!

If any of you were able to unravel yesterday's post -- which I shouldn't have tried to write with one ear on the Zimmerman trial -- you will see how it segues seamlessly into Davie's next chapter, called Purusha-Jesus-Christ (recall that Purusha is the "cosmic person").

We began tapping into this cosmic artery almost exactly a month ago, with a brief reflection on how Jesus might have been understood had he appeared in India instead of Palestine:

"Imagine him surrounded by his Indian disciples on an occasion corresponding to that in which Peter made his confession of faith.... What would an Indian Simon Peter have said in answer to the question, 'Who do you say that I am?'

"I ask you to suppose that the reply would have been, 'Thou art the Son of the living God.'" However, in an Indian context, this would have been understood as Purusha as opposed to Christ (i.e., messiah); instead of Christ-Jesus, the confession (and revelation) would be of Purusha-Jesus.

Of course, in Indian metaphysics, the local self IS (or is not other than) the nonlocal Self, even if few people actually real-ize this experientially. However, Davie suggests that the very possibility of this realization is predicated on the ontologically prior existence of Jesus -- of Jesus Purusha. Thus,

"the primary question is not whether the identity of Atman [read: Son] and Brahman [Father] is personally realized in anyone, but whether it is uniquely dependent on Jesus for realization anywhere. And this can only be so if Jesus is Purusha, and Atman is his very Self..."

It just occurred to me that if we really want to tie this all together, we might relate it to another excellent book, Christ the Eternal Tao. Not sure if I'll have time to do that, so perhaps my prolific colleage, Professor R. E. Viewer, can be of assistance. In one of his nine brief treatises on the subject, he writes

"'Jesus is more Eastern than Western,' said my religion teacher many years ago. That truth rested in the back of my mind for 25+ years. Recently, after three or so years of exploring writings on Orthodox Christianity, this book came under my radar. It carefully presents the idea that the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching) intuitively gained insight into a compassionate, self-giving God -- an inkling into what would later be clarified through the coming of Christ.

"The book is a very thorough presentation of the history of the development of human understanding of God and the fulfillment of this understanding which came with the incarnation of Christ. The second portion of the book is a fascinating, calming journey of poetry in which some of Lao Tzu's ideas are echoed or answered by some of the words of Christ. The similarities are striking!"

"'In the beginning was the Tao, and the Tao was with God, and the Tao was God.' That sentence, the opening of the Gospel of John translated from the Chinese version into English, says it all. Hieromonk Damascene does here what the Church Fathers of the first through fourth centuries did with their ancient Greek heritage: he takes up the ancient spiritual wisdom of the Chinese and uses the insights of long ago to illuminate the New Covenant of the coming of Christ -- the Tao, the Logos -- in the flesh."

The point is, there was (obviously) a historical context for Jesus's appearance, and we have to -- to the extent that it is possible -- separate the merely historical from the truly essential expressed through history. There are times that God makes a vertical ingression and bursts into history, other times when history is just history.

The official Catholic view is that Jesus's appearance in a Greco-Roman context was no accident, but based upon the ideas we're discussing, we could widen this out and place him in a truly world historical context. Looked at in this way, we could stipulate that there exist other revelations, but that Jesus furnishes the missing key that unlocks them.

After all, this is precisely how Jesus is understood in relation to the Hebrew scriptures. For the Christian, these do not stand alone, but are the backward shadow cast by the Omega. Although they existed in some form or fashion long prior to the terrestrial appearance of Jesus, he is nevertheless their explanation, that toward which -- or whom -- they are converging. Only in behindsight could it be seen that Jesus is all over the OT.

(No disrespect to Judaism intended here -- just explicating Christian doctrine; in fact, Voegelin was of the opinion that Christianity actually has two Old Testaments, the Jewish and the Greek.)

Regarding the Greco-Roman OT, consider old Vergil's famous prophecy:

Now a virgin returns, the golden age returns; / now its firstborn is sent to us, down from the height of heaven. / Look kindly, goddess of childbirth, on the birth of this boy; / for him shall the people of iron fail, and a people of gold arise in the world.... / Come soon (for the hour is at hand) to the greatness of your glory, / dear offspring of the gods, great child of Jove himself!

As Balthasar writes, "In Vergil, the subterranean stream flowing from myth into revelation becomes visible for a brief instant" (quoted in Beckett).

Back to Davie: "Thus where Self = Atman and Person = Purusha, the gospel according to Hinduism declares that Jesus is God's Self-in-Person." Furthermore, "if the identity of of Atman and Brahman is actualized historically in Jesus, then the interiority of the godhead is made visible in him."

This would explain how "the self-consciousness of Jesus was such that there is nothing incredible about the statements attributed to him on the subject of his pre-existence," i.e., that before Abraham was, I AM, because before Atman was Purusha IS.

But it probably has nothing to do with the phonetic similarities between Jove and Jehovah, Abraham and Brahman, AUMMMMM & I AMMMMM, or Coon and koan.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Flowing Flux of a Roiling Donut

Davie uses the analogy of a sphere to illuminate the distinction (or separation) and the relationship (or inseparability) between man and God, subject and Subject, relative and Absolute, (¶) and O:

"[A] sphere has two limits, an outer limit, its circumference, and an inner limit, its center."

Let us call the latter ʘ, the former O (although one must imagine the outer circle without boundaries, so it is technically an unprintable kind of Y@H*V&H?! that must be rendered in invisible and indivisible ink).

We should also stipulate that this center is, of course, everywhere; or everyone, to be precise. In other words, God is only consciously real-ized in human beings. We are somewhere on the radius, although nearer or farther, depending.

O is the ultimate transcendent principle, while ʘ is the ultimate immanent principle. In fact, I would say that they are not even principles, because this would tend toward Whitehead's fallacy of misplaced concreteness, or in plain terms, spiritual rockheadedness.

Rather, I would suggest that these two are simply directions, or orientations; you might say they are the "last terms" in vertical space, while understanding that they can never actually be reached -- as if they were a kind of geographical space. Rather, this is not geometrical space but pneumagraphical space, analogous to the space of ideas, only transposed to a higher key.

Thus, O is like a flowing sphere that eternally transcends itself by radiating down- & outward; while ʘ represents the flow toward an orthoparadoxically "limitless inner limit," so to speak. In this context, the outward radiation is analogous to Brahman, while the inward radiation is Purusha, the cosmic Person.

Translighted to trinitarian terms -- and this is only for the limited purpose of illustration -- we might say that Brahman is analogous to Father, Purusha to Son. Thus,

"creation will have one source, but two directions; it will proceed from Brahman to Purusha as from outer limit to inner limit, and from Purusha to Brahman as from inner limit to outer limit" (ibid.).

What has been outlined above applies to the ontological Trinity, that is, to the interior life, or inner activity, within the hidden ground of the Godhead.

What about herebelow? That would be the economic Trinity. Herebelow, each person is a reflection of THE Person, i.e., the Purusha or Son. Our own inner life is again along the radius between O and ʘ, so

"there will be as many radii as there are subjects of consciousness; but however many radii there may be, there is only one center, one inner limit -- the Person at the heart of the cosmos, in whom the identity of Atman with Brahman is realized, namely, Purusha."

Again, to translate the above paragraph into more familyar terms, terrestrial children may become adopted celestial sons via identification with, or inCorporation into, THE Son -- the Sonly ʘne who is fully identified with the Father, or Onely One.

The similarity to Vedanta is striking, whereby "Brahman eternally generates Purusha because Brahman receives back, through Atman, the very deity given to Purusha." Brahman is "the one who utters and receives, posits, through his self-communication, his real distinction from the one who is uttered, Purusha..."

Thus "we have a heavenly paradigm of earthly meaning, in which the divine Subject (Brahman) makes itself Object (Purusha) through the energizing Verb, or passage of force between them; or we may say that Purusha answers as Thou to the eternal I of Brahman, with Atman as the we between them" (ibid).

"We" refers to our part-cipation in the whole existentialada, which takes place via the Spirit. Specifically, via the Spirit, we participate in the relation between Father and Son.

The world is a problem; its meaning is the solution. But where is the meaning? It cannot be within the world, as the world cannot explain itself. I would reverse the terms, and say that since there is obviously meaning, there is God. The converse is literally impossible, for:

"if we question the intelligibility of the world, not only do we have to assume its intelligibility in order to answer the question, we have to assume its intelligibility in order to ask it in the first place."

In other words, "We cannot meaningfully ask a question that calls in question what it needs in order to be the question that is being asked" (T.F. Torrance, in Davie).

I would suggest that O is the answer to ʘ, just as we are God's question. Thus, "the intelligibility of the world is seen to be consequent upon Brahman's being its Source."

I will conclude by pointing out that there is a perverse version of the above, which we know of as ideology, or leftism. Here is how Niemeyer describes it:

"Ideological activism, then, presupposes certain intellectual and spiritual movements which can be seen as two, going in opposite directions.

"Ontologically, the first of these movements denies reality to the given world of experience and proclaims the reality of a phantasmal realm.

"The second movement pulls norms pertaining to the phantasmal realm and its present unreality into the world of experience and orients activities by them."

Again, the left attempts to make exist what has never existed and what cannot exist. In short, you have to break an awful lot of eggs in order to make an impossible omelet.

However, on the positive side, one broken egg is a tragedy, but a billion is just a statistic.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

A Religion Fit for the Secular Anthill and Progressive Hive

As we've mentioned before, there is more than one form of Vedanta. For our purposes, we are interested in the differences between Shankara and Ramanuja. Why do we always hear about the former, but not so much the latter? It just occurred to me over the weekend that there are several reasons for this.

First, the Upanishads weren't translated into english until the 19th century. More generally, we mainly learn of the Vedanta through its western interpreters, so if those interpreters have a particular bias or interest, then the interpretation will be filtered through that prismhouse.

Now, the discovery of, and interest in, the Upanishads coincides with several pathological trends in western civilization: the rise of scientism, the general hostility toward traditional religion, the search for a replacement for Christianity in particular, and the alternative gospel of progressive leftism.

It now occurs to me that these scholars idealize Shankara because his nondual approach is much more compatible with the unsophisticated monism of scientism and the illiberal anti-individualism of the left -- which explains why people such as Deepak Chopra and Ken Wilber are always men of the left. I know of no exceptions, although I'd be happy to hear of one. It can get a little lonely here.

Conversely, no one who actually understands Christianity could ever embrace leftism, scientism, or any other ideology. Rather, properly understood, it is the penultimate inoculation against such spiritual cancers and metastatic ideologies.

I say "penultimate" because it is possible to understand the ultimate principle by virtue of which Christianity effectively thwarts ideology. This principle has to do with the fact that the human drama always takes place in the space between immanence and transcendence.

Ideology of any kind collapses this space, which always leads to human catastrophe, because it forces immanent reality to conform to the eschatological fantasy, as we have most recently seen in Obama, e.g., the healthcare system isn't perfect, therefore it must be destroyed.

The goal of history is beyond history, but the left is defined by the absurd attempt to place the goal within history. This naturally redounds to absolute meaninglessness, but the leftist "cures" this with the intellectual swindle of forcing his idiosyncratic meaning upon history.

This has always been the Marxist strategy, i.e., to destroy existing institutions because they do not adequately reflect paradise on earth. In Niemeyer's succinct formulation, it is either nothingness or paradise.

Which makes it quite easy to be a leftist: since reality isn't paradise, their critique thereof is self-evident and self-validating -- an infantile strategy if ever there was one. Radicals such as Obama always appeal to an unarticulated but implicit order that never was and never will be -- except in the valid form of vertical recollection (or an eschatological memoir of the future, if you prefer).

This denial of existing reality is just part of a deeper "ontological negation" (ibid.), beginning with "the annihilation of God" and moving on to the eradication of the moral order, the destruction of human nature (which follows logically from the murder of God), and the effacement of both boundaries (e.g., male-female) and hierarchy (e.g., adult-child).

In short, the PermaRevolutuon of the left is founded upon a prior "metaphysical revolution" (ibid.).

Which is just one more reason why you cannot reason with a leftist. This is because the prerequisite of rational dialogue is "a common universe of reason, which is precisely what the ideologists have demolished." No nous is bad news, to put it wildly.

"A 'creatively destructive' activism," writes Niemeyer, "presupposes an intellectual destruction of present reality, as a result of which the believers of such ideas orient themselves no longer toward 'real possibilities' but rather toward 'possible realities.'"

One is reminded of what appears to have been the Kennedy brothers' favorite crack, to the effect that Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?

Indeed. What an astonishing admission. Mental hospitals used to be full of such dreamers, at least until liberals deinstitutionalized them. Some schizophrenics are homeless and ask why? Others imagine the park is their home, and ask why not?

Oh, and from whom did the Kennedy's lift that line? Appropriately, it was originally "delivered by the Serpent in Shaw's play Back To Methuselah."

And while looking up the exact wording of that quote, I found another doozie by RFK, reflecting the same florid pneumopathology: Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves.

Really? So, if, say, some creepy-ass cracka' is being assaulted by one of Obama's stoned and hoodied bastard sons, he deserves it? Come to think of it, RFK was murdered by a Palestinian activist, his brother by a leftwing radical. Oh well. Every society gets the kind of assassin it deserves.

Returning to the actual subject of our post, if one is looking for metaphysical support for the left's radical critique of existence, one could do a lot worse than Shankara, for whom existence is just maya, or illusion, anyway. Only Brahman is real, and you're not it -- unless you eliminate your individual self.

Reminds me of something Woody Allen once said: death doesn't bother me. I just don't want to be there when it happens. Likewise, for Shankara, you can know God. You just can't be there when it happens.

But for Ramanuja, "the highest kind of unity" would not be "the static unity of a solitary self-centered, self-determined Absolute, but a dynamic unity of a society of souls realizing their highest perfection in love and in mutually enriching fellowship."

And "this is only possible where each has a unique inner life of his own and respects the individuality of others, but yet where each does not lose but finds himself in others" (Davie).

Therefore, union with God is associated with both "increasing differentiation" and "increasingly intensive community and unity." Call it the Body of Christ, which can only be an interior body, nothing that could ever be accomplished -- which is to say, externally forced -- by the state. That would be an anonymous hive, not a unity of souls.