Atheism and Other Autoimmune Disorders of Language
That we are attempting to do so with words must tell us something fundamental. For either language is fundamental or it is not; if it isn't, then we're kind of stuck, since it means that our primary tool of thought isn't up to the task -- like shaving with a hammer or trying to bite a wall.
But if language can get the job done, well then, that bloody well says something special about language, doesn't it? Which is one reason I'm always surprised that the intemperate tools among us can make such sweeping statements that nullify the significance of language.
To cite the most obvious example, to say definitively -- which is to say absolutely -- that there is no God is to implicitly affirm that human language is adequate to ultimate reality. Which is a roundabout way of saying that we in are the image of the Creator. Thus, intelligence makes itself into a god instead of pointing beyond itself to its own source and destiny.
We don't make anything like that grandiose a claim. Rather, for us language can only point toward ultimate truth, not be identical with it. For language comes from the Source, so it can never contain it (one cannot be contained by one's content; well, one can, but that is what we call psycho- or pneumapathology).
Alternatively, if language simply comes "from below," from earth-matter, how could it ever presume to reach beyond itself to the ultimate signified? Besides, how would it know when it had reached it? By what criteria?
Thus, we can all agree that "relativism reduces every element of absoluteness to relativity while making a completely illogical exception in favor of this reduction itself.... [I]ts initial absurdity lies in the implicit claim to be unique in escaping, as if by enchantment, from a relativity that is declared to be the only possibility" (Schuon).
There is always a level of faith and a degree of assent -- i.e., will -- involved in truth. We hear something and say to ourselves, "ah, that's good enough." Truth itself is not sufficient to convince -- or convict -- us. Rather, we must assent to it, and assent comes from the will, which is free. We are always free to reject truth, hence our dignity. Everyone in hell is quite dignified. Or proud, rather.
Schuon expresses it well in Logic and Transcendence, distinguishing between truth and its realization, which amounts to form and substance (or letter and spirit, doctrine and lower-case gnosis). Adequate proofs of God surely exist, but they nevertheless require our assent. If they didn't, then again, we wouldn't be free, so freedom is prior to truth. In the absence of freedom, the thing we call "truth" couldn't exist, since there could be no space between knower and known.
There is no way to prove anything to a person with "omnipotent doubt," so to speak. Since most science is inductive, the sophist can always conceive of exceptions. And where it is deductive, one can always claim that its first principles aren't justified.
For Schuon, a proof on the spiritual plane "is of assistance only to the man who wishes to understand and who, because of this wish, has in some measure understood already." Conversely, "it is of no practical use to one who, deep in his heart, does not want to change his position and whose philosophy merely expresses this desire."
There it is again: will. Instead of conforming the will to truth, such a person conforms it to his desire. Or in other words, reality is the precipitate of how one wishes things to be, not how they are.
As Robert Kennedy put it, "There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?" We will never know if he was conscious of plagiarizing the Serpent in G.B. Shaw's Back To Methuselah, but he was expressing the fundamental credo of the left.
Think of how language is corrupted in our postmodern world. Indeed, postmodernism itself is an attack on language by language, hence, a spiritual autoimmune disorder.
And when we say "corrupted," we mean something similar to what happens when when one's hard drive is corrupted. When this happens, it is as if the computer is behaving willfully and simply refuses to cooperate.
It is no different than when a person is corrupted by a mind parasite -- for example, the notion that constitutional conservatives are inherently racist. Once one has assented to such a lie, there is no escape back to reality.
A proof of God is not God, but rather, merely points to him. One still has to look, and not just sniff my finger. For Schuon, it is "a key or symbol, a means of drawing back a veil rather than of giving light. It is not by itself a leap out of ignorance and into knowledge."
Indeed, one might think of it as permission to take the leap. But nothing liberates us from the obligation to leave our bogus certainty below and to plunge into the great unKnown, "for it is impossible to to prove the Absolute outside itself" (ibid.).
The rationalism of a frog living at the bottom of a well is to deny the existence of mountains: perhaps this is 'logic,' but it has nothing to do with reality. --Schuon