Fleshlights & I-AMmissaries
I am of two -- or maybe three -- minds about this. One part of me wants to agree with Schuon that each revelation is uniquely designed for a specific people and a certain purpose, so that to blend them (or to pretend to switch cultures) is a bad idea. It is not for us to do this, since it introduces a human element into the God-given.
Another part of me wants to regard religion-as-such as one vast body of knowledge, data, and experience. Why limit oneself to just one pool? We like Chinese and Italian food. Why not Asian and Roman religion?
In the past, people had no choice in the matter, since they were simply born into the local cult and had no knowledge of other religious cuisines. But each religion tends to emphasize certain elements of Religion, so that one religion can helpfully amplify or spice up parts that another neglects or underemphasizes.
Still another part of me wants to look at religion in a very abstract way, shorn of local coloring and sentimental attachments. This is almost a scientific approach, in that it considers the data in terms of the deeper principles that makes it possible.
In other words, just as the scientist searches for the underlying law or principle that unifies the observed data, I want to understand how, say, it is even possible for a man to know God. What a priori principles are necessary for this to be a possibility?
One such principle -- or assumption or axiom -- is that man is in the image of the Creator. If we weren't, then no real knowledge of God would be possible. Rather, we could only know ourselves. As I mentioned in a comment yesterday, you can give a Bible to a cow, but the cow won't know what to do with it, because a cow is not in the image of God.
Human beings, although obviously limited by our form, can nevertheless transcend it and thus know truth. We are the form that escapes our form -- or the genome that transcends our supposedly "selfish" genes. Thus, if Richard Dawkins' thesis is true, it is self-negating, since the generous truth transcends his selfish DNA.
In the book, I attempted to outline some of these abstract religious principles -- or principles that make religiosity possible. For example, I am quite convinced of the existence of (↓) and (). Without them, nothing about religious experience makes any sense.
Boyarin points out that when Jesus used the curious term "Son of Man," no one had to ask what it meant. Rather, it seems that his listeners must have been familiar with it. This is all the more likely when we read of how his audience didn't hesitate to express bewilderment when they didn't understand him, for example, in John 6:60, when many of the disciples grumble that "this is a hard saying; who can understand it?"
Well, it might be easier to understand if we could understand the principle that makes it possible. Otherwise, we are being asked to do something that is impossible and makes no sense to us. I don't think the Creator wants that.
In the book there are a couple of other symbols that look like these:
I haven't written much about them, but the upward arrow refers to a person who has experienced mystical union with God, whereas the downward arrow refers to an -- or the -- Incarnation, i.e., God in human form. For Christians this is a unique occurrence, whereas in Hinduism, for example, it is an expression of the avatar principle. But even if we think of it as a unique occurrence, nevertheless, in order for it to occur, it must be possible for it to occur, so we are back to the principle that makes it possible.
Now interestingly, Boyarin points out there were some Jews who had been expecting their Redeemer "to be a human exalted to the state of divinity" -- in other words, the upward arrow. However, "others were expecting a divinity to come down to earth and take on human form" -- the downward arrow.
And indeed, early IsraeliteChristian hybrids struggled with just this issue: is Jesus from the downside up or the upside down? "[S]ome believers in Jesus believed the Christ had been born as an ordinary human and then exalted to divine status, while others believed him to have been a divinity who came down to earth."
To this day there are Christians who hold to the former, e.g., adoptionism, whereby Jesus is adopted by God because of his sinlessness and devotion.
I wonder if the whole point is that he is both? I think Schuon said something to the effect that Jesus is simultaneously God's icon of man and our icon of God.