Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Discovering New Worlds within Worlds

"Every set of beliefs," writes Siedentop, "introduces its own logic and its own constraints."

Secular types imagine this doesn't apply to them -- as if it is possible to approach the world without any beliefs, assumptions, or principles whatsoever -- but this is analogous to a computer with no program, or a game with no rules. Furthermore, many of our deepest assumptions are innate and inbuilt, even limiting ourselves to the horizontal. Call it the "wisdom of the species," if you like.

Come to think of it, we have in the past discussed those four annoying limitations or infirmities that constrain every man, every time, here for example:

First, we are "creature, not Creator, manifestation and not Principle" (Schuon). Second, we are not angels; we are neither at the top nor the bottom of the vertical hierarchy, but somewhere in the middle -- which, of course, goes to the issue of free will, as we are suspended halfway between our better and worse selves, between the saints and the Sharptons. Third, as unique individuals we have essential differences that are not accidental or contingent. This is not a matter of "ego" but of self, i.e., our divine clueprint.

The fourth infirmity touches on what we usually think of as sin, since these are the differences that are accidental or contingent, not essential. More often than not they are a result of mind parasites of varying degrees of virulence, but sometimes they are simply a result of inertia, convenience, dullness, conformity, credulousness, absence of curiosity, or tenure (i.e., all of the above). (More fine insultainment here.)

At any rate, a primary difference between Christians and secularists is that we are candid in announcing our metaphysical assumptions up front, while they either pretend they don't have any, or else lack the cognitive sophistication to understand what they are.

For example, the most dense among them -- e.g., what's his name, the glorified planetarium gift shop manager -- unwittingly deny all of man's intrinsic infirmities, which is why they can be such inappropriately confident yahoos. But even denying infirmity #1 lands us in all sorts of trouble. To quote myself:

"The first is the Biggest, which is why it is enshrined in the First Commandment: sorry, but you are not God. You are 'creature, not Creator, manifestation and not Principle or Being.' In fact, only the godless can be unaware of the fact that they are not God, which is probably the greatest source of their political mischief. As Obama might say, if I had a God, he'd look like me."

Back to the new logic and constraints brought into the world by Christianity. These two are different but equally important.

With regard to logic, Christianity furnishes certain premises which man must work out on his own. With regard to the constraints, certain avenues of thought become either unthinkable or, more to the point, unworthy of thought: they are cognitive nul de slacks. At the same time, certain behaviors are off limits, say, cutting open a live human being in order to see what's going on inside. For now man is aware of "a 'moral' law distinct from custom or human command."

As it so happens, my fourth grade son is being forced to read a nauseatingly politically correct book about the Indians. For the sake of equal time, I pulled out my copy of D'Souza's America, which has a chapter on the Indians. At the beginning he addresses the objection that Columbus couldn't have "discovered" America, being that there were already people here. But this ignores the deeper point, that it was a European who landed in America, not a native American who landed in Europe. There are important reasons why the latter was impossible.

One central reason is that the discovery of this new material world followed on the heals of the prior discovery of another new world: the human interior. I hope I'm not beating a dead hobby horse, but one of the reasons I am so drawn to this book is that Siedentop shares many of my ideas about the emergence -- or discovery -- of this new interior world.

For example, "The sharp edge of the moral sword wielded by churchmen cut through to -- and exposed -- an 'awareness of self'.... in its essentials, the realm the clergy claimed for themselves and sought to defend was unseen. It was within." He quotes one representative churchman, who said that God "resides in us like the soul in our body... Ever must we cling to God, the deep, vast, hidden, lofty and almighty God."

This is one of those notions that now seems second nature to us, but it was a radically new conception at the time. I don't have sufficient time to be systematic here, so I'll just cite some additional examples from Siedentop. He references the historian Guizot, who claims that "If the Christian Church had not existed, the... world must have been abandoned to purely material force." The Church "spread abroad the idea of a rule, of a law superior to all human laws."

Although modern secularists may regard this as some sort of "oppression," it was in fact a liberation, part of the truth that sets us free. And as we have been acknowledging all along, it took many centuries for the message to sink in and change man from the inside out. But change it did. There is a reason why even (most) secular westerners cannot conceive of, say, murdering a writer who pokes fun at the messiah while screaming obamahu ackbar! Rather, they just hack your computer.

The discovery of this new interior world contributes to a growing awareness of the distinction between power and authority, or force and right, or spiritual and temporal power:

"The separation of temporal and spiritual power is based upon the idea that physical force has neither right nor influence over souls, over conviction, over truth. It flows from the distinction established between the world of thought and the world of action, between the world of internal and that of external facts" (ibid., emphasis mine).

Siedentop continues: "Distinguishing spiritual from temporal power rests on the premise of individual conscience," for "there must be a sphere within," a God-given "area of choice, governed by conscience." Or just say horizontal freedom guided by vertical constraint -- constraints which must equally apply to terrestrial rulers (the "rule of law").

Today's bottom line: "Increasingly, acknowledging that subjects had souls was making a difference to the question of what constituted proper governance. It was another step in inventing the individual."

38 Comments:

Blogger John said...

Ironic to quote from Schuon in the same post where you denigrate the people he loved and admired most.
http://religioperennis.org/documents/Fitzgerald/Indian.pdf

1/07/2015 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Slightly ironic, but I'm guessing he preferred the Indians who who didn't engage in constant warfare or who refrained from eating each other. Mostly he seems to have loved the Indians of his boyhood imagination.

1/07/2015 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger John said...

Yes, even though he met many of them, he couldn't stop thinking of his boyhood whilst in their company.
He does the same weird thing with Christians, thinking of medieval cathedrals when faced with giant metal crosses on the interstate highways. Next to adult book stores.

1/07/2015 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Well that didn't take long.

As to the Indians, even the noblest of them did not have the interior space to "discover" Europe. That's not a denigration, it's simply the reality.

1/07/2015 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

I see jawn is back in the pro-Schuon camp; doesn't seem to affect his ability to make sense one way or the other though.

1/07/2015 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger John said...

Of course, you are welcome to your opinion, Julie, but Schuon certainly disagrees about the interior qualities of the Red Indian.

1/07/2015 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger John said...

RP: Some detractors of Frithjof Schuon have reproached him for depicting Native
American traditions in a romantic manner. What is your answer to them?

Many scholars today place an emphasis on how a religion was understood and lived by
the common man. In the process they sometimes seem to forget that each spiritual
civilization also has a human ideal to which all people strive and that the heart of a
spiritual tradition is represented and preserved by the exemplars-the great saints and
sages-even though it is evident that not all men attain the ideal. Is it "romantic" to focus
on the essential spiritual teachings of a religious civilization and the lives led by its
paragons?

1/07/2015 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Does referencing a person's comments require adoring them or appeasing your pique?

1/07/2015 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

While I recognize that John will see nothing of value in the points I'm about to make, perhaps someone else will:

To wit, the contention in the post was not remotely derogatory toward Native Americans. Here is the "denigrating" passage again:

At the beginning [D'Souza] addresses the objection that Columbus couldn't have "discovered" America, being that there were already people here. But this ignores the deeper point, that it was a European who landed in America, not a native American who landed in Europe. There are important reasons why the latter was impossible.

Notice Bob never said anything bad, negative, nor mean-spirited about the people who were here first. Just that they could not have "discovered" Europe in anything like the way Europeans "discovered" America.

This is true for a number of reasons: Compared to Europe, the New World was mostly relatively sparsely populated. There were tribes, yes, but little that could easily be recognized as a coherent civilization, particularly in North America. All due respect to Schuon, not all of the savages were noble. Nor were they all terrible. But there was nothing about any of them them that made it likely that they would be building great seagoing vessels in the search for adventure and expanding trade routes. They did not have great cities (at least, not any that were built for much more purpose than massive amounts of human sacrifice). They didn't have horses. They hadn't gotten around to inventing the wheel, nor any complex machinery as far as I know. Some of them lived in stable settlements and practiced agriculture, but that seems to be as advanced as they got.

Even if someone managed to build a boat that could survive a trip to Europe, that boat and its passengers would not have the same ramifications for Native Americans as it did for the Europeans. Supposing that our intrepid Native wanderers managed to return home, what would they tell their tribes upon return? Would anyone bother making a follow-up voyage? Would anyone even believe them? What would they have brought back with them in terms of knowledge and wealth, and what difference would it have made in the lives of other Native Americans, especially over the long term?

The questions answer themselves, I think.

Native Americans simply didn't have the mindset, nor the culture to support such discovery. To observe that this was so is not an insult to Native Americans.

1/07/2015 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

Incorrect, Julie.
To be clear, I am not personally offended by Bob's comments in the slightest, or yours and Van's odd jabs.

But these are the "denigrating" references to things Red Indian.
"As it so happens, my fourth grade son is being forced to read a nauseatingly politically correct book about the Indians."
Here, one can assume that the book speaks of those same "romantic" notions that Schuon also espoused--what he saw as "the sense of the sacred".

And: "One central reason is that the discovery of this new material world followed on the heals of the prior discovery of another new world: the human interior. I hope I'm not beating a dead hobby horse, but one of the reasons I am so drawn to this book is that Siedentop shares many of my ideas about the emergence -- or discovery -- of this new interior world."

Schuon would say this is a kind of atheism in reverse, I imagine. From his point of view, and this is essential to his entire understanding of what it means to be human, is that humans have always been humans, of the same substance. We are not progressive, evolving creatures, except in the individual sense of personal growth. Indians had every bit as much an interior as Europeans. Schuon would say they, or at least some of them, had far more of an interior, given his strong affinity for their spiritual traditions. Note, he was adopted by the Crow tribe, and considered them brothers.

Now, maybe he was wrong. Nonetheless, from his point of view, it is denigrating in the extreme and ironic.

1/07/2015 01:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the trading back and forth ceased due to disease, piracy, and warfare. That was awhile ago.

You would probably need to be a Native, and do a bit of traveling and digging to have that grasp.

The Bible, and lost Tribes, and such. Not so much lack of technology, just busy fighting incursions of blood cults.

So what if we have buried sheets of gold written in archaic Hebrew? So what if some of the secret ceremonies are Adamic?

Treasures of the Temple. You know, round 2000 years ago, we had a Visitor. Now, even that is debated by those who would erase any culture that claimed to such contact. We still name animals, and try to fix stuff.

Diaspora, and business. Even in Ethiopia. Probably a bit too orthodox for modern Man.

1/07/2015 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Here, one can assume that the book speaks of those same "romantic" notions that Schuon also espoused--what he saw as "the sense of the sacred".

To assume is to make an ass out of u and me. Unless you have read the textbooks, you have no idea what they say. And unless they are telling the truth, what they are teaching must be nausea-inducing in anyone who wishes their children learn the truth: that Native Americans were humans, for good and ill, and not merely "noble savages" - a dehumanizing category if ever there was one.

Newsflash - and I say this as someone with tribal roots and tribal relatives - Indians can be assholes just like anyone else, and it isn't all The White Man's fault.

1/07/2015 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Political correctness, besides being an attack on truth and liberties, makes it easier for terrorists to attack us (ie The Ft. Hood massacre or what has happened in France today).

The same idiots that wanna force PC on the restuvus also consider profiling to be evil.
When the vast majority of terrorist attacks are done by Muslims it makes no sense to not profile them because leftists don't wanna hurt their feelings.

Ironically, and hypocritically leftists have no problem profiling veterans, Christians, cops or conservatives.
But if we profile Muslims, black gangbangers, or leftist ecoterrorists the left becomes apoplectic.


1/07/2015 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

My whole point is that Schuon believed the Indians were actual individual humans. Not a hive. Obviously, for good and ill.
Bob's point is that they had no interior, since they were not yet exposed to the individual making Christian religion. Schuon's disagrees.

1/07/2015 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think Schuon romanticized primitive cultures for one reason, while the politically correct left do so for entirely different reasons, so my son's politically correct Indian book really has nothing to do with Schuon.

1/07/2015 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Julie said: Indians can be assholes just like anyone else.

That statement is not in conflict with the OT/NT. It is foundational. Is it to the religion of the Red Indians? Do they say all men...?

1/07/2015 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Although Schuon did resemble the left in his tendency to superimpose his own logico-metaphysical system on everyone else, and thereby deduce patently incorrect conclusions without regard to historico-empirical evidence.

1/07/2015 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Julie said: "Even if some[Native American tribe] managed to build a boat that could survive a trip to Europe.."

This sounds like an interesting idea for a novel. Has something similar been done? Arriving on the shores of a more technically advanced culture but expecting a less advanced one? Sort of scifi but back 4 centuries...

1/07/2015 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes -- I saw a foreign film once, in which medieval people somehow go through a time tunnel and end up in the modern world. That's about all I remember, though.

Maybe I'm mixing it up with Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

1/07/2015 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Rick, speaking of the OT/ NT, reading Leviticus it occurs to me over and over that much of the law that was given, aside from the ritual matters, seems quite practical and matter-of-fact. To us, it is obvious, in many ways, and we teach our kids many of the same concepts as foundational knowledge today.

But to the Israelites, it was revolutionary. The laws needed to be stated plainly, because they mandated behaviors between people that did not come naturally. It had to be said, because they didn't treat each other as individuals, and neither did anyone else. What else to make of people who were perfectly willing to throw their own children into a fire, just because it seemed like a good idea at the time?

Re. the sci-fi story, I was thinking something analogous after posting that comment: what if we made it to the far side of the moon, or a different planet in the solar system, only to find it already colonized by "people" incomprehensibly advanced, but who hadn't gotten around to exploring Earth yet? And who then had to make their way back and explain what they saw, but somehow only being able to describe what they found with their words and a few technological trinkets?

Or yeah, Bill and Ted's...

I hadn't thought of that movie in literally years.

1/07/2015 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

Although Schuon did resemble the left in his tendency to superimpose his own logico-metaphysical system on everyone else, and thereby deduce patently incorrect conclusions without regard to historico-empirical evidence.

Interesting insight. Would love some examples.

1/07/2015 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

As when the Pope talks about global warming, Schuon sometimes went off the rails when discussing subjects of which he had no knowledge. His followers seem to think he was omniscient or something.

1/07/2015 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

Yes, but what subjects?

1/07/2015 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Schuon would not be my go to guy for history, anthropology, biology, physics, economics, political science, or psychoanalysis.

1/07/2015 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Quite a display of cowardice, hypocrisy and blaming those murdered French journalists for having the guts to exercise their free speech rights by the gutless MSM.
A normal person's response would be to blame the Islamic terrorists, not coddle them like many on the left does (and crazy leftist libertarians like Rand Paul).

What a bunch of yellow scumbags.

1/07/2015 04:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

Lefties are spineless jellyfish scallywags.

1/07/2015 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

jawn said "...forget that each spiritual civilization also has a human ideal to which all people strive and th..."

There's a difference between being in error, being flat out and inexcusably wrong, and being Politically Correct. Making an error is simply an error and is correctable. Being obtusely wrong, perhaps out of pride, is annoying, but (in most cases) not unforgivable or uncorrectable. But pushing Politically Correct doctrine is a very different thing. Such statements are made in order to push a political agenda and not just in spite of its errors but because of them, and the "I'm offended!" tone that is struck in response to being challenged, is a verbal slap made to intimidate those who disagree, and not to encourage discussion or in any way deepen anyone's understanding.

Also, the fact that a textbook is pushing a politically correct agenda doesn't reflect on the Indians, only on the publishers and the teachers, and others, such as yourself, who crank up and out their offense at all who dare to not comply.

BTW, Gagdad has also said much the same, and worse, about the Greeks & Romans, and far more pointedly; oddly enough my first reaction hasn't been to whine about how offensive it was to the memory of Matthew Arnold who'd praised them. Although I've challenged the idea, I've paid attention to the argument Gagdad has been making over the years about the thinness of the pre-Christian concept of individuality, and have been mostly brought around to agreement, because of the arguments made, not silly sentiments and pretenses.

IOW your Offendocratedness exposes you as a twit. But you could get better. If you'd bother to think things through, rather than over.

1/07/2015 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Reading through the comments I have the feeling of two words, "disingenuously obtuse," if there is such a pairing.

Maybe it's just me.

1/07/2015 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

That quote wasn't from me, Van. It was from the interview I cited.
Again, my point is merely to clarify the differences between Schuon's views and Bob's.
I can't for the life of me understand why people are so offended, but this is a public forum, so people's ideas are open to challenge.

1/07/2015 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

I can't think of any quotes from Schuon on most of those subjects, especially where he goes off the rails. Unless you mean the part where he says transformist evolution is literally impossible because it is opposed to how the created comes to be?

1/07/2015 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

jawn said "...That quote wasn't from me, Van. It was from the inte..."

sigh.

As I said: "There's a difference between being in error, being flat out and inexcusably wrong, and being Politically Correct."

Joan said "I have the feeling of two words, "disingenuously obtuse,"

I think that about nails it Joan.

1/07/2015 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

Van, you continue to ascribe views to me that I don't hold.
And, again. My entire point is that Bob and Schuon don't agree. On more or less anything really, and yet Bob quotes him extensively, as though it makes his point.
As for my views, I have hardly made them known at all, but the last thing they are is politically correct, I can assure you. You clearly don't want to know what they are, but continually assume you do know. Calling me first a Rothbardian, which I am assuredly not, and now, I don't rally know, except wrong. I am wrong on lots of things, but you are avoiding my point. See above as to my point. I actually don't care if you avoid it, as it's directed towards Bob, not you.

1/07/2015 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

John, you are not offensive. You are abrasive. There's a difference.

You are about as pleasant a conversationalist as an Aspie after four days on his favorite topic.

We get that you disagree with Bob's interpretation of Schuon. That's pretty much the only thing you reliably have to say. Point noted. It's really not necessary to go on about it constantly, even on the days Schuon is not mentioned anywhere in a post.

It's actually getting to the point where his very name makes me groan and roll my eyes, and that's a crying shame because I genuinely love the guy, even knowing he would probably loathe me and everything I stand for.

If you can't talk about something besides Schuon, please, for the love of Schuon, keep it to yourself.

1/07/2015 07:27:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

"Ransom!"

"What?"

"Nothing."

1/07/2015 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

jawn blazed the breaking story: "My entire point is that Bob and Schuon don't agree."

And you know why your entire point is not only boring to everyone here, but not even your point? Having been made by Gagdad himself years and years ago, and repeatedly over the years... here's the first one off the top of the Google.

Twit.

Your entire point is not even your point.

That's pretty pathetic.

And groaningly, abrasively, boring.

(My apologies to Matthew, I was thinking this fool was you undercover.)

1/07/2015 08:47:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

So cool that you folks celebrate festivus!

1/07/2015 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

You know how they describe golf as "a good walk spoiled"?

1/07/2015 09:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

Maybe "The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey" by Vincent Ward. New Zealand director.

1/11/2015 11:34:00 AM  

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